Going out for dim sum is a very happy time for my family. We go as a multi-generation group from my grandparents to my children and we always go hungry because these are some of our favorite foods. Here is how I have an awesome dim sum experience.
- Finding Good Food. Read online reviews or even better, ask Chinese (preferably Cantonese) friends where they like to eat dim sum. Traditionally, dim sum would be served in carts pushed by wait staff around the restaurant, and you would point to the small dishes you wanted to eat. Some restaurants no longer use the carts and you order comes out from the kitchen. I personally like ordering from the carts because that is how I have been doing it since I was little but this is not necessarily indicative of good food. Once you get to the restaurant, take a peak inside, if you see a lot of Chinese people, you’re in the right company that has found good food.
- Timing. Earlier the better. It is not the “norm” for Chinese restaurants to take reservations for dim sum. The tables turn quickly and the good places have a steady line coming in the door. The full kitchen opens at 11am so if you want to eat noodles and rice with your dim sum, go around 10:30am. Don’t be fooled by the small plates, go hungry!
- Choosing a Tea. The first question you will be asked will by what tea you want to drink. The three traditional teas are: Bo lai (dark and earthy), Chrysanthemum tea (light and floral), Guk bou (blend of Bo lai and Chrysanthemum). Green tea is also an option at some dim sum restaurants. I like Chrysanthemum so I choose that or Guk bou.
- Navigating the Menu. This can be somewhat cryptic because the dishes most likely have been translated exactly from their Chinese characters. Don’t be surprised if you see misspellings and no pictures. Here are some of my favorites that are worth trying.Shrimp dumplingCilantro and Scallion rice roll. This is vegetarian but some have meat and they are all delicious.Bean curd skin roll
Steamed spare ribs
Sticky rice in lotus leaf
Shanghainese Soup Dumplings
Turnip cake with XO Sauce
- Payment. Always have cash when dining in a Chinese restaurant. They don’t always take credit cards.
- History. Here are some fun facts to go along with your amazing dim sum experience. A very long time ago in China, there was a very long road connecting the East and West and Mediterranean Sea called the Silk Road that was a trade route for silk and other goods. Along the Silk Road, travelers would yum cha, or stop at teahouses to drink tea and rest. A physician during that time wrote that eating while drinking tea would make you gain weight, but later people discovered drinking helps with digestion so the tea houses started selling snacks. All of the sweet and savory dim sum food varieties that we eat today were developed by the Cantonese in South China. Over centuries they transformed yum cha from a relaxing teahouse rest to a loud and fun dining experience.
Now go eat dim sum and have an awesome time!
The Dumpling Mama xo