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What is Dim Sum?

Dim Sum

On The Chinese Quest, we have been to some restaurants that are “famous” for their Dim Sum.  These Chinese restaurants would include Fortune Wheel Seafood Restaurant on Long Island, and Joe’s Shanghai, Lake Pavilion, and Northern Manor Restaurant, in Queens.  While we officially haven’t gone out as a group for Dim Sum, we have ventured out individually and enjoyed meals that we’ve raved about.  Personally, I enjoyed Dim Sum at Lake Pavillion with Mee Wen Dee.

One of these days we will make an official Dim Sum run.

Many people have heard of the words Chinese Dim Sum, but do you know what it is?  The word “dim sum” is derived from Cantonese language which literally means “dot the heart”.  It is a meal usually eaten during breakfast, brunch or tea consists of a combination of a variety of Chinese appetizers and snacks in small servings served in small steamer baskets or plates.  Dim sum can be deep fried, steamed or baked.

Dim SumThe classic dim sum meal generally consist of a variety of buns such as the cha siu bao (BBQ Pork Buns) or lotus bean paste buns, dumplings and rice noodle rolls or cheong fun. These dumplings and noodle rolls are stuffed with beef, prawns, pork and chicken.  Two very popular dim sum dumplings are siu mai and har gaw.  However, if you are vegetarian, you can get it with vegetarian stuffing too.

Other than these, you can also find other dishes like congee porridge, lotus-leaf wrapped sticky rice pork ribs or chicken feet in black bean sauce, steamed vegetables, chow mein, roasted meats, egg tarts and soups.  Dim sum dining, also known as “yam cha”, basically means “drinking tea”.  This is simply because that tea generally accompanies dim sum dishes.  A couple of the most common teas that are served in a dim sum restaurant are oolong also called wu lung, Chrysanthemum, and green tea.  One more tea that you can find that is commonly recognized to help digestion is pu-er, which is a type of strong tea.

It is a Chinese custom to pour tea for others before pouring your own cup of tea.  The recipient may give his/her thanks to the one who pours the tea by tapping his/her index finger several times near the cup if you are a single or using both the middle and index fingers if you’re married.  The tapping technique symbolizes bowing to them with thanks.  It is done to save time in loud or lively dim sum houses as the person might be chatting or eating when the host is serving their tea.

Another gesture used in a dim sum restaurant, which is used to get the waiter’s attention, is to leave the lid off of the pot.  It is a tradition to get dim sum family style as they are served in a small portion of two or four pieces in one plate.  Ordering dim sum family style enables every family member to share and enjoy many varieties of food.  You may get two to three baskets for each kind of dim sum if one basket is not enough to go around.

dim-sum-cartIn a dim sum restaurant, you can either order from a menu or in some restaurants, dim sum is offered by someone going around the restaurant by using a trolley cart.  The price of dim sum dishes may vary.  There are restaurants that calculate the total by the number and size or even at times by the color of the dishes that are left on the eaters table.  There are also those that record the dishes served on a bill at the table.  This is a tidier method and prevents patrons from hiding or stealing the plates in an attempt to cheat.  In some restaurants, to record the amount of sales made by a particular server, each of the servers uses a unique stamp on the bill.

The varieties of dim sum are endless.

Humbly submitted for your consumption,

Mee Magnum  (“Chop! Chop!”)

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