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Shopping
 
Lifestyle
Dim Sum

The unique culinary art of dim sum originated with the Cantonese in southern China, who over the centuries transformed yum cha from a relaxing respite to a loud and happy dining experience. In Hong Kong, and in most cities and towns in Guangdong province, many restaurants start serving dim sum as early as five in the morning. It is a tradition for the elderly to gather to eat dim sum after morning exercises. For many in southern China, yum cha is treated as a weekend family day. More traditional dim sum restaurants typically serve dim sum until mid-afternoon. However, in modern society it has become common place for restaurants to serve dim sum at dinner time, various dim sum items are even sold as take-out for students and office workers on the go.

While dim sum (literally meaning: touch the heart) was originally not a main meal, only a snack, and therefore only meant to touch the heart, it is now a staple of Chinese dining culture, especially in Hong Kong.

A traditional dim sum brunch includes various types of steamed buns such as cha siu baau, dumplings and rice noodle rolls (cheong fun), which contain a range of ingredients, including beef, chicken, pork, prawns and vegetarian options. Many dim sum restaurants also offer plates of steamed green vegetables, roasted meats, congee porridge and other soups. Dessert dim sum is also available and many places offer the customary egg tart.

Dim sum can be cooked by steaming and frying, among other methods. The serving sizes are usually small and normally served as three or four pieces in one dish. It is customary to order family style, sharing dishes among all members of the dining party. Because of the small portions, people can try a wide variety of food.

Dim sum brunch restaurants have a wide variety of dishes, usually several dozen. Among the standard fare of dim sum are the following:

Har gow (shrimp dumplings) (蝦餃 ha1 gaau2): A delicate steamed dumpling with whole or chopped-up shrimp filling and thin wheat starch skin.


Chiu-chao style dumplings (潮州粉果 chiu-chau fan guo): A dumpling said to have originated from the Chaozhou prefecture of eastern Guangdong province, it contains peanuts, garlic, chives, pork, dried shrimp, Chinese mushrooms in a thick dumpling wrapper made from glutinous rice flour or Tang flour. It is usually served with a small dish of chili oil.


Jiaozi (pot stickers) (鍋貼, gwoh tip / guo tie): Northern Chinese style of dumpling (steamed and then pan-fried jiaozi), usually with meat and cabbage filling. Note that although potstickers are sometimes served in dim sum restaurants, they are not considered traditional Cantonese dim sum.


Shaomai (燒賣 siu maai): Small steamed dumplings with either pork, prawns or both inside a thin wheat flour wrapper. Usually topped off with crab roe and mushroom.


Haam Sui Gaau (鹹水餃, salt-water (i.e. savoury) stuffed-dumpling, alternatively 鹹水角 (haam sui gok): deep fried oval-shaped dumpling made with rice-flour and filled with pork and chopped vegetables. The rice-flour surrounding is sweet and sticky, while the inside is slightly salty.


Char siu baau (叉燒包, ): the most popular bun with a Cantonese barbecued pork filling. It can be either steamed to be fluffy and white or baked with a light sugar glaze to produce a smooth golden-brown crust.


Shanghai steamed buns (上海小籠包 seong hoi siu lung baau): These dumplings are filled with meat or seafood and are famous for their flavor and rich broth inside. These dumplings are originally Shanghainese so they are not considered traditional Cantonese dim sum. They are typically sold with pork as a filling.


Phoenix claws (鳳爪 fung zao): These are chicken feet, deep fried, boiled, marinated in a black bean sauce and then steamed. This results in a texture that is light and fluffy (due to the frying), while moist and tender. Fung zau are typically dark red in color. One may also sometimes find plain steamed chicken feet served with a vinegar dipping sauce. This version is known as "White Cloud Phoenix Claws" (白雲鳳爪, baak wan fung jaau).


Steamed meatball (牛肉球 ngau4 juk6 kau4): Finely ground beef is shaped into balls and then steamed with preserved orange peel and served on top of a thin bean-curd skin.


Spare ribs: In the west, it is mostly known as spare ribs collectively. In the east, it is Char siu when roasted red, or (排骨 paai4 gwat1, páigǔ) when roasted black. It is typically steamed with douchi or fermented black beans and sometimes sliced chilli.


Lotus leaf rice (糯米雞 lo6 mai5 gai1): Glutinous rice is wrapped in a lotus leaf into a triangular or rectangular shape. It contains egg yolk, dried scallop, mushroom, water chestnut and meat (usually pork and chicken). These ingredients are steamed with the rice and although the leaf is not eaten, its flavour is infused during the steaming. Lo mai gai is a kind of rice dumpling. A similar but lighter variant is known as "Pearl Chicken" (珍珠雞 jan jyu gai).


