Must-Try Eats: Dim Sum

Growing up in a partial-Chinese household, my family would go eat dim sum at least once a month. The taste and experience of having dim sum is a unique and delicious one. If you enjoy small-portioned meals and love to devour dumplings, steamed buns, and desserts -- or just want to try something new, dim sum is a perfect must-try eat for you!

What is dim sum?

Imagine brunch. Imagine Chinese food. Now, combine the two and that’s what dim sum is like. Served in small steamer baskets or on a small plate, dim sum is a variety of small bite-size portions of various Chinese delicacies.

Dim Sum "Did you know?": The first and oldest dim sum restaurant is located in San Francisco, California. Hang Ah Tea Room in San Francisco’s Chinatown has been serving dim sum since 1920 for almost a century!

Eggplant stuffed with shrimp

When you arrive at a restaurant that serves dim sum you’ll notice it’s the busiest time you’ll see a Chinese restaurant. The steamed baskets and plates that dim sum is served with get stacked and placed on a traditional rolling cart to bring to hungry diners. Either the waiter/waitress pushing the carts will come to you and offer you dim sum or if you see a cart with a dish you’d like to try, just simply flag over the desired cart.

How to order dim sum like a pro:

When you finally get to choose which dishes you want to order, the waiter often times may overwhelm you into ordering various dishes. It’s important to not over order! Start off with a couple dishes, then order more as you go.

There will be some familiar foods, but dim sum also has some pretty unique eats like chicken feet and turnip cake. Although it’s different and sounds like something you wouldn’t normally eat, these are some dim sum favorites so don’t be afraid to try something new!

How to eat dim sum:

Similar to sushi, you can dip your bite-size dim sum into soy sauce for added flavor. Pour a little bit of soy sauce on your eating plate; if you’re a spice fan you can also add some of the chili oil to the soy sauce. Pick up a bite-size food item from your steam basket and bring it to your plate to dip in your soy sauce, then take small bites to savor the hot, fresh, deliciousness. Although they’re bite-sized, try not to just shove and eat all your dim sum in one go. Savor it!

Time to Eat!

Now that you know what dim sum is and how to eat it, here’s a list of the most popular and some of my favorite dim sum dishes that you can try next time you go to eat some.

1. Har Gow

Photo from The Woks of Life  

Har Gow is a steamed rice dumpling filled with shrimp. It’s the most popular ordered dim sum and most traditional.

2. Shumai

Photo from It’s My Dish (Jeff Kang)

Another classic dim sum dish is shumai. I would describe shumai as a Chinese meatball that is made with ground pork and shrimp all mixed together into a warm wonton wrapper.

3. Pan-fried turnip cake (Lo bak go)

Photo from The Woks of Life

Don’t let the ingredient “turnip” fool you. I personally think these taste like fried potato cakes: crispy on the outside with a yummy, soft inside.

4. Steamed rice rolls (Cheung Fun)

Photo from The Woks of Life

My personal favorite dim sum to order is the steamed-rice rolls. Cheung fun is so simple with stuffed shrimp and little pour of soy sauce over top, but nevertheless so scrumptious.

5. Chicken feet

Photo by Heather Tucker

A popular, yet unique dim sum dish. It takes an acquired taste and negligence of texture to eat chicken feet. You obviously do NOT eat the whole foot. Instead nibble the chewy skin and meat around the bones.  

6. Egg tart (dessert)

This photo of Great Taste Hong Kong Dim Sum is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Last, but not least is my must-order dish every time I go to eat dim sum. Egg tarts are one of the sweets/desserts dim sum options and they are absolutely delicious. As a kid growing up, I would eat about four all by myself (and order some for to-go)!

As you can see dim sum has a lot of different and unique options that are extremely yummy. Have an open mind and empty stomach when trying these foods and I really hope this encourages you to rush to your nearest dim sum restaurant and get your dim sum on. Bon appetit for this must-try eat!