Dim sum (traditional Chinese: 點心; simplified Chinese: 点心; pinyin: diǎnxīn; Cantonese Yale: dímsām) is a large range of small dishes that Cantonese people traditionally enjoy in restaurants for breakfast and lunch. In the tenth century, when the city of Guangzhou (Canton) began to experience an increase in commercial travel, travelers concurrently began to frequent teahouses for small-portion meals with tea called yum cha, or "drink tea" meals. Yum cha includes two related concepts. The first is "yat jung leung gin" (一盅兩件), which translates literally as "one cup, two pieces". This refers to the custom of serving teahouse customers two pieces of delicately made food items, savory or sweet, to complement their tea. The second is dim sum (點心) and translates literally to "touching heart", the term used to designate the small food items that accompanied the tea drinking.
Teahouse owners gradually added various snacks called "dim sum" to their offerings. The practice of having tea with dim sum eventually evolved into the modern yum cha (brunch). Cantonese dim sum culture developed rapidly during the latter half of the nineteenth century in Guangzhou. Cantonese dim sum was based originally on local foods. As dim sum continued to develop, chefs introduced influences and traditions from other regions of China and this was the start of a wide variety of dim sum.
There are over one thousand dim sum dishes in existence today. Cantonese dim sum has a very broad range of flavors, textures, cooking styles and ingredients, and can be classified into regular items, seasonal offerings, weekly specials, banquet dishes, holiday dishes, house signature dishes, travel-friendly, as well as breakfast or lunch foods and late night snacks.
Dim sum restaurants typically have a wide variety of dishes, usually totaling several dozen. The tea is very important, just as important as the food. Many Cantonese restaurants serve dim sum as early as five in the morning, while more traditional restaurants typically serve dim sum until mid-afternoon. Dim sum restaurants have a unique serving method where servers offer dishes to customers from steam-heated carts. It is now commonplace for restaurants to serve dim sum at dinner time and sell various dim sum items a la carte for takeout. In addition to traditional dim sum, some chefs also create and prepare new fusion-based dim sum dishes. There are variations designed for visual appeal on social media, such as dumplings and buns made to resemble animals, that also exist.
The original meaning of the term dim sum remains unclear and debated.
Some references state that the term originated in the Eastern Jin dynasty (317–420). According to one legend, to show soldiers gratitude after battles, a general had civilians make buns and cakes to send to the front lines. "Gratitude", or 點點心意; diǎn diǎn xīnyì, later shortened to 點心 diǎn xīn, of which dim sum is the Cantonese pronunciation, came to represent dishes made in a similar fashion.
Some versions date the legend to the Southern Song dynasty (960–1279) after the term's earliest attestation in the Book of Tang (唐書; Táng shū. Written in the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period (907–979), the book uses dim sum as a verb instead:「治妝未畢, 我未及餐, 爾且可點心」; "Zhì zhuāng wèi bì, wǒ wèi jí cān, ěr qiě kě diǎnxīn", which translates to: "I have not finished preparing myself and ready for a proper meal, therefore you can treat yourself with some small snacks." In this context, dim sum (點心; 'to lightly touch (your) heart'), means "to barely fill (your) stomach".
Dim sum dishes are usually associated with yum cha (Chinese: 飲茶; Cantonese Yale: yám chàh; pinyin: yǐnchá; lit. 'drink tea'), a Cantonese brunch tradition. Yan-kit So has described Dim sum as:
Literally translated as 'so close to the heart', they are, in reality, a large range of hors d’oeuvres Cantonese people traditionally enjoy in restaurants (previously teahouses) for breakfast and for lunch, but never for dinner, washed down with tea. 'Let's go yum cha (to drink tea)' is understood among the Cantonese to mean going to a restaurant for dim sum; such is the twin linkage between the food and the beverage. The familiar yum cha scene at a Cantonese restaurant, which is often on several floors, is one of young girls pulling trolleys replete with goodies in bamboo baskets piled high or small dishes set next to each other. As they mill around the dining tables, they call out the names of their wares and place the baskets or dishes on the tables when diners signal their wishes.
