Mike and I were recently asked to join some friends for a Dim Sum lunch. Since I have never had dim sum before, I decided to research it so we would have a idea of what to expect and what to order.
Dim sum is a type of Chinese food that is served in small portions, typically during brunch. It includes a variety of dishes, both savory and sweet, such as dumplings, buns, wraps, and noodles. Dim Sum can be made with a variety of different ingredients such as shrimp, chicken, pork, vegetables, and seafood.
Dim sum is often considered a more leisurely dining experience than traditional Chinese cuisine and provides an opportunity to try several different dishes.
A Brief History
The name dim sum literally means “to touch the heart.” Dim sum cuisine originated in the Guangdong region of southern China before spreading to Hong Kong. The culture of eating dim sum began in tearooms in the latter half of the 19th century after opium dens were banned throughout China.
But where did this delicious tradition come from? Dim sum has a brief but interesting history. Originally, silk road travelers and traders would take breaks in tea houses for a light meal of dim sum. As they continued to travel, the tradition spread and gained popularity throughout the region. Dim sum eventually found its way to Hong Kong, where it became an iconic part of the local cuisine. And the rest, as they say, is history!
What you should know before trying dim sum for the first time.
Dim sum can be a confusing experience for those not used to dim sum items. Pay attention to what other tables are ordering and pick the same items from your carts as they do.
Cart attendants will also voluntarily showcase their items to diners and it’s perfectly polite to point and order.
Remember, most dim sum dishes are quite small. They usually feature 3-4 dumplings per order.
Dim sum is a communal meal, so it’s perfectly acceptable to order items for the table. As a general rule, order 1-2 steamers per person.
In short, dim sum is a traditional Cantonese cuisine that is typically served as a snack or course, rather than as an entrée. This means that it is not meant to be a full meal, but something to tide you over before your next meal.
Etiquette and Ordering
- Pick a tea to drink first.
- Take the lid off the teapot if you need water and wait for your server.
- Order your meal from a pushcart at a traditional dim sum restaurant.
- Use check-list menus like menu cards instead of waving an arm in the air to order your food.
What to Order
The following are popular dim sum dishes:
- Har gow—shrimp dumpling (steamed)
- Siu mai—pork dumpling (steamed)
- Cha siu bao—BBQ pork bun (steamed)
- Taro dumpling—(fried)
- Xiao long bao—soup dumpling (steamed or fried)
- Shrimp rice noodle roll—(cheung fun)
- Pork and vegetable dumpling—(soup dumplings) (fried)
- Chow fun—rice noodles with beef/chicken/pork
- Dumpling soup—a clear broth with dumplings (steamed)
- Wonton noodle soup—(with or without wontons)
Shrimp dumpling (har gow, xia jiao) — One of the most popular dishes at dim sum, these are chunks of shrimp encased in a thin translucent dumpling wrapper and served in a bamboo steamer.
Shumai (siu mai, shao mai) — These are thin, round wrappers in a cup shape and hold a filling — usually of pork, shrimp, or a combination of the two; and often a small amount of vegetables like bamboo shots, black mushrooms, and water chestnuts.
BBQ pork buns (charsiu bao, chashao bao) — These are fluffy, bready white buns stuffed with sticky and sweet barbecue seasoned pork and served in a bamboo steamer.
Char siu bau – are usually eaten with a sweet and tangy sauce called hoisin.
Chewy, rice flour noodles – topped with a variety of ingredients including roast duck, pork belly and shrimp.
Chicken feet – (tau zi fung zao, chizhi feng zhao) – These are whole, deep-fried and braised chicken feet that have been cooked in a rich black bean sauce until tender.
Egg tart – (dan tat, dan ta) – These tarts have a flaky pastry and sweet, rich custard filling that originate from Macau.
Rice noodle rolls – (cheong fun, changfen) – These are large, thin, usually handmade steamed rice noodles rolled around a tender shrimp or meat center or a crispy fried dough filling.
Bun cha gio — Vietnamese stir-fried pork and vegetables in a savory soy sauce broth served on a soft bun with lettuce and cilantro leaves.
Today, dim sum is enjoyed by people all over the world. It’s a popular meal to enjoy with friends and family, and it’s often served as part of a larger brunch or dinner.
P.S. We will be trying Dim Sum at a local restaurant in 3 days. Now that I have a general idea what it’s about, I am looking forward to it. Afterwards, I’ll add my thoughts about how it goes to this post.
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