Long before I became a travel agent, I was always seen by my friends and family as a culinary enthusiast. I see food as an essential cultural element, alongside art, literature, music, holidays, and customs. Culinary travel has now become an area of specialization for my agency that I am very passionate about.
With so many travelers interested in visiting China and other popular destinations in Asia, I thought I would share a little about dim sum, a meal traditionally enjoyed at breakfast or lunch. Although you are likely to see dim sum elsewhere in China and in other Asian destinations, this custom orginated in Canton Province (now known as Guangdong Province). In Chinese it is called “yum cha” which, literally translated, means “to drink tea.” The term “dim sum” actually refers to the foods served at the meal.
Seated at a large round table with a lazy susan, you will be offered Chinese tea, which they may have in different varieties. “Pooh Ehr” is a version of Chinese black tea, and chrysanthemum tea sweetened with rock sugar is also common. Some restaurants offer a mix of the two. Once the tea is served, a waiter will place a ticket on your table, then it’s time to eat! Dim sum is served in small quantities so that it’s possible to try a lot of different things. Some foodies have compared the experience to that of Spanish tapas, where patrons typically sample a large variety of small, but flavorful and creative dishes. Dim sum foods include both savory and sweet dishes that are most often eaten interchangeably throughout the meal. You might find, like I do, that this is very different from the way that most meals in Western cultures proceed, from appetizers and soup or salad to a savory main course, followed by a sweet dessert that ends the meal.
Waiters and waitresses push carts of food through the dining room, stopping at each table to offer you something. You will notice food served on small plates, bowls, bamboo steamer baskets, and dishes covered with domed stainless steel lids. If the food is not clearly visible from the cart, the server will lift the lids to show you each type of dim sum on the cart. If you see something you’d like to try, let them know, and they’ll put the dish on your lazy susan and mark your ticket for the number and type of dishes that have been served to your table. A lazy susan is always used in Chinese restaurant-style and formal dining to make it easier for foods to be shared and reached with chopsticks.
Here’s a sampling of some typical dim sum dishes that you might enjoy:
Here’s to tasty travels!