Culinary Experiences: Hong Kong – Dim Sum
Here in Hong Kong Dim Sum is a traditional meal that consists of small bite-sized or individual servings of food. Dim Sum is commonly known as Yum Cha which is translated as going to ‘drink tea’ because tea is typically served with Dim Sum.
Dim Sum literally means ‘Touch The Heart’ because originally it was meant only as a snack and therefore only meant to ‘touch the heart’. Now it is a staple of the Chinese culture and especially so in Hong Kong. Many restaurants begin to serve Dim Sum as early as 5 a.m. and it is common for the elderly to gather for Dim Sum after their morning exercise. In many regions Dim Sum has a tradition of being a family meal on the weekends, particularly on Sundays.
Dim Sum usually includes various types of steamed buns, dumplings, and rice noodle rolls which contain an endless variety of vegetables, beef, chicken, pork, and shrimp as well as vegetarian items. There is also a customary egg tart that is frequently served as dessert.
Most Dim Sum is steamed but it can also be fried as well and it is common to be served family-style where everyone can try many different things due to the small serving sizes.
Dim Sum are traditionally served in small steamer baskets that are usually stacked and brought to your table. In many places these baskets are put on a cart and rolled around the restaurant so that customers can look and choose what they want right from the cart.
Tea is usually served with Dim Sum and with it there are some bits of etiquette to know as well (they apply when having food other than Dim Sum in Hong Kong too). It is proper to pour everyone else’s tea at the table before you pour your own. A unique custom to the Cantonese when someone else pours your tea is to thank them by tapping your index finger (if you’re single) or your index and middle finger (if you’re married) on the table. This symbolizes ‘bowing’ to them.