What to do in a Dim Sum Restaurant?

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Some of you might be wondering what to do in a dim sum restaurant.
If you want to try it, here are a few tips as I recommend.

If you are in Hong Kong, most of the dim sum restaurants have pretty good standards; some might have a few more dim sum varieties than others, but in general they all carry similar dim sum.

First you should know all dim sum restaurants, not only serve dim sum, you can also order some different kinds of noodles in different forms or some different kinds of fried rice.  They also have rice congee with different flavors.  So in case you don’t care for any dim sum - no problem, you can order something else.

Second, as soon as you sit down, the waiter will ask you what kind of tea you want. There are about 5-8 different kinds of tea, such as: pu-urh tea; jasmine tea; oolong tea; chrysanthemum tea; longjing tea; and, pu-urh tea with chrysanthemum tea combo.  These are the most basic teas.  I usually get pu-urh tea. I like it because it is gentle to my stomach and is neutral in character. Also, it helps dissolve extra fat or grease in the stomach or intestines and improves digestion.

They usually bring another pot of hot water so that you can refill it yourself.  Everyone would share the same pot of tea. Anyone can pour the tea but usually we pour in the most respectful order like grandparents first, parents next, relatives, friends, elder brother, sister then yourself.  Instead of saying thanks to the person who pours the tea for you, instead you can simply tap your index finger and your middle finger together on the table twice. That represents a bow.

And if you run out of tea or hot water for your table, move the teapot lid aside and the waiter will come and give you a refill.

Third, we usually rinse all the tea cups, bowls and chopsticks with hot tea. You can ask the waiter for a big bowl to dump the water in or they will dump it for you. In a fine dinning restaurant you could skip this step.

Fourth, you will see each person's setting has a small dish, a bowl, a porcelain spoon, and 2 pairs of chopsticks. The small dish is for bones or scraps you don’t want, the bowl is for you to eat with, and the spoon is not only for soup, also to help you pick up a bigger piece of food. The two sets of chopsticks - one is to use as serving chopsticks, you pick up the dim sum from the dim sum dish or steamer, put it in the spoon or bowl, and eat with the other set of chopsticks. It’s fine to ask for a fork.

Fine dining restaurants will help you change plates from time to time.
If you dine in a dai pai dong [a traditional Hong Kong food stall], there’s really no etiquette.
You can use your hands to eat and place the bone directly on the tablecloth. Just enjoy the food.

Fifth , in the old days all steamed dim sum dishes are placed in several moving carts, you can just order from the cart directly. There are still some dim sum restaurants that have dim sum carts but mostly now they give you a dim sum list.  You just have to check the items you want and give the list to the waiter and they will bring it out to you when it is ready.
Each dim sum dish usually comes in 3 little pieces of about 1-3 bites in each piece. It is very hot so be careful not to burn your lips or tongue.

Sixth, all dim sum are perfectly flavored, so you don’t need to add soy sauce.  But if you like spicy food, you might want to ask for some special chili sauce from the waiter.

Seventh, most common dishes are:
Vegetarian dish:
-Pan fried daikon cake
-vegetarian tofu skin wrap
-steamed Chinese kale
-vegetarian dumpling
-steamed flat rice noodles with sesame sauce.
-steamed flat rice noodles with mushroom
-steamed flat rice noodles with crispy chinese donut and scallion
-steamed ginger layer cake
-steamed red bean cake
-glutinous rice dumpling
-vegetarian egg roll
-vegetarian shaomai
-sesame seed roll
-coconut juice steam cake
-pan fried water chestnut cake
-vegetarian steam bun
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Non vegetarian dish:
-xia jiao, shrimp dumpling
-shrimp or roast pork dumplings
-roast pork bun
-bake bun with BBQ pork
-pan fried daikon cake
-congee with pork and preserved egg
-steamed dumpling in Chiu chow style
-steamed chicken with mixed mushroom
-eggs roll with meat and shrimp
-steamed egg cakes
-steamed fish ball and vegetable
-egg tarts with crispy crust

There’s no recommendation for how much you should order; just order as many dishes as it takes to satisfy you and keep ordering until you’re full.

It makes a big difference when you steam dim sum for one minute more or one minute less. You should eat them fresh and as hot as you can handle.

Hopefully this will give you a little help when you walk into a dim sum restaurant.


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Lily ChoiComment