Dim sum is part of the Chinese tradition of snacks originating from the Song Dynasty (960-1279), when royal chefs created various dishes such as minced pheasant, lark tongue, and desserts made from steamed milk and bean paste. Guangzhou experienced an increase in commercial travel in the tenth century At that time, travelers would frequent teahouses for small-portion meals with tea called yum cha, or "drink tea" meals. Yum cha includes two related concepts. The first, 一盅兩件, translates literally as "one cup, two pieces". This refers to the custom of serving teahouse customers two pieces of delicately made food items, savory or sweet, to complement their tea. The second, 點心, which means "dim sum" translates literally to "touching heart" (i.e. heart touching). This is the term used to designate the small food items that accompanied the drinking of tea. During the thirteenth century, when Mongols invaded China, the royal court fled to southern China, bringing a royal influence to the dim sum of Guangzhou. Guangzhou was a wealthy, large port city that had international visitors, a temperate climate, and a coastline where fresh and tropical ingredients were grown, resulting in an ideal environment for food and entertainment. In Guangzhou, street vendors and teahouses sold dim sum. The practice of having tea with dim sum at tea houses eventually evolved into modern yum cha. While at the teahouses, travelers selected their preferred snacks from carts. Visitors to tea houses often socialized as they ate and business people negotiated deals over dim sum.
During the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644), the Tea and Horses Bureau was established to monitor tea production and improve tea quality. The improvements in tea quality also led to teahouse improvements.
Cantonese dim sum culture developed rapidly during the latter half of the nineteenth century in Guangzhou. Teahouse dining areas were typically located upstairs and initial dim sum fare included steamed buns. Eventually, these evolved into specialized dim sum restaurants; the variety and quality of dim sum dishes rapidly followed suit. Cantonese dim sum was originally based on local foods such as sweet roast pork called char siu and fresh rice noodles. As dim sum continued to develop, chefs introduced influences and traditions from other regions of China, which created a starting point for the wide variety of dim sum available today. Chefs created a large range of dim sum that even today comprises most of a teahouse’s dim sum offerings. Part of this development included reducing portion sizes of larger dishes originally from northern China, such as stuffed steamed buns, so they could easily be incorporated into the dim sum menu. The rapid growth in dim sum restaurants was due partly because people found the preparation of dim sum dishes to be time-consuming and preferred the convenience of dining out and eating a large variety of baked, steamed, pan-fried, deep-fried, and braised foods. Dim sum continued to develop and also spread southward to Hong Kong.
Although dim sum is normally considered Cantonese, it includes many additional influences. Over thousands of years, as people in China migrated in search of different places to live, they carried the recipes of their favorite foods and continued to prepare and serve these dishes. Many Han Chinese migrated south seeking warmer climates. Settlements took shape in the Yangtze River Valley, the central highlands, and the coastal southeast, including Guangdong. The influence of Suzhou and Hangzhou is found in vegetarian soy skin rolls and pearl meatballs. The dessert squares flavored with red dates or wolfberries are influences from Beijing desserts. Savory dishes, such as pot stickers and steamed dumplings, include Muslim influences because of people traveling from Central Asia across the Silk Road and into Guangdong. These are just a few examples of how a wide range of influences became incorporated into traditional Cantonese dim sum.
By 1860, foreign influences had to shape Guangdong’s dim sum with culinary innovations such as ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and curry, all of which came to be used in some savory dishes. Custard pies evolved into the miniature classics found in every teahouse. Other dim sum dishes evolved from Indian samosas, mango puddings and Mexican conchas (snow-topped buns). Cantonese-style dim sum has an extremely broad range of tastes, textures, cooking styles, and ingredients. As a result, there are more than a thousand different varieties of dim sum.
