Written by Mia Abigan
Graphics by Gwen Sy
Not to be biased or anything, but if you were to ask me what my favorite cuisine is then *hands-down* it’d be Chinese Cuisine. Maybe it’s in the fact the I practically grew up eating all sorts of Chinese food so I naturally gravitate towards it, but there’s just something about the explosion and harmony of flavors that Chinese dishes are able to offer that still gets me every time. Besides, Chinese cuisine also includes DIM SUM and who doesn’t love a good serving of that?
According to Dim Sum Central, the word ‘Dim Sum’ literally means to touch the heart. Dim Sum is also often associated with the Cantonese term ‘yum cha’ which means to drink tea and this makes perfect sense since dim sum is usually paired with this drink. Placed inside bamboo steamers, Dim Sum is served straight from the kitchen and is best enjoyed immediately, while it’s still hot!
And to save you the trouble of looking over the menu filled with lots of Chinese characters, we’ve prepared a visual guide to 10 of our favorites! Check it out below.
10. Cantonese Sponge Cake (马拉糕)
The cantonese sponge cake is light and extremely fluffy. Usually served as a dessert, it has the right amount of sweetness that adds just the right amount of flair to your full course meal.
9. Spare Ribs (豉汁蒸排骨)
The spare ribs is a flavorful dish that has captured the hearts of many. Steamed in a fermented black bean sauce, garlic, chili, and a little sweet sauce, the combination of ingredients makes the flavors of the pork really stand out.
8. Xiao Long Bao / Steamed Soup Dumplings (小笼包)
The xiao long bao is a unique little dish that incorporates a piping hot ‘soup’ filling inside the meat-filled wrapper. The stakes are high (because you might actually end up burning your tongue) but the rewards are priceless! Just one bite of this dish, and you’ll be wanting to come back for seconds.
7. Turnip Cake / Radish Cake (萝卜糕)
The turnip cake is made out of shredded Chinese radish and plain rice flour. It can be served fried but otherwise, has a soft texture all over.
This dish is also eaten during the Chinese New Year as the Chinese characters for ‘radish cake’ (菜頭, chhài-thâu) sounds a lot like the phrase for “good fortune” (好彩頭, hó-chhái-thâu) in the Hokkien language.
6. Egg Tarts (蛋挞)
Egg tarts are famous all over the world for their crusty and flaky outer shell that contrasts well with their soft, melt-in-your-mouth egg custard filling. Not to mention, its cute size also makes it the perfect snack to eat at any time of the day!
5. Ha Kaw / Shrimp Dumplings (虾饺)
One of my personal favorites, the shrimp dumpling is made using a delicate rice flour wrapper. Inside the wrapper, you’ll find a wonderful combination of shrimp, pork fat and bamboo shoots – all of which complement each other really well!
4. Sio Pao (烧包)
The beloved sio pao is a hearty dish that comes in two (2) variations: the asado and the wanton filling. Though the asado sio pao seems to be the obvious choice, I personally prefer the wanton filling as it isn’t as ‘nakaka-umay’ as its counterpart. But regardless, both choices make for a good dish to try.
3. Rice Noodle Rolls (肠粉)
If you’ve ever been to Hong Kong at least once in your life, then you know for a fact that these rice rolls are BY-FAR one of the best dishes to try. When served, these rice rolls are covered in a light soy sauce and its thin wrapper makes it even easier for the sauce to seep right through, covering every inch of filling and making it even tastier by the minute!
2. Deep Fried Sticky Rice Balls / “Buchi” (香麻煎堆仔)
Another classic dessert dish is the stuffed sesame deep-fried sticky rice balls. What’s cool about this dish is that the deep fried-ness of the balls make a nice contrast to its sticky filling inside. If you’re a fan of the Japanese mochi, then you should definitely try this out!
1. Sio Mai (烧卖)
This wouldn’t be a dim sum article if I left out such an iconic dish: THE Sio Mai. They can be found in literally any Chinese restaurant you go to, and for good reason – they’re really tasty, filling, and ADDICTIVE. The minced pork mixed with bamboo shoots, water chestnut and topped with crab roe make a heavenly combination!
Which Dim Sum delicacy is your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!