Dim sum, which is also known as “yum cha”, is the Chinese tradition of indulging in many small plates of bite-sized foods and eaten communally. Originated from Guangzhou, it has spread to other parts of China and has become popular in many Southeast Asian countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam. The core of dim sum is dumplings, with other dishes being added to the mix to meet the needs of customers, often served with tea. Continue reading to find out more about the cuisine’s origin, most popular dim sum dishes, and dim sum eating etiquette.
THE ORIGIN OF TRADITION
Dim sum has a literal meaning of ‘heart’s delight’. This tradition dates back to the nineteenth century, where Cantonese people of Southern China would go to teahouses in the mornings for dim sum just before the heart was beating, hence the name was created. Later, the Cantonese people in Guangzhou brought it to the city of Hong Kong, and that is where the tradition of dim sum continues until today. Nowadays, Chinese restaurants may serve dim sum for the entire day, but people often enjoy them at a particular time like Sunday brunch. They would order a large selection of it with several people gathering together to feast. Later, these gatherings became more regular and became part of socializing with friends and family, full of laughter, gossip, lots of tea, creating a whole experience. All in all, dim sum is like a tea party in the United Kingdom, only better – it’s more energetic, alive, and fulfilling.
Moreover, Chinese tea is an integral part of dim sum culture. The majority of dim sum dishes are served with tea, as it is believed to aid in digestion. The tea is usually poured out of a teapot, which is generally small and almost always made of ceramic. The tea is poured out of the teapot by a practiced hand, into small cups, and it is not poured directly into the saucer but rather in between the cup and the saucer. The tea is poured hot, and is usually a dark tea, although a green tea is sometimes served.
Best tea choices to savour with dim sum: Oolong tea (Wuyi Da Hong Pao Tea), Black tea (Qimen Cha), Green tea (Bi Luo Chun Green Tea)
3 MOST POPULAR DIM SUM DISHES
One of the problems with dining at a dim sum restaurant for a first-timer is simply deciding what to order. There’s dumplings of all kinds, from steamed buns to pan-fried dumplings to potstickers, and little snacks like spareribs and chicken feet. Add to that the variety of desserts, like egg tarts and fried sesame balls, and the confusion is understandable due to overwhelming options. We will share with you the most popular and classic dim sum dishes to order.
SIU MAI (STEAMED DUMPLING)
Siu Mai (燒賣) is a type of iconic Cantonese dumpling filled with various ingredients, such as minced pork, shrimp, vegetables, and sometimes chicken. The most common types are pork siu mai. This dish is usually served with chilli sauce or a sweet and savory sauce.
To make siu mai, you should mix the ingredients, then put them into a thin dumpling wrapper. Then the wrapped Siu Mai is steamed or pan-fried. When siu mai is fresh, it is soft and juicy; when it is not fresh, it is hard and dry.
CHAR SIU BAO (BARBECUE PORK BUN)
Char siu bao has a literal meaning of “bun with barbecued pork”. The barbecued pork filling is usually marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, hoisin sauce, rice cooking wine, five spice powder, and honey before it is put inside a while-color pastry bun. The cooking process can be either steamed or baked. The taste of a good char siu bao is very delicious and slightly sweet.
Egg tarts are small pastries that hold a pastry crust with a filling of egg custard. It is often made with flaky or shortcrust pastry from a combination of flour and butter, but versions also exist that have a buttery or puff pastry shell. The filling is made of egg custard and usually other ingredients include sugar, butter or margarine, and vanilla. The dish is usually served warm, sometimes directly from the oven. Egg tart makes a good snack or dessert because it is delicious and it is not too heavy. When people buy egg tart, they can also buy some other dim sum dishes such as har gow, sesame balls, rice noodle roll with shrimp, and so on.