Instead of Brunch, Try Dim Sum

In 2019, I wrote an article introducing dim sum, a popular culinary tradition originating from the Canton area of China and that has captivated foodies from all over the world with its flavorful tapas that give a unique and entertaining dining experience.  Dim sum directly translates to “touch the heart” or “heart’s delight” referring to the small, bite-sized dishes served in bamboo steamers or on small plates.  The traditional time for dim sum is during breakfast or lunch hours, typically between late morning and early afternoon.  In southern China, dim sum is enjoyed as a midday meal, but some restaurants start serving dim sum as early as 9 or 10 am and continue after 3 pm.  Other restaurants offer dim sum all day.

It’s similar to the North American version of “brunch”, but with its own unique twist.  Rather than a collection of items on a single dish, the Cantonese dim sum offers many small tapas that never bore the palate.  The options are endless.  I remember the times when I was a child being brought to a dim sum gathering within the family.  I would concentrate on eating while the adults would concentrate on catching up with loved ones.

Dim sum is also a relaxing atmosphere that is inviting for small or large groups of people.  If you’re looking for a relaxing time with family or catching up with a few friends, dim sum is perfect as you can continue to dine while conversing over tea and snacks.  Dim sum is also an art form, as each tapa has a different presentation and texture.  Here are a few dishes I like to order at dim sum.

  • Taro crisp

Taro crisp is a popular dim sum dish that features thinly sliced taro root that is deep-fried to a crispy golden brown.  Taro is a starchy root vegetable commonly used in Asian cuisine.  In this dish, the taro is peeled, sliced into thin strips or rounds, and then deep-fried until it becomes crispy and crunchy.  The taro is sometimes mixed with ground pork to add some meaty flavor into the fried snack.

  • Rice noodle rolls

In Chinese, rice noodles rolls are referred to as “chang fen” which translates to long rice noodle.  Common fillings for chang fen include shrimp, char siu (barbecued pork), beef, and vegetables.  These fillings are typically seasoned with sauces such as soy sauce, oyster sauce, or sesame oil, which adds flavor to the dish.  Some variations may include additional ingredients like Chinese doughnuts, spring onions, or dried shrimp for added texture and taste.

  • Steamed tripe

In this dish, the tripe is typically cleaned thoroughly to remove any impurities and then marinated with seasonings such as soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and other aromatics.  The marinated tripe is then steamed until it becomes tender and flavorful.  Steamed tripe is considered a delicacy in dim sum cuisine, appreciated by those who enjoy offal dishes and the unique textures and flavors they offer.  It is often enjoyed as part of a larger dim sum meal, where diners can choose from a variety of dishes to create a well-rounded dining experience.

  • Stuffed green peppers with shrimp paste

This is a popular dim sum dish that combines the flavors of fresh green peppers and savory shrimp paste.  It is a delightful and flavorful dish enjoyed by seafood lovers.  In this dish, fresh green peppers are typically deseeded and halved lengthwise, creating a boat-like shape.  The green pepper halves are then filled with a mixture of shrimp paste, which is made from finely minced shrimp meat, seasonings, and sometimes other ingredients such as water chestnuts or spring onions.  The filling is carefully placed onto the green pepper halves, and then the dish is typically steamed or deep-fried until the green peppers are tender and the shrimp paste is cooked through.

  • Phoenix claws

Despite its questionable origin and appearance, this dish is actually considered a delicacy in many Asian cuisines, including dim sum.  In this dish, the chicken feet are typically cleaned, trimmed, and marinated in a flavorful mixture of soy sauce, black bean sauce, garlic, ginger, and other seasonings.  The marinated chicken feet are then braised or steamed until they become tender and gelatinous, creating a rich and flavorful texture.

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