It is past lunchtime and you’re starving. The foodie in your head is craving for that small bite-sized portions of food that are served in small steamer baskets. But, how much do you know about this popular Oriental cuisine?
It is a Chinese New Year staple and digging into these tasty tidbits makes the celebration much sweeter and meaningful! Whether you drool over that juicy Har Gao or crave for a scrumptious Char Siew Bun, here are 8 most fascinating facts about dim sum.
1. In Cantonese, “dim sum” literally means “touch the heart.”
The word dim sum refers to small bite-sized dishes that are served in bamboo steamer baskets or on small plates. It’s been said that the first dim sum was created 2,500 years ago! However, the food has evolved over the centuries and now boasts of over a hundred variations.
2. Dim Sum originated in Guangdong (Canton), China.
Although dim sum is served all over China, it purportedly came into existence in the southern province, on the South China Sea coast. It started when travelers on the ancient Silk Road searched for a place to rest and eat. The Silk Road was a network of trade routes connecting Asia and Europe around 120 BCE to 1450s CE. At that time, teahouses were established along the roadside.
3. Dim sum is linked to the older tradition of Yum Cha, which means “drink tea.”
The Chinese discovered that drinking tea with greasy food burnt away some of the fats. Therefore, tea was served together with the bite-sized portions of food, which is what we now call as dim sum. This pairing gave birth to the tradition of dim sum or yum cha.
It is also customary that when serving tea, you pour it for others first before filling your own cup. This etiquette applies to serving tea at a Chinese meal in general. Tapping both the index and middle finger is a way to show gratitude.
For many in southern China, yum cha is treated as a weekend family day. It is also a get-together of family and friends at a local restaurant (Cha Lau) to enjoy dim sum and tea while discussing the latest happenings of their individual lives.
4. Dim Sum dishes can be pan-fried, steamed, deep-fried, or even baked.
Mainly, dim sum comes in the form of steamed and fried dumplings that contain a wide variety of fillings. Har Gao (steam shrimp dumpling) and Siew Mai (small steam dumplings with either pork, shrimp, or both) are crowd favorites. They said that these classic dim sums will complete your ultimate Yum Cha experience.
5. A Dim Sum dish is typically served with three to four servings per dish accompanied with a tea.
Dim sum was initially designed to be a snack served with green tea or your tea of choice. Nowadays, dim sum can be a full meal because the foray of dishes now comes with meat, chicken, shrimp, and vegetables. The small size allows the customer to order a wide variety of dishes, creating a feast of flavors.
6. Dim sum dishes also include desserts.
Since dim sum has a wide-range of dishes, it didn’t come as a surprise that desserts are part of it. Steamed Sponge Cake, Pan Friend Carrot Cake, and Egg Tart are just a few of the popular selections on the sweeter end of the spectrum. The more people in a group, the more varieties of dishes they get to indulge!
All kinds of dim sum are available on the menu. But in Cantonese teahouses, carts with dim sum will be rolled around the restaurant for diners to choose from without having to leave their seats. Nevertheless, customers are not forbidden to go to the carts instead of waiting until the carts come to their table.
7. The difference between dim sum and dumplings
Dumplings refer to a portion of dough or batter stuffed with fillings that are usually steamed, boiled or fried. Meanwhile, dim sum is a Chinese dish of small steamed or fried savoury dumplings with a variety of fillings.
8. Dim sum is usually eaten during breakfast.
It is a tradition for the elderly to gather to eat dim sum after their morning workouts. More traditional dim sum restaurants typically serve dim sum until mid-afternoon.
In the modern day, it has become common for restaurants to serve dim sum at dinner time. Various dim sum items are also sold as take-away foods for students and office workers. In most Chinese-American restaurants, dim sum is served during the same hours as brunch, from midmorning until midafternoon.
Dim sum is invariably at the top of “favorite food” lists among Asians and their counterparts. It is customary to order family style as sharing dishes to everyone makes a picture-perfect dining party.
In Singapore, Tak Po is your go-to dim sum restaurant, famous in Hong Kong dim sum and handmade Cantonese cuisine. With more than 70 dishes on the menu, surely, you’ll be heading back home with a smile and a full tummy. We are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, from Monday to Sunday (7 am – 10:30 pm). For you not to go through the trouble of waiting, contact us for table reservations.
Enjoy a splendid Yum Cha experience, dine with us today!