What Is Dim Sum? The Beginner&039s Guide to South China&039s Traditional Brunch Meal | Asia Society

Dim sum is a traditional Chinese meal consisting of small plates of dumplings and other appetizer dishes and is often accompanied by tea. just as the Spanish eat tapas, the dishes are shared among family and friends. Dim sum is typically consumed during brunch hours, from late morning until lunchtime.

a brief history

Today, dim sum is eaten throughout China and the world, but the dishes are believed to have originated in the Guangdong region of southern China before eventually reaching Hong Kong. According to food magazine Lucky Peach, Cantonese dim sum culture began in teahouses in the second half of the 19th century in the port city of Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong, after opium dens were banned worldwide. country. Silk Road travelers and traders would take breaks at teahouses for a dim sum meal. As they continued to travel, the practice continued to spread and gained popularity throughout the region, especially Hong Kong.

Today, dim sum may include dishes and traditions adopted from other parts of China. but, in general, the culinary form remains the same as always.

tag and order

how do you order dim sum? first, choose a tea, as it will be a central part of the meal; after all, dim sum originated in teahouses. if you wish to follow traditional etiquette, the person closest to the pot should pour tea for guests before pouring their own cup.

Is the pot running out of water? remove the lid and place it on top or to the side of the kettle. this is a common signal to bartenders that you need a refill. Ordering a meal at traditional dim sum restaurants is a fun and unique experience, and one that requires a keen eye. Push carts come out of the kitchens filled with piles of dumpling steamers and plates of fried food and weave through customer tables. From your table, point to the cart with the food you want as you walk by. the waiters will unload your choices from your cart and mark your table’s menu card with what you’ve ordered. Today, most modern dim sum restaurants rely on checklists like menu cards. guests simply mark the dishes they want and wave the card in the air before handing it to their server.

what to ask for

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Dim sum dishes include a variety of seafood, meat, and vegetable dishes that are prepared in a variety of ways: steamed, fried, or baked. here is a list of some of the most popular dishes to get you started:

shumai (siu mai, shao mai): These are round, thin cup-shaped wrappers and have a filling, usually pork, shrimp, or a combination of the two, and often a small amount of vegetables such as bamboo shoots, black mushrooms and water chestnuts. (jessica spengler/flickr)

prawn dumplings (har gow, xia jiao): one of the most popular dishes in dim sum, these are pieces of shrimp wrapped in a thin translucent dumpling wrapper and served in a bamboo steamer. (charles haynes/flickr)

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soup dumplings (xiaolong bao): Commonly known as “soup dumplings,” these delicate items are filled with hot broth and pork and served in a bamboo steamer. Although these originate from Shanghai, their national popularity has ensured their status as a dim sum staple. (ted murphy/flickr)

BBQ Pork Buns (charsiu bao, chashao bao): These are fluffy white buns filled with sticky sweet barbecue seasoned pork and served in a bamboo steamer. (kate hopkins/flickr)

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Chicken feet (tau zi fung zao, chizhi feng zhao): These are whole chicken feet, without the claws, fried and then braised in a rich, slightly sweet ferment. black bean sauce until tender and then served on a plate. (alpha/flickr)

rice noodle rolls (cheong fun, changfen): these are large, thin rice noodles, usually made by hand, rolled around a center of tender meat or shrimp or a crispy filling without meat, like fried dough. . (t.tseng/flickr)

egg tart (dan tat, dan ta): these are rich and sweet puff pastry tartlets filled with sweet cream that originate from macau. (alpha/flickr)

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