During the 1920s, in Guangzhou, the foremost places to enjoy tea were its tea pavilions, which had refined and expansive surroundings. The customers were wealthy, and there were rather high standards for the privilege of enjoying tea pavilion service and dim sum. Upon entering a tea pavilion, customers would inspect tea leaves to ensure their quality and to verify the water temperature. Once satisfied, these guests were presented with a pencil and a booklet listing the available dim sum. A waiter would then tear their orders out of the booklet so that the kitchen could pan-fry, steam, bake or deep-fry these dishes on demand. Customers dined upstairs in privacy and comfort. Servers carefully balanced the dishes on their arms or arranged them on trays as they climbed up and down the stairs. Eventually, dim sum carts were used to serve the steamers and plates.
People with average incomes also enjoyed tea and dim sum. Early every morning, customers visited inexpensive restaurants that offered filled steamed buns and hot tea. During the mid-morning, students and government employees ordered two or three kinds of dim sum and ate as they read their newspapers. In the late morning, people working at small businesses visited restaurants for breakfast and to use the restaurant as a small office space.
By the late 1930s, Guangzhou’s teahouse culture included four high-profile dim sum chefs, with signs at the front doors of their restaurants. There was heavy competition among teahouses and as a result, new varieties of dim sum were invented almost daily, including dishes influenced by the tea pastries of Shanghai and Beijing, and the Western world. Many new fusion dishes were also created, including puddings, baked rolls, turnovers, custard tarts, and Malay steamed cakes.
There were also significant increases in the variety of thin wrappers used in both sweet and savory items:
If we concentrate only on the changes and development in the variety of 'wrappers', the main types of dim sum wrappers during the 1920s included such things as raised (for filled buns), wheat starch, shao mai (i.e., egg dough), crystal bun, crispy batter, sticky rice, and boiled dumpling wrappers. By the 1930s, the varieties of wrappers commonly used by chefs included... puff pastry, Cantonese short pastry, [and so on, for a total of 23 types] that were prepared by pan-frying, deep-frying, steaming, baking, and roasting.
As the Chinese Civil War progressed from 1927 to 1949, many dim sum chefs left China and settled in Hong Kong, resulting in further refinements and innovation of the dim sum there. Very large dim sum restaurants in major cities like Hong Kong, San Francisco, Boston, Toronto, and New York were also established.
In the nineteenth century, Cantonese immigrants brought dim sum to the West and East coasts of the United States. Some of the earliest dim sum restaurants in the U.S. still operating today opened in 1920 in San Francisco and New York City. The Chinese history in San Francisco is believed to have started about 30 years before the restaurant was opened. The Chinese preferred to live in the present Chinatown area because of its restaurants and theaters. In the late 1930s, some early U.S. newspaper references to dim sum began to appear. While some Chinese restaurants in the U.S. had offered dim sum for decades, it was not until the late 1980s when there was a broader public awareness of dim sum.
Although there was increased awareness of dim sum, one chef from Hong Kong, who immigrated to San Francisco, noted that diners in the U.S. usually focused on the food itself, and not the communal aspects of eating dim sum. Although dim sum is a Chinese meal, it is a communal dining and social experience that can span hours. It is customary for large groups to enjoy dishes together as a leisurely social activity. Diners go to restaurants early, around 10:00 AM, and rather than ordering a whole table of food, they order small amounts, have a cup of tea, read the newspaper, and wait for friends and family to join them. As a result, a visit to a dim sum restaurant can last from the late morning well into the afternoon. For some people in Hong Kong, dim sum is a daily routine and a way of life. Since this dim sum tradition was not always present in some U.S. dim sum restaurants, however, approaches to generate interest and attract customers include customized seasoning and flavors of traditional dishes, as well as creating novel dishes with an emphasis on enhanced flavors and visual appeal.
One food reviewer notes that there has been increased popularity in posting dim sum photos on social media feeds, and that dim sum has become so popular that every U.S. state has come to have at least one high-quality dim sum restaurant. There is a restaurant, bar, and highly rated dance club complex in Las Vegas, NV, that features high-end Cantonese food (including dim sum), craft cocktails, dinner parties and prominent disc jockeys in a chic setting.
The dim sum restaurants in Chicago have been serving mainly traditional dim sum in Chinatown, but there has been recent growth in contemporary dim sum with new fusion dishes, as well as restaurants now located outside Chinatown.
