BEFORE WE START, FOR THOSE IN THE DARK…
Dim sum (written 點心 in Chinese, pronounced “dian xin” in Mandarin) is a Cantonese-style meal of small, bite-sized proportions that is usually taken on a weekend morning.
It will not be anything like your traditional breakfast, but it will change your life.
Here are some of the most delectable dim sum dishes you’ll need to try:
1. Fried Radish Cakes
Radish cakes (or sometimes called “turnip cakes”) are made of shredded radish that’s been mixed with flour and rice, then mashed and fried into cake bricks. The result is a bed of soft, starchy filling with browned, crispy edges.
2. Rice Noodle Rolls
Rice noodles in dim sum are usually served as a thin, wide layer of rice noodle wrap that’s filled with shrimp, pork, beef, and/or vegetables. It’s then doused in soy sauce for a delicious contrast of starch and acid.
3. Braised Chicken Feet
Chicken feet are not as intimidating as they might appear. Sure, the texture and the idea of feet might turn you off, but the skin is extremely tender and tasty. Consult a regular dim-sum-er about how to eat chicken feet like a pro.
4. Bean Curd Rolls
Bean curds are a tofu that’s usually used as a “wrapper” for a variety of fillings: pork, chicken, shrimp, veggies, or sometimes without. The tofu skin soaks up all of the stock/soy sauce, so it’s packed with flavor.
5. Steamed Pork Buns
There are a plethora of baos and dumplings in Chinese cuisine, but steamed “cha siu bao” is unique to Cantonese dim sum. It’s got the same soft, doughy shell as other bao, but it’s filled with a sweet and salty BBQ pork mash.
6. Steamed “Xiao Long Bao” Soup Dumplings
These tiny, delicate baozi pockets are filled with pork and savory soup that explode in your mouth. Important to note: there is a real art to eating one.
7. Prawn/Shrimp “Har Gow” Dumplings
This special dim sum dumpling is usually made with a soft, translucent skin encasing a prawn or shrimp filling.
8. Lotus-Wrapped Sticky Rice
This is a true Chinese staple: Sticky rice is infused with a variety of savory ingredients (like pork, bamboo, soy sauce), wrapped in a lotus or bamboo leaf, then steamed. The rice, and all of its tasty components, also soaks in the lotus/bamboo flavors to create a magical, aromatic dish.
9. Deep Fried Taro Balls
Taro is mashed (almost to a paste), boiled, then deep fried until the outer layer becomes this crispy, fluffy, tentacle-y
10. Pork Spare Ribs
These are probably not like any ribs you’ve ever had: For how long they’ve been steamed, they’re super tender (like, falling-off-the-bones tender) and melt-in-your-mouth succulent.
11. Fried Sesame Seed Balls
The pastry, also known as “jin deui,” is made with a sticky rice flour and covered with a crispy coat of sesame seeds. They’re usually filled with a lotus or a sweet black bean paste that is the most perfect, subtle dial of sweetness.
12. Mango Pudding
After all of the savory, end dim sum with mango pudding, a popular Cantonese dessert. It’s more creamy than fruity, but its silky texture is a refreshing contrast to the rest of the course.