What is Dim Sum?

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What is Dim Sum?

Dim Sum literally means ‘touch the heart’. It is a type of Cantonese cuisine which comes mainly with a variety of small dishes that is served with Chinese tea. Dim Sum restaurants can be seen in many parts of the world, but it has been said that the real good ones are in the heart of China, like in the cities of Hong Kong and Macau, and the southern Chinese province of Guangdong. It is in these places where majority of the population is Cantonese-speaking.

Dishes of this nature include a wide selection of fried and steamed dumplings, as well as various sweet and savory items. The classics are continually used with new ingredients and combinations to form a more flavorful dish and create unique styles in presentations. Examples are har gau (steamed prawn dumpling), cheung fun (rice noodle rolls with fillings such as prawn, beef and roast pork) char siu bau (steamed roast pork bun), and spare ribs in black bean sauce. Unfortunately, vegetarian dim sum is still a rarity as most dishes are being prepared with beef, pork, prawn, and other seafood. Spring rolls and vegetable steamed dumplings are the only ones available for this type of dim sum.  Sweet dim sums like dan taat (egg custard tart) are also popular choices in restaurants. Dim sums are usually served in tiers of bamboo steamers or small to medium-sized plates.   Some are served like ‘dessert carts’, wherein dim sum variety is served in a single platter for everyone’s picking.

It is common that dim sum is served as early as 5:00 am or until mid-afternoon. It is also popular during weekends, especially Sundays, when entire families or groups of friends get together. Traditionally, drinking Chinese tea is part of family dinners. In restaurants, the selection of dim sum usually follows the ordering of the tea. It has also been said that ‘to go for dim sum’ or ‘yum cha’ means ‘drink tea’ in Cantonese.

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