Dim sum literally means “little heart” or “touches the heart.” It is a popular branch of Chinese cuisine. When people say they are going for “yum cha,” which means drinking tea, they are likely referring to going out for dim sum. There are all sorts of dim sum including buns (“bau”), dumplings, spring rolls, curry squid and chicken feet! Small dishes arrive in bamboo steam baskets or plates. Since the dishes are small, diners often get many different kinds of dim sum to share.
Traditionally ladies push around carts containing a few different kinds of dim sum and shout out what they have. The clatter is both chaotic and comforting. You can wave the servers over and get a dish right of the cart. Other restaurants give you the menu itself and you can check off what and how many of each dish you want. I still remember the first time my cousins and I were allowed to order our own dim sum without parental supervision. We ticked off way more than we could eat and it felt like the food just kept on coming. Our parents were not pleased, obviously.
Traditional dim sum in stacked steam baskets.
This restaurant has many aquaria full of fish ready to be caught and cooked. While this is common to Chinese restaurants, I don’t think I’ve ever seen this kind of set-up before. It looks almost like a pet store.
The following are some more unique dim sum that I don’t see often in Canada. These are from Chiuchow Garden, Hutchison House in Central.
Cute bird-shaped buns filled with custard
Hawker-style cheung fun (rolls made with rice flour) topped with hoisin sauce and peanut butter. These were some of the softest and freshest cheung fun I’ve ever had. Since this was hawker-style, there were skewers on the side to eat the cheung fun with.
A very refreshing dessert: mango, milk, sago (little translucent pearls, similar to tapioca) and grapefruit slivers
Buns filled with lotus seed paste, usually served for birthdays
Malaysian steamed sponge cake. While this can often be found in Canada dim sum, these ones had some seeds or nuts on top.
One tip when eating dim sum: eat it while it’s hot! Since many of the dishes are steamed, they are wonderfully soft, but soon harden as they cool.