In Hong Kong, many chefs are also introducing variants based on traditional Cantonese cuisine, which generates interest and provides both Hongkongers and tourists with new, fresh dim sum dishes.
There are over one thousand dim sum dishes available, which are usually eaten as breakfast or brunch. Cantonese dim sum has a very broad range of flavors, textures, cooking styles, and ingredients, and can be classified into regular items, seasonal offerings, weekly specials, banquet dishes, holiday dishes, house signature dishes, travel-friendly, as well as breakfast or lunch foods and late night snacks.
The subtropical climate of the southeast quadrant of Guangdong partly influences dim sum's portion size. It can cause a decrease in appetite, so that people prefer eating scaled-down meals throughout the day rather than the customary three large meals. Teahouses in Guangzhou served "three teas and two meals", which included lunch and dinner, and breakfast, afternoon and evening teas with dim sum.
Many dim sum dishes are made of seafood, chopped meats, or vegetables wrapped in dough or thin wrappings and steamed, deep-fried, or pan-fried. A traditional dim sum brunch includes various types of steamed buns, such as cha siu bao (a steamed bun filled with barbecue pork), rice or wheat dumplings, and rice noodle rolls that contain a range of ingredients, including beef, chicken, pork, prawns and vegetarian options. Many dim sum restaurants also offer plates of steamed green vegetables, stuffed eggplant, stuffed green peppers, roasted meats, congee and other soups. Dessert dim sum is also available and can be ordered at any time since there is not a set sequence for the meal.
It is customary to order "family-style", sharing the small dishes consisting of three or four pieces of dim sum among all members of the dining party. Small portion sizes allow people to try a wide variety of food.
Shrimp dumpling (蝦餃)
Teochew dumpling (潮州粉粿)
Xiaolongbao (小籠包; "soup dumpling ")
Taro dumpling (芋角)
- Shrimp dumpling (蝦餃; xiā jiǎo; hā gáau): steamed dumpling with shrimp filling.
- Teochew dumpling (潮州粉粿; cháozhōu fěnguǒ; Chìu jāu fán gwó): steamed dumpling with peanuts, garlic, Chinese chives, pork, dried shrimp, and Chinese mushrooms.
- Chive dumpling (韭菜餃): steamed dumpling with Chinese chives.
- Xiaolongbao (小笼包; 小籠包; xiǎolóngbāo; síu lùhng bāau): dumplings containing a rich broth and filled with meat or seafood.
- Guotie (鍋貼; guōtiē; wōtip): pan-fried dumpling, usually with meat and cabbage filling.
- Shaomai (烧卖; 燒賣; shāomài; sīu máai): steamed dumplings with pork and prawns, usually topped off with crab roe and mushroom.
- Taro dumpling (芋角; yù jiǎo; wuh gok): deep fried dumpling made with mashed taro and stuffed with diced mushrooms, shrimp and pork.
- Haam Seui Gok (鹹水角; xiánshuǐ jiǎo; hàahm séui gok): deep fried dumpling with a slightly savory filling of pork and chopped vegetables in a sweet and sticky wrapping.
- Dumpling soup (灌湯餃; guàntāng jiǎo; guntōng gáau): soup with one or two big dumplings.
- Spring roll (春卷; 春捲; chūnjuǎn; chēun gyún): a deep fried roll with various sliced vegetables (such as carrots, cabbage, mushroom and wood ear fungus) and sometimes meat.
- Tofu skin roll (腐皮捲; fǔpíjuǎn; fuh pèih gyún): a roll made of tofu skin filled with various meats and sliced vegetables.
- Fresh bamboo roll (鮮竹卷): a roll made of tofu skin filled with minced pork and bamboo shoot, typically served in an oyster sauce broth.
- Four-treasure chicken roll (四寶雞扎): a roll made of tofu skin filled with chicken, Jinhua ham, fish maw (花膠) and Chinese mushroom.
- Rice noodle roll (腸粉; chángfěn; chéungfán): steamed rice noodles with or without meat or vegetable filling. Popular fillings include: beef, dough fritter, shrimp and barbecued pork. Often served with sweetened soy sauce.
