I have a love-hate relationship with dim sum broccoli. It’s sauteed, but not too much, so it’s crunchy and sweet, crisp and fresh. It looks gorgeous, sitting there on the plate, a vibrant, shiny green that almost shimmers in the light. And I love the idea of it — I can tell myself that yes, I just ate three days’ worth of calories and five days’ worth of sodium and fat, but I also had some broccoli, so it all balances out.
There’s only one problem: I am unable to eat this dish and maintain any semblance of dignity. That gorgeous sheen is really a thin layer of oil that, combined with the smooth texture of the stalks, creates a slippery surface that makes them difficult to pick up with chopsticks. But I manage, and then I’m faced with a new challenge: taking that first bite. But from where? On one end, there’s a single, solid stalk, which branches out into three or so thinner, leafy stalks. The leafy end seems like the natural place to start, but the leafy stalks fan out just enough to make it difficult to take a bite of all of them at once, but not enough to allow me to take a bite of one without having the others hit my cheeks. And the leafy stalks are sometimes a little stringy and difficult to bite through cleanly. So that leaves the solid end. Taking a bite of that is easy enough, but it causes the leafy stalks to wave back and forth in front of my face like the arms of an overly-eager schoolgirl trying to attract the teacher’s attention.
I wouldn’t have this problem (and, to be fair, it wouldn’t taste as good) if I were actually eating broccoli. Broccoli stalks are thick enough that they’d have to be sliced and not served whole. But instead, they use some other vegetable that’s more like broccoli rabe, which always sounds like it should be a character in a western (“There’s a new sheriff in town. They call him Broccoli Rob”) or maybe a crime story (“Robert ‘Broccoli Rob’ Tortellini stared across the table at Vinnie ‘Soft Serve’ Zamboni. By the end of the night, their two families would be embroiled in a war that would last for decades”). I keep hoping that someday, a real Broccoli Rob will emerge and teach me and others like me how to eat this stuff.