Dim sum means ‘touch your heart’ and with as many as 150 items on a restaurant menu, and 2,000 in the entire range, it is a challenge to not find something you love. As Cantonese people tend to avoid fried foods early in the day, steamed dishes dominate most dim sum menus. There are also snack-sized portions of pan-fried, deep-fried, and baked foods served in bamboo containers, which are designed to be eaten communally and washed down with tea. Hence, going for dim sum is known as yum cha, which literally means ‘drinking tea.’ Usually a brunch or lunch affair, it is a common form of family, co-worker and other group get-together.
Today, dim sum restaurants come in all shapes and sizes, from traditional to innovative. Start with one of the large mid-priced eateries where in the midst of boisterous conversations you will see multiple generations gather around the table for a no-nonsense family feed and office workers enjoying a short but effective break from the daily grind. When you enter, let the waiter know how many people are in your group, be seated, decide on what type of tea you want, order your dim sum, and enjoy a quintessential Hong Kong experience!
Shrimp wrapped in a thinly rolled piece of translucent wheat dough. Often, the dumpling will include a small amount of finely chopped bamboo shoots and pork.
No.2: Siu mai
A type of Chinese dumpling. The typical Cantonese dim sum variant consists of ground pork, whole or chopped shrimp, shiitake mushrooms, green onions and ginger, wrapped in thin wheat dough, seasoned with Chinese rice wine, soy sauce and sesame oil, and garnished with a dollop of crab roe.
No.3: Barbecued pork bun
Tender, sweet, slow-roasted pork tenderloin, usually seasoned in oyster sauce, and encased in a fine, soft bun.
No.4: Spring rolls
A variety of vegetable and sometimes meat ingredients are rolled inside a sheet of thin dough and deep fried.
No.6: Cheung fan
A thin roll of rice flour, filled with shrimp, beef, sweet barbecued pork or other ingredients. It is usually steamed and served with soy sauce.
No.7: Deep-fried shrimp dumpling
Shrimp, sometimes with pork fat, wrapped in dough and deep fried. Crispy exterior, juicy filling!
No.8: Barbecued pork pastry
Sweet, barbecued pork in a thin, flaky pastry.
Pay attention at a dim sum restaurant and you will see diners tapping three fingers on the table to express gratitude when someone pours tea for them. This ritual originated with a Qing dynasty (1644-1911) emperor who liked to travel the land disguised as a commoner. On one such occasion he was in a teahouse with his officials and took his turn to pour tea. His officials could not accept this honour without kowtowing, but also could not kowtow without blowing the emperor’s cover. Instead, they tapped three fingers on the table, one representing the bowed head and the other two the prostrate arms.