- Zhaliang (炸兩; jaléung): steamed rice noodles rolled around youjagwai (油炸鬼), typically doused in soy sauce, hoisin sauce, or sesame paste and sprinkled with sesame seeds.
Baked Barbecued pork bun (叉燒餐包)
Steamed Barbecued pork bun (叉燒包)
Lotus seed bun (蓮蓉包)
Pineapple buns (菠蘿包)
- Barbecued pork bun (叉燒包; chāshāo bāo; chāsīu bāau): bun with barbecued pork filling steamed to be white and fluffy. 叉燒餐包; chāshāo cān bāo; chāsīu chāan bāau is a variant that is glazed and baked for a golden appearance.
- Sweet cream bun (奶黃包; nǎihuáng bāo; náaih wòhng bāau): steamed bun with milk custard filling.
- Lotus seed bun (蓮蓉包): steamed bun with lotus seed paste filling.
- Pineapple bun (菠蘿包; bōluó bāo; bōlòh bāau): a usually sweet bread roll that does not contain pineapple but has a topping textured like pineapple skin.
- Turnip cake (蘿蔔糕; luóbo gāo; lòh baahk gōu): pudding made from a mix of shredded white radish, bits of dried shrimp, Chinese sausage and mushroom that is steamed, sliced, and pan-fried.
- Taro cake (芋頭糕; yùtou gāo; wuh táu gōu): pudding made of taro.
- Water chestnut cake (馬蹄糕; mǎtí gāo; máh tàih gōu): pudding made of crispy water chestnut; some restaurants also serve a variation made with bamboo juice.
- Steamed meatball (山竹牛肉丸; niúròu wán; ngàuh yuhk yún): steamed meatballs served on thin tofu skin.
- Phoenix claws (鳳爪; fèngzhuǎ; fuhng jáau): deep fried, boiled, and then steamed chicken feet with douchi. "White Cloud Phoenix Claws" (白雲鳳爪; báiyún fèngzhuǎ; baahk wàhn fuhng jáau) is a plain steamed version.
- Spare ribs (排骨; páigǔ; pàaih gwāt): steamed pork spare ribs with douchi and sometimes garlic and chili.
- Pork rinds and radish (豬皮蘿蔔): boiled and steamed pork rind and radish.
- Pork blood (豬紅): stir-fried pork blood with douchi and scallion.
- Beef tendon (牛筋)
- Reticulum beef tripe (金錢肚)
- Omasum beef tripe (牛百頁; 牛柏葉)
- Beef entrails (牛什; 牛雜): pieces of beef entrails such as tripe, pancreas, intestine, spleen and lung served in a bowl of master stock.
- Siu mei (烧味; 燒味; shāowèi; sīuméi): Hong Kong-style barbecue meat roasted in an oven. Popular varieties include char siu (Chinese: 叉燒), siu ngo (Roast goose) (Chinese: 燒鵝), siu aap (duck) (Chinese: 燒鴨), white cut chicken (Chinese: 白切雞), soy sauce chicken (Chinese: 豉油雞) and siu yuk (roaast meat) (Chinese: 燒肉).
- Chicken wing (Chinese: 雞翼): deep fried (Chinese: 炸雞翼) or marinated in soy sauce and spices (Chinese: 瑞士雞翼).
Deep fried squid (椒鹽魷魚)
- Deep fried squid (炸鱿鱼须; 炸魷魚鬚; zhàyóuyúxū; ja yàuh yùh sōu): similar to fried calamari, the battered squid is deep-fried.
- Curry squid (咖哩鱿鱼; 咖哩魷魚): squid served in curry broth.
- Steamed vegetables (油菜; yóucài; yáu choi): served with oyster sauce, popular varieties include lettuce (生菜; shēngcài; sāang choi), choy sum (菜心; càixīn; choi sām), gai lan (芥兰; 芥蘭; jièlán; gaailàahn), or water spinach (蕹菜; wèngcài; ung choi).
- Fried tofu (炸豆腐): deep fried tofu with salt and pepper.
