[Photographs: Lee Zalben]

Whenever I'm in Hong Kong, I try to enjoy dim sum at Maxim's Palace at City Hall, one of the oldest and most traditional dim sum restaurants in the world.

The food at Maxim's is very good, but the real draw here are the "Trolley Dollies," the cheery ladies that push the carts of steamed and fried morsels up and down the aisles of the always packed restaurant.

I don't speak Chinese, and the floor staff doesn't speak much English, but the insightful ladies have always displayed an uncanny ability to size up exactly what I'm in the mood. In fact, at Maxim's, I'm so well taken care of that I'd never even looked at a menu.

So during my last visit, I decided to take a quick glance and was surprised to spot a peanutty dish: Dumplings with Sesame Filling and Mashed Peanut. It wasn't on any of the carts, and only available a la carte. After a quick word to one of the waitstaff a plate of four cute little dumplings appeared at my table.


These dumplings were a master class of subtle flavors and soft textures: tender and chewy skins, soft and melty centers, and a lightly flaky peanut coating. The "mashed" peanuts had an almost powder-like consistency, as if they were finely ground just short of being turned into peanut butter.

The peanuts were a savory (but not salty) foil to the rich, very slightly sweet black sesame filling. They were clearly meant to be eaten at the end of a meal as dessert; Not overly sweet, but rich and satisfying.

Asian desserts can sometimes be a bit of a puzzle for those of us that grew up with Western notions of snacks and sweets, and the more I considered how the flavors and textures complemented the rest of my meal, the more I enjoyed them.

Being a bit peanut butter-centric, I kept wondering how these dumplings might taste if they were prepared with a peanut butter center and coated with whole sesame seeds - same flavors—different textures. It might be worth experimenting with

Have you ever had peanutty dumplings (sweet or savory), or any other peanutty dim sum dishes?

About the author: Lee Zalben was a PB&J-loving kid that grew up to be the founder and president of Peanut Butter & Co., which began as a Greenwich Village sandwich shop serving nothing but peanut butter sandwiches and expanded to include the now-famous line of all natural flavored peanut butter. Lee is a graduate of Vassar College and enjoys traveling the world in search of interesting foods made with peanuts, tree nuts, and seeds. When he's not working, eating, flying or writing, he enjoys scuba diving and training elephants.


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