A lot of our blogs are about trends in food and happening new restaurants. But there are trends that came to stay, and have become a part of international food scenes globally. One such trend is Dim Sum – small Chinese dishes served steamed or fried in baskets.
Originally Dim Sum was the equivalent of Britain’s Sunday roast, and the Italian’s Sunday family lunch. The family comes together, dressed up, and takes their time making their way through a nice long lunch with good conversation, and children running around with their cousins.
On the Silk Road, travelers would make stops along the way to drink tea – Yum Cha. Over time teahouses started adding small snacks and this culinary tradition was then expanded mainly in Southern China, where today big restaurants specialize in dim sum, or in specific dim sum dishes they become famous for.
Dim sum is usually linked with the older tradition from yum cha (drinking tea)
Dim sum starts with the tea. You may be familiar with the common Chinese teas such as Jasmine, Oolong and green teas. If you would like to try something different, why not try Chrysanthemum tea, made from the flowers or Pu Erh which is fermented tea.
In Hong Kong and in Guangdong province it is common for dim sum to served from push carts that are pushed around by waiters. You can point and choose which ones you want to try, and the waiters add the items to your bill. You can also still order basic staples such as fried rice, noodles and stir fried vegetables from an a la carte menu.
The most common types of dim sum are buns (bao), dumplings (steamed or fried) and spring rolls and for dessert there are usually sweet variations on the buns, and some traditional tarts.
Bao are buns made of wheat flour, baked or steamed to become fluffy, and can come with different fillings. Cha Siew, which is very popular in Singapore, is bao filled with sweet barbequed pork, but the buns also come with a black bean curd, vegetable or seafood filling. The sweet version comes with pineapple filling or red bean curd.
Dumplings come in different shapes such as round small drops and half moons. The dough is originally translucent, made of rice flour or wheat starch, and very hard to make and steam properly. Common are har gow, steamed dumplings filled with shrimp and xiao long bao which are filled with meat or seafood and broth. They also come stuffed with tofu, mushrooms, taro and pork.
Spring rolls are well-known, but also have traditional dim sum variations, made with different types of wrappers containing rice flour or wheat flour, and filled with combinations of rice or glass noodles, vegetables, mushrooms, minced chicken or pork, beef and shrimp. They can also be fried or steamed.
In addition to the above mentioned types of dim sum, there are a few common dishes to be found on the trolleys, such as fried chicken feet (fung zau), steamed meatballs, usually made with pork, spare ribs in a sweet bbq sauce, crispy pork pastries (sou) and crispy fried squid (jau jyu sou).
Traditional dim sum desserts are egg and custard tarts, mango pudding or sweetened tofu served with flavoured syrups.
Luckily because the dim sum trend has been around for a while, there are some tried and tested places in the UAE to try out. In Abu Dhabi, Hakkasan at the Emirates Palace, Cho Gao at Crowne Plaza and Shang Palace at the Shangri-La are all a sure bet for some tasty and plentiful dim sum.
Shang Palace will re-open soon at the Shangri-La in Dubai, and in addition there is Long Yin at the Meridien in Garhoud, Shanghai Chic at Movenpick at Ibn Battuta Gate, Blue Jade at Ritz Carlton JBR, Karma Café at Souk al Bahar and of course Hakkasan at Jumeirah Emirates Towers. And for the original trolley experience, head to The China Club at Radisson Blu in Baniyas!