Chinese sticky rice (糯米飯)
- Lotus leaf rice (糯米雞; nuòmǐ jī; noh máih gāi): glutinous rice wrapped in a lotus leaf that typically contains egg yolk, dried scallop, mushroom and meat (usually pork and chicken). A lighter variant is known as "pearl chicken" (珍珠雞; zhēnzhū jī; jānjyū gāi).
- Chinese sticky rice (糯米飯; nuòmǐ fàn; noh máih faahn): stir fried (or steamed) glutinous rice with Chinese sausage, soy sauce steeped mushrooms, sweet spring onions and sometimes chicken marinated with a mixture of spices including five-spice powder.
- Congee (粥; zhōu; jūk): many kinds of rice porridge, such as the "Preserved Egg and Pork Porridge" (皮蛋瘦肉粥; pídàn shòuròu zhōu; pèihdáan sauyuhk jūk).
Egg custard tarts (蛋撻)
Sesame ball (煎堆)
Malay sponge cake (馬拉糕)
Coconut pudding (椰汁糕)
Mango pudding (芒果布甸)
- Egg tart (Chinese: 蛋撻; pinyin: dàntǎ; Cantonese Yale: daahn tāat): baked tart with egg custard filling.
- Tofu pudding (豆腐花; dòufuhuā; dauh fuh fā): soft tofu served with a sweet ginger or jasmine syrup.
- Sesame ball (煎堆; jiānduī; jīn dēui): deep fried chewy dough with various fillings (lotus seed, black bean, red bean pastes) coated in sesame seeds.
- Thousand-layer cake (千層糕; qiāncéng gāo; chīnchàhng gōu): a dessert made of many layers of salted egg dough.
- Malay sponge cake (馬拉糕; mǎlā gāo; máhlāai gōu): sponge cake consisting of lard or butter, flour, and eggs.
- White sugar sponge cake:(白糖糕; báitáng gāo; baahk tòng gōu): steamed sponge cake made with white sugar.
- Coconut pudding (椰汁糕; yézhī gāo; yèh jāp gōu): light and spongy but creamy coconut milk pudding made with a thin clear jelly layer made with coconut water on top.
- Mango pudding (芒果布甸; mángguǒ bùdiàn; mōnggwó boudīn): a sweet, rich mango pudding often served with a topping of evaporated milk and large chunks of fresh mango.
- Ox-tongue pastry (牛脷酥): a fried oval-shaped dough resembling an ox tongue that is similar to youjagwai, but sugar is added to the flour.
- Tong sui (糖水): sweet dessert soups; popular varieties include black sesame soup (芝麻糊), red bean soup (紅豆沙), mung bean soup (綠豆沙), sai mai lo (西米露), guilinggao (龜苓膏), peanut paste soup (花生糊) and walnut soup (核桃糊).
- Chrysanthemum tea: instead of tea leaves, it is a flower-based tisane (herbal tea) made from flowers of the species Chrysanthemum morifolium or Chrysanthemum indicum, which are the most popular in East Asia. To prepare the tea, chrysanthemum flowers (usually dried) are steeped in hot water (usually 90 to 95 °C (194 to 203 °F) after cooling from a boil) in a teapot, cup, or glass. A common mix with pu-erh is called guk pou (Chinese: 菊普; pinyin: jú pǔ; Cantonese Yale: gūk póu) from its component teas.
- Green tea: freshly picked leaves that go through heating and drying processes but not oxidation, so keep their original green color and chemical compounds, like polyphenols and chlorophyll. Produced all over China, and the most popular category of tea, green teas include the representative Dragon Well (Chinese: 龍井; pinyin: lóngjǐng; Cantonese Yale: lùhngjéng) and Biluochun from Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces, respectively.
- Oolong tea: partially oxidizing the tea leaves imparts them with characteristics of both green and black teas. Oolong teas are close in taste to green than black tea, yet have less of a "grassy" taste. Major oolong-tea producing areas such as Fujian, Guangdong, and Taiwan line the southeastern coast of China. Tieguanyin or Ti Kuan Yin (Chinese: 鐵觀音; pinyin: tiěguānyīn; Cantonese Yale: titgūnyām): one of the most popular, originated in Fujian province and is a premium variety with a delightful fragrance.
