What Is Dim Sum?

If you’re wondering, what is dim sum?

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Well, it is a style of Cantonese cuisine that has become popular in many parts of the world. It consists of small, individual portions of food that are served in steamer baskets or plates and on carts. It’s often served as breakfast or brunch, but it can be enjoyed at any time of the day.

The word “dim sum” means “to touch the heart,” and it refers to the way that the individual dishes are meant to be shared and enjoyed.

The most common dim sum dishes include Har Gow (Shrimp Dumplings), Shu Mai (Pork and Shrimp Dumplings), Char Siu Bao (Steamed Buns), and Cheong Fun (Rice Noodle Rolls).

In some restaurants, you might find other types of dim sum dishes on the menu, such as Lo Mai Gai (steamed chicken and glutinous rice wrapped in lotus leaves), egg tarts, beef balls, and chicken feet.

How To Order Dim Sum Without Embarrassing Yourself

When you go to a Chinese restaurant that serves dim sum, you’ll notice that the servers are pushing carts loaded with small steamer baskets or small plates of food.

The servers normally walk around the restaurant and stop at each table, show the diners what they have in their carts and ask them if they want anything.

If you find a dish that you want, simply point to it and tell the server how many pieces you want. The server will then put the dish (dishes) you want on the table, mark the number of pieces on the bill and move on to other tables. 

You can also order dim sum from the menu, but it’s more fun to order from the cart since you can see what’s available.

However, it can be tempting to order a lot of different dim sum dishes. To stop yourself from over-ordering, try to stick to two or three dishes per person at a time and only order more if everyone is still hungry after those have been consumed.

The reason you don’t want to order too much at one time is that dim sum dishes vary in price. You may find that one dish is cheap, while another is more expensive. So, if you order too many dishes to start with and don’t like some of them, you’ll have wasted money. Also, since dim sum is often served in small portions, this makes it extremely easy to over-order.

The Basics of How To Eat Dim Sum

Being a Chinese dish, dim sum is eaten with chopsticks. However, if you don’t know how to use chopsticks, you can ask for a fork.

There are two ways you can eat dim sum. You can either take the dim sum off the plate and eat it whole, or you can break it up into small pieces.

Dim sum is usually served with a small dish of soy sauce and a bowl of hot tea. You can dip the dim sum into the sauce or add it to your rice or noodles.

If you’re eating dim sum for the first time, it’s best to take small bites and chew slowly. This will help you get used to the texture of dim sum.

Dim Sum Etiquette

While dim sum is traditionally eaten during lunch and brunch, there are places that serve it all day long. It’s important to remember that dim sum is not finger food. You should never stick your fingers into the dishes. This can be offensive because it’s similar to how some cultures eat with their hands.

When eating dim sum with chopsticks, it’s important to remember that you should never leave your chopsticks standing upright in the dish; this is a sign of death in many Asian cultures. Instead, you should lay them on the table or rest them across the rim of the bowl.

You should also remember that dim sum is meant to be shared. If you’re eating with a group of people, get every person to order a different dish so that everyone can try as many different options as possible.

If you’re not sure what something is, it’s best to ask before ordering it. The servers are happy to explain the ingredients and offer suggestions if they think something might be too spicy or sweet for your taste buds.

How To Make Dim Sum at Home

If you’re interested in making your own dim sum at home, it’s actually not that difficult. But because dim sum generally comprises many different types of dishes, it’s best that you start with the simplest to make.

The most basic dim sum dish is steamed dumplings. To get started, you need to have meat for the filling. This can be chicken, beef, pork, or shrimp. You can choose what you want in your dumplings.

For example, pork and shrimp are a popular combination, as are chicken and celery. But you can really use any type of meat or seafood that you like.

To enhance the flavor of your filling, you can add ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and your choice of spices and seasonings.

Next, you need to make the dough for the wrapper. If it’s the first time you’re making steamed dumplings, it might be best to use store-bought wrappers to make things easier. But if you’re feeling adventurous, you can make your own wrappers.

To do this, you need to make a dough mixture, which you can do with flour, water, salt, and oil. You then need to roll out the dough into thin sheets and cut them into circles using a cookie cutter or by hand. This is the most difficult part, but with practice, you’ll find that it gets easier.

Once you have your wrappers, you can fill them with your filling and wrap them up into little packages using your fingers or a chopstick. You then just need to steam the dumplings in a steamer pot until they are cooked through and the wrapper is nice and fluffy.

Traditionally, dumplings are served in a hot broth, but you can also eat them with soy sauce or vinegar if you prefer.

Dim Sum Nutritional Facts

Dim sum is a great way to get lots of nutrients in one sitting, especially if you eat it with lots of vegetables and lean protein. Dumplings, for example, are low in trans fat and calories and high in protein. They’re also a good source of fiber and iron.

Generally speaking, a lot of dim sum dishes are high in calories, fat, and sodium. But it all depends on the ingredients in your dim sum meal. If you choose dim sum dishes that are made with fresh, low-calorie ingredients, like vegetables and lean protein, then you’ll be able to enjoy a healthy meal.

It’s not difficult to find a dim sum restaurant that offers healthy options. Many dim sum restaurants have vegetarian and gluten-free dishes.

Dim Sum Serving Tips

If you love eating dim sum but want to make sure it’s healthy for you, follow these tips:

  • Ask for brown rice instead of white rice when ordering dim sum dishes. Brown rice contains more fiber than white rice, which means it will fill you up faster and keep blood sugar levels stable.
  • Ask for steamed or fried dumplings instead of pan-fried dumplings. Steamed or fried dumplings will have fewer calories than pan-fried dumplings because they won’t have any oil added to them.
  • Ask for a small portion when ordering dim sum dishes. The portion sizes at dim sum restaurants usually range from small to large, so you can ask for a small portion to reduce the number of calories you consume.
  • Look at the ingredients list on any dim sum dish before ordering it. Dim sum dishes often contain meat, which isn’t as healthy as other options like vegetables or tofu.
  • Don’t use excessive amounts of soy sauce when eating dim sum dishes. Soy sauce is high in sodium, so try to limit how much you use when eating dim sum at home.

Final Remarks

Dim sum is a fun and great way to enjoy a meal with friends, family, and even work colleagues. It’s a dish that brings people together in the same way that pizza does for Americans. Dim sum is also a great way to introduce yourself to new dishes and flavors of cuisine, which can help broaden your horizons.

So if you haven’t tried dim sum before, or if you’re looking to take your dim sum experience to the next level, we hope that this article has helped you in some way.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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