Dim sum

From Academic Kids

Dim sum (Chinese: 點心; Cantonese IPA: tɪm35sɐm55, Jyutping: dim2 sam1; Mandarin Pinyin: diǎnxīn, Wade-Giles: tien-hsin; literally dot heart or order heart, meaning order to one's heart's content; also commonly translated as touch the heart, dotted heart, or snack), a Cantonese term, is usually a light meal or brunch, eaten sometime from morning-to-early afternoon with family or friends.

Classical dim sum includes buns, dumplings and rice rolls, which contain a range of ingredients, including beef, chicken, pork, prawns and vegetarian options. Many dim sum restaurants also offer plates of steamed green vegetables, roasted meats, congee porridge and other soups. Tea is always served, giving it the alternative name of yum cha (飲茶) which means "drinking tea". In Australia the term dim sum is not in usage, and is always referred to as yum cha.

Dim sum can be cooked by steaming and frying, among other methods. The size of the dim sum are usually small and normally served as three or four pieces in one dish. It is customary to order family style, sharing dishes among all members of the dining party. Because of the small portions, people can try a wide variety of food.

Dim sum dishes can be ordered from a menu or sometimes the food is wheeled around on a mobile cart by servers. Traditionally, the cost of the meal is calculated based on the number and size of dishes left on the patron's table. Some modern dim sum restaurants record the dishes on a bill at the table. Not only is this tidier, it also prevents patrons from cheating by concealing or stealing the plates, which has been known to happen. Servers in some restaurants even use different stamps so that sales statistics for each server can be recorded. Template:Spoken Wikipedia



Travelers on the ancient Silk Road needed a place to take a nap, so teahouses were established along the roadside. Rural farmers, exhausted after working hard in the fields, would also go to teahouses for a relaxing afternoon of tea. At first, it was considered inappropriate to combine tea with food, because people believed it would lead to excessive weight gain. However, people later discovered that tea can aid in digestion. Therefore, teahouse owners began adding more variety of snacks, so the tradition of dim sum evolved.

In Hong Kong, and most cities in Guangdong province, many Chinese restaurants start serving very early in the morning at around 6 am. It is a tradition for the elderly to gather to eat dim sum after morning exercises, often enjoying the morning newspapers. For many southerners in China, yum cha is treated as a weekend family day. Consistent with this tradition, dim sum restaurants typically only serve dim sum until the afternoon; other Cantonese cuisine are served in the evening. Nowadays, various dim sum items are sold in a takeaway manner for students and office workers' on the go.

Though dim sum is a Cantonese word, the idea of a wide variety of small dishes for lunch also holds for other regions of China. Therefore, the terms "Northern dian xin" or "Shanghai dian xing" have come into use.


Missing image
Australian Dim Sims.

William Wing Young in Melbourne, 1945 developed a style of Chinese dumpling known throughout Australia as a Dim Sim, first manufactured for his Melbourne restaurant Wing Lee. The Dim Sim was made with a thicker than normal skin for ease of transportation so Young could transport them in his Chevy to Australian Football League matches so as it could be sold as a snack food. The product became so popular it rivaled well established Australian snack foods like Four'N'Twenty meat pies. By 1947 Youngs factory was producing thousands of them for sale throughout Australia.

The dim sim has become a part of Australian culture, and is considered by many locals as an Australian food with only limited connection to Chinese culture. Dim sims are either deep fried or steamed and can be bought at most Australian takeaway shops, often served with fried fish and chips. Like other takeaway foods containing mixed ingredients, dim sims are often the subject of many rumours involving the use of non-foodstuffs or not-normally-consumed meats (such as dogs or cats).

The term 'dim sim' has planted itself so firmly into Australian English that even the traditional smaller Chinese style dumplings are referred to as such.


The drinking of tea is as important to dim sum as the food. A popular tea which is said to aid in digestion is bo lay (or pu erh), which is a strong, fermented tea. Chrysanthemum, oolong and green tea can also be served as well.

