For all you curious foodies, here are some interesting facts about dim sum to ignite your passion for this delicious meal. Dim sum also known as yum cha or ban ming means to drink tea and refers to a wide selection of small tapas style dishes of Chinese food, usually taken while drinking tea. I love the variety and choice of dim sum. The flavours, colours and style of ordering make it a social meal in which you can enjoy trying new dishes whilst chatting to friends and sipping on jasmine tea. Swat up on these 7 facts about dim sum so that the next time you tuck into this yummy fare you will be less of a novice and more of a food connoisseur.
1. Chinese Tradition
The Cantonese word yum cha refers to the traditional Chinese morning tea. Although yum cha is now a popular meal all over the world, traditional tea houses can be found in the Guangzhou (Canton) in China. One of the interesting facts about dim sum is that the original tea houses were small roadside pit stops that provided calming tea, with a few tasty morsels to go with it. What was once a food accompaniment is now the main focus of the meal.
2. Bring Your Friends
Dim sum dishes are normally served with three or four servings per a dish; these small portions enable diners to try a wide choice of dishes. Make sure you bring a few friends to enjoy the meal with so that you can try a variety of different dishes, and pace yourself through the meal. I would also recommend a light fasting before you embark on a dim sum meal, otherwise you quickly become full up.
3. Be Adventurous
Dim sum is a collection of tasty dishes from steamed prawn and chive dumplings to vegetarian spring rolls. You may feel overwhelmed with the variety of dishes, but in order to get the most from dim sum you need to be brave and try new dishes. Enjoy exploring the vast selections of fried and steamed foods commonly with beef, prawn, pork or vegetarian fillings.
4. Some of the Best
If you are new to eating dim sum here are some of my favourites that you may want to look out for on the menu. Xiu loung bao is a steamed meat/vegetable dumpling with a juicy soup sauce inside the dumpling – this is a specialty so definitely worth trying if you see it on the menu. Try the vegetarian turnip puff pastry which has a surprisingly light and crispy coating surrounding this sweet radish. Cheung-fun with crispy roll is similar to a doughnut wrapped in Chinese rice noodles and tastes best dipped lightly in soy sauce.
5. Try the Dessert
Although dim sum comprises of primarily savory dishes there are also several very popular dessert style dishes on the menu. The number one must try dish is the egg tart which has an egg custard filling in a pastry crust. It is the perfect way to round off an enjoyable meal. I recently also tried ice cream balls which are little scoops of ice cream contained in a mochi covering, perhaps not a traditional choice but nether the less, scrumptious.
6. How to Order
If it is your first time eating dim sum, there are two ways of ordering your food. Some restaurants bring a constant stream of dishes past your table, letting you point and choose which ones you wish to try before they move onto the next table. Don’t feel pressured to try everything; this style of dining can sometimes seem a little stressful. My preferred style is a menu card in which waiters stamp or mark your card with which dishes you want, different stamps correlating to different price brackets of dishes.
7. Follow Etiquette
Dim sum usually comes with free jasmine or green tea. The Chinese believe that drinking tea with greasy food burns away some of the fat from your meal. Follow dining etiquette by making sure you pour tea for your fellow diners before you fill up your own cup. If you require a refill simply turn the lid upside down or leave the lid slightly ajar, so that the waiter can see you have finished. If a fellow tea drinker taps their two fingers on the table, this means they are showing appreciation for filling up their cup.
Dim sum is a social, fun meal, which lets you try new flavours and culinary delights. If you enjoy Chinese food you will absolutely love trying dim sum. If you have ever had fantasies about skipping the main menu and simply eating the starters, that is the easiest way I can describe what dim sum is like; simply eating the best tastes without the heaviness of the mains. I really hope your enjoyed my quick factual guide to dim sum, I would love to know what are your favourite dishes?