- Pounei (Cantonese) or pu-erh tea (Mandarin): usually a compressed tea, pu-erh has unique, earthy notes derived from years of fermentation.
- Scented teas: various mixes of flowers with green, black, or oolong teas exist. Flowers used include jasmine, gardenia, magnolia, grapefruit flower, sweet-scented osmanthus and rose. Strict rules govern the proportion of flowers to tea. Jasmine tea, the most popular scented tea, is the one most often served at yum cha establishments.
The tea service includes several customs. Typically, the server starts by asking diners which tea to serve. According to etiquette, the person closest to the tea pot pours tea for the others. Sometimes, a younger person will serve an older person. Those receiving tea express thanks by tapping their index and middle fingers twice on the table. Diners flip open the lid (of hinged metal tea pots) or offset the tea pot cover (on ceramic tea pots) to signal an empty pot; servers will then refill the pot.
Some Cantonese restaurants serve dim sum as early as five in the morning, while more traditional restaurants typically serve dim sum from mid-morning until mid-afternoon. It is common for restaurants to serve dim sum during dinner, and for take-out.
Dim sum is served using a unique serving method whereby servers offer dishes to customers from carts, including some carts that are steam-heated. Diners often prefer tables nearest the kitchen since servers and carts pass by these tables first. Many restaurants place lazy susans on tables to help diners reach food and tea.
The pricing of dishes at these types of restaurants may vary, but traditionally they are classified as "small", "medium", "large", "extra-large", or "special". Servers record orders with a rubber stamp or an ink pen on a bill card that remains on the table. Servers in some restaurants use distinctive stamps to track sales statistics for each server. When they have finished eating, the customer calls the server over, and their bill is calculated based on the number of stamps or quantities marked in each priced section.
Other Cantonese restaurants may take orders from a pre-printed sheet of paper and serve à la carte, much like Spanish tapas restaurants, to provide fresh, cooked-to-order dim sum or because of real estate and resource constraints.
Dim sum can often be purchased from grocery stores in major cities. They can be cooked easily by steaming, frying, or microwaving. Major grocery stores in Hong Kong, Vietnam, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand, Australia, the United States and Canada stock a variety of frozen or fresh dim sum. These include dumplings, Shumai, pork buns, and others.
In Hong Kong and other cities in Asia, dim sum can be purchased from convenience stores, coffee shops and other eateries. Halal-certified dim sum that uses chicken instead of pork is very popular in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.
Modern dim sum
- Pork belly steamed buns with cucumber, green onion, cilantro, and ginger hoisin sauce
- Hong Kong style French toast with condensed milk and peanut butter
- Snow pea shoot and shrimp dumplings, and chili crab with fried garlic
- Siu mai with pork, shrimp, scallop, and caviar
- Australian Wagyu beef puff
- Assam curry chicken puff
- Dumplings with South Australian scallop, garoupa (grouper), caviar, gold leaf, and egg whites
- Cocoa mushroom buns
- Chili lamb buns
- Prawn toast
- Pumpkin puffs
- Spring rolls filled with goat and duck skin
- Dumplings stuffed with shrimp and peanuts
- Bone marrow or beef short ribs in potstickers
- Duck hearts cooked over a wood-fired grill and served with sesame-horseradish sauce
One AAA four diamond award-winning Chinese restaurant in Miami Beach has a prix-fixe dim sum menu, prix-fixe yum cha menu and breakfast cocktails. Variations designed for visual appeal on social media, such as dumplings and buns made to resemble animals and fictional characters, also exist. Dim sum chefs have previously used cocoa powder as coloring to create steamed bread puffs to appear like forest mushrooms, espresso powder as both flavoring and coloring for deep-fried riblets, as well as pastry cream, and French puffs to create innovative dishes while paying tribute to the history of dim sum.
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- Dim sim, Australian dumpling inspired by dim sum, with origins in local Cantonese restaurants.
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