If someone says, “Chinese food,” what’s the first thing that pops in your head?
Most likely, it’s “dim sum.”
Introduced to the world by widespread communities of the Chinese diaspora, dim sum (点心, diǎnxīn) refers to a wide range of small dishes that have their roots in the teahouses of Guangzhou. This globally recognized facet of Cantonese cuisine is especially known for its bite-sized portions that are served either steamed or fried, usually alongside tea, as easy-to-eat snacks.
However, those who are new to the vast world of dim sum dishes may be overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices available to them. For the adventurous, the brave, and the curious, here are seven dim sum options for you to try:
1. Siomai / Shaomai (烧卖)
You can’t have dim sum without eating siomai! This classic dish is best described as an open-topped dumpling stuffed with minced pork or shrimp and garnished with fish eggs, mushrooms, and vegetables. Traditionally served steamed, siomai are best paired with garlic-chili sauce for a mouthful of flavor to be savored with every bite.
2. Hakaw / Xiajiao (虾饺)
This traditional shrimp dumpling is a definite dim sum crowd favorite! Known for its translucent “crystal” skin and its light flavors, hakaw is not a dish to be missed for those looking for an authentic dining experience!
3. Radish Cakes / Lo Bak Go / Luo Bo Gao (萝卜糕)
Composed of a mixture of rice flour, water, and shredded Chinese radishes, these popular savory cakes are first steamed and then pan-fried. The result is a delicious dish with a slightly crunchy exterior and a delectably moist interior.
4. Xiao Long Bao (小笼包)
Though originally a Shanghainese dish, xiao long bao has become a staple in dim sum restaurants all around the world. Bursting with rich umami flavors, this soup-filled dumpling must be eaten with care.
Xiao long bao is best enjoyed by first lightly dipping it into a fragrant sauce of black vinegar and ginger. One can then poke a hole into the wrapper to sip the dumpling’s broth. Afterward, some shredded ginger and sauce may be added according to taste. Then finally, the dumpling is eaten as a succulent whole.
5. Vermicelli Rolls / Cheungfun / Changfen (肠粉)
These silky smooth rice rolls are a dim sum must-have! They are usually drizzled with a tasty but light soy sauce that surprisingly elevates the entire dish. Depending on the options available, cheungfun may contain a variety of ingredients including shrimp, pork, vegetables, and more.
6. Pork Buns / Cha Siu Bao / Cha Shao Bao (叉烧包)
No dim sum experience is complete without everyone’s favorite steamed buns! Cha siu bao are traditional steamed buns filled with tangy, barbecued pork. Flavorful and fluffy, this dish has become so popular in the Philippines that it was converted into siopao, a street snack beloved by both the Filipino and Chinese communities in the country.
7. Chicken Feet / Fengzhua (凤爪)
Chicken feet are definitely not a beginner dim sum dish, but those daring enough to try may very well end up loving it! Chicken feet are mostly composed of bone and tendon, but the gelatinous texture of the skin and edible meat, dressed in a rich and pungent black bean sauce, make for an interesting culinary experience. It will certainly be hard to forget!