It is customary to pour tea for others during dim sum before filling one's own cup. A custom unique to Hong Kong is to thank the person pouring the tea by tapping the crooked index and middle fingers together on the table. This is said to resemble the ritual of bowing to someone. Given the number of times tea is poured in a meal, it is a timesaver in loud restaurants, as an individual being served might be speaking to someone else or busy consuming food.


Dim sum restaurants have a wide variety of dishes, usually several dozen. Among the standard fare of dim sum include:

Name of Dim Sum in English and romanised Cantonese (Name in written chinese and pronunciation in Mandarin using Hnyǔ Pīnyīn )

Missing image
Shrimp dumplings (蝦餃)
Jiaozi or gaau (餃 jiǎo)
This is a standard in most teahouses. They are made of ingredients wrapped in a translucent rice-flour or wheat-flour skin. Though common, steamed rice-flour skins are quite difficult to make. Thus, it is a good demonstration of the chef's artistry to make these translucent dumplings. The most common type is haa gaau, which is a shrimp dumpling with rice-flour skin. There are also dumplings with vegetarian ingredients, such as tofu and pickled cabbage.
Baozi or baau (包 bāo)
Baked or steamed, these fluffy buns are filled with different meats and vegetables. The most popular type is cha siu baau (叉燒包 chāshāobāo), a bun with barbeque-flavoured pork meat and onions inside. It can be either steamed to be fluffy and white or baked with a light sugar glaze to produce a smooth golden-brown crust.
Barbecue pork buns (义燒包)
Barbecue pork buns (义燒包)
Shanghai steamed buns (上海小籠包 Shànghǎi xiǎolóngbāo)
These "little juicy dumplings" are filled with meat or seafood and are famous for their flavour and rich soup inside. Shanghai steamed buns can be recognised by their unique design, as the filled wrapper is gathered up into fine folds at the top, prior to steaming.
Taro root dumpling or woo kok(竽角 yùjiǎo)
This is made with mashed taro, stuffed with diced shiitake mushrooms, shrimp and pork. It is surrounded by a light and fluffy, crispy-brown dough.
Spring rolls (春卷 chūnjuǎn)
These consist of various types of vegetables such as sliced carrot, cabbage, mushroom and wood ear fungus, and sometimes meat, are rolled inside a thin flour skin and deep fried for a crispy outside.
Lotus leaf rice (糯米雞 nuòmǐjī)
Sticky rice is wrapped in a lotus leaf into a triangular or rectangular shape. This is steamed with ingredients inside the rice ball, such as an egg yolk, chestnut, pork and chicken. The leaf itself is not eaten, though its flavour infuses the rice during steaming.
Rice noodle rolls or cheong fun (腸粉 chángfěn)
These are steamed rice noodle rolls served with different types of meats or vegetables inside, but can be served without any filling. Fried rice noodle rolls are fried after they are steamed. Popular fillings include shrimp and barbequed pork.
Siu Maai (燒賣; shāomài)
Small steamed dumplings with pork inside a thin wheat flour wrapper.
Chien chang go (千層榚 qiāncénggāo)
A special dim sum dessert, the sweet "thousand-layer cake" with egg topping or chien chang go is a piece of artistry as well. As suggested by its name, the cake is made up of many layers of sweet egg dough (though not usually a thousand).
Sesame seed balls (麻糰 mátuǎn)
Especially popular at Chinese New Year, a doughy bread filled with red bean paste, rolled in sesame seeds, and deep fried.
Turnip/Radish cakes or lo bak go (蘿蔔糕 luóbogāo)
These savory cakes are made from mashed daikon radishes mixed with bits of dried shrimp and pork that are steamed and then cut into slices and pan-fried.
Phoenix Talons (鳳爪 fèngzhǎo)
These are actually chicken feet that are marinated and then steamed in a black bean sauce. One may also sometimes get clear, steamed chicken feet that is served with a vinegar dipping sauce. This version is known as "White Cloud Phoenix Talons" (白雲鳳爪 baiyunfengzhao; Cantonese: bak wun fung jau)

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