This is a Dim Sum 101 according to Ben. I don’t profess myself to be a dim sum expert but to those unfamiliar with dim sums, I might … I just might come across to you like an expert. 🙂
The word Dim Sum is a Cantonese word and that by itself implies that dim sum is a cuisine from the southern part of China. In Cantonese, the name literally translates to “touch the heart”. I guess it came from the fact that “you select to your heart’s desire” what you want from a wide variety of choices.
Dim Sum is normally eaten at breakfast, sometimes during lunch time and almost never for dinner. The beauty about dim sums are that it comes in various kinds of small servings.
Dim Sums are either steamed or fried, but mostly steamed. They are steamed in small steamer baskets like the ones above.
The steamer baskets are stacked high one above another, sometimes as high as 10 baskets.
Table settings consists of a tea cup, a bowl, a small plate, a soup spoon and a pair of chopsticks. The one thing you can be always assured of seeing is the chinese tea. There is nothing to stop you from having a can of Coke or (heaven forbid!) coffee but it will turn up as really odd. Go with the crowd … just have chinese tea. Besides, its meant to clear your palate as you try different items.
Tell me if I am doing it correct … I had always used the bowl to hold the food and the plate to for the discards like lotus leaf and bones. Is that right or should it be the other way round?
One other thing about the tea … they are served in small tiny cups. I am not sure why the cups are small or what the practicalities of that are … but they are so small, you will empty it in three sips. So that means that in a sitting, you will have a lot of refills.
It is considered uncouth to pour your own tea. If you want to fill your cup, you must always fill the others around you first before you do yours. If you have a big table, it is OK to just fill the cups of those seated immediately next to you.
Oh, I meant to share with you that many Dim Sum restaurants uses disposable plastic tablecloths. They are practical and these days, the plastic does not look too plasticky. Higher end restaurants uses real tablecloths.
I believe it is only the Cantonese who does this. When someone pours tea for you, you don’t say “thank you” … you just have to tap the table 2 or 3 times with the index and middle fingers. You normally tap it in the area near your cup so that the pourer notices that.
When the teapot is empty, you just need flip open the lid like shown above. You don’t really need to ask the waitresses for a refill. Once the waitress sees an open lid, they will come and refill it with hot water. That is why a sign of good service in a dim sum place is how fast the tea pot is refilled after the lid is opened.
So there you go … Dim Sum 101. Consider yourself educated now. If you had never been to a dim sum place, you should go try it. Print this blog entry out and use it as your cheat sheet. 🙂