Congee (粥 juk1): Thick, sticky rice porridge served with different savory items. The porridge one will see most often is "Duck Egg and Pork Porridge" (皮蛋瘦肉粥 "pei daan sau juk zuk")


Sou (酥 sou): A type of flaky pastry. Char siu is one of the most common ingredient used in dim sum style sou. Another common pastry seen in restaurants are called "Salty Pastry" (鹹水角 "haam sui gok") which is made with flour and seasoned pork.


Taro dumpling (芋角 wu gok): This is made with mashed taro, stuffed with diced shiitake mushrooms, shrimp and pork, deep-fried in crispy batter.


Crispy fried squid (魷魚鬚 yau yu sou): Similar to fried calamari, the battered squid is deep-fried. A variation of this dish may be prepared with a salt and pepper mix. In some dim sum restaurants, octopus is used instead of squid.


Spring roll (春捲 cheun gyun): a roll consisting of various types of vegetables — such as sliced carrot, cabbage, mushroom and wood ear fungus — and sometimes meat are rolled inside a thin flour skin and deep fried.


Rice noodle rolls or cheung fan (腸粉 cheung4 fan2): These are wide rice noodles that are steamed and then rolled. They are often filled with different types of meats or vegetables inside but can be served without any filling. Rice noodle rolls are fried after they are steamed and then sprinkled with sesame seeds. Popular fillings include beef, dough fritter, shrimp, and barbecued pork. Often topped with a sweetened soy sauce.


Tofu skin roll (腐皮捲 fu pei guen): a roll made of Tofu skin


Turnip cake (蘿蔔糕 lo4 baak6 gou1): cakes are made from mashed daikon radish mixed with bits of dried shrimp and pork sausage that are steamed and then cut into slices and pan-fried.


Taro cake (芋頭糕 wu tao gou): cakes made of taro.


Water chestnut cake (馬蹄糕 ma tai gou): cakes made of water chestnut. It is mostly see-through and clear. Some restaurants also serve a variation of water chestnut cake made with bamboo juice.


Egg tart (蛋撻 daan taat): composed of a base made from either a flaky puff pastry type dough or a type of non-flaky cookie dough with an egg custard filling, which is then baked. Some high class restaurants put bird's nest on top of the custard. In other places egg tarts can be made of a crust and a filling of egg whites and some where it is a crust with egg yolks. Some egg tarts now have flavors such as taro, coffee, and other flavors. There are also different kinds of crust. There is also a flaky crisp outer crust with layers and layers of crunchy crumbs.


Jin deui or Matuan (煎堆 or 麻糰): Especially popular at Chinese New Year, a chewy dough filled with red bean paste, rolled in sesame seeds, and deep fried.


Dou fu fa (豆腐花): A dessert consisting of silky tofu served with a sweet ginger or jasmine flavored syrup.


Mango pudding (芒果布甸 mong guo bou din): A sweet, rich mango-flavoured pudding usually with large chunks of fresh mango; often served with a topping of evaporated milk.


Sweet cream buns (奶皇包 naai5 wong4 baau1): Steamed buns with milk custard filling.


Malay Steamed Sponge Cake (馬拉糕 ma5 laai1 gou1): A very soft steamed sponge cake flavoured with molasses.


 

The drinking of tea is as important to dim sum as the food. The type of tea to serve on the table would be typically one of the first things the server would ask dining customers. Several types of tea is served during dim sum :

Chrysanthemum tea – Chrysanthemum tea does not actually contain any tea leaves. Instead it is a flower-based tisane made from chrysanthemum flowers of the species Chrysanthemum morifolium or Chrysanthemum indicum, which are most popular in East Asia. To prepare the tea, chrysanthemum flowers (usually dried) are steeped in hot water (usually 90 to 95 °C after cooling from a boil) in either a teapot, cup, or glass. However, Chrysanthemum flowers are often paired with Pu-erh tea, and this is often referred to as guk pou or guk bou (菊普; pinyin: jú pǔ).

Green tea – Freshly picked leaves only go through heating and drying processes, but do not undergo fermentation. This enables the leaves to keep their original green color and retain most natural substances like polyphenols and chlorophyll contained within the leaves. This kind of tea is produced all over China and is the most popular category of tea. Representative varieties include Dragon Well (Long Jing) and Biluochun from Zhejiang and Jiangsu Provinces respectively.

Oolong tea – The tea leaves are partially fermented, imparting to them the characteristics of both green and black teas. Its taste is more similar to green tea than black tea, but has less a "grassy" flavor than green tea. The three major oolong-tea producing areas are on the southeast coast of China e.g. Fujian, Guangdong and Taiwan.

Pu-erh or Puer tea – The tea have undergone years of fermentation, giving them a unique earthy flavor. This variety of tea is usually compressed into different shapes like bricks, discs and bowls.

Scented teas – There can be various mixtures of flowers with green tea, black tea or oolong tea. Flowers used include jasmine, gardenia, magnolia, grapefruit flower, sweet-scented osmanthus and rose. There are strict rules about the proportion of flowers to tea. Jasmine tea is the most popular type of scented tea, and is often the most popular type of tea served at yum cha establishments.