Flowering Teas at Ping Pong Dim Sum
Despite the long, well-stocked bar at Ping Pong Dim Sum, the proper way to snack your way through the small bites here is with a cup of tea, which is both historically correct and digestively beneficial. Ping Pong managers, perhaps hoping to make extra bank off their $11 Asian Manhattans, might not like hearing this, but it's true.
To be fair, the Chinatown operation does sell a fair number of teas, including these "flowering" ones, in which an inventive, hand-made bud (see picture below) is plopped into your hot water and allowed to blossom right before your eyes. The etheral, stop-motion video that Ping Pong features on its Web site (also see below) makes the process seem as freaky as an alien landing.
We had hopes for a similar experience at our own table. Our "jasmine and lily" tea ($4) started out well. You can hear Carrie exclaim, "Cool," in the background as the bud descends to the bottom and starts to unclench its leaves. After that...well, I got bored (and slightly embarrassed) with filming this glass of tea while waiting for it to properly flower. Finally, Carrie had to take a fork and pull out the string of jasmine flowers that were supposed to rise on their own.
OK, so the theater of the drink didn't take direction well. How did the tea taste? Mostly like boiled cabbage.
It's hard to see, but the bud that you drop into your tea is actually a hand-made ingredient in which the internal flowers are lashed to the leaves with string. It's quite ingenious.
Here's how the process is supposed to look, according to the Ping Pong marketing people, who are way cool: