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Cantonse dim sum

yum cha, morning teaDim sum is a Cantonese term for a type of Chinese dish that involves small individual portions of food, usually served in a small steamer basket or on a small plate. Going for dim sum is usually known in Cantonese as going to "drink tea" (yum cha).

Dim sum is usually linked with the older tradition from yum cha (tea tasting), which has its roots in travellers on the ancient Silk Road needing a place to rest. Thus teahouses were established along the roadside. Rural farmers, exhausted after working hard in the fields, would go to teahouses for a relaxing afternoon of tea. At first, it was considered inappropriate to combine tea with food, because people believed it would lead to excessive weight gain. People later discovered that tea can aid in digestion, so teahouse owners began adding various snacks.

The unique culinary art of dim sum originated with the Cantonese in southern China, who over the centuries transformed yum cha from a relaxing respite to a loud and happy dining experience. In Hong Kong, and in most cities and towns in Guangdong province, many restaurants start serving dim sum as early as five in the morning. It is a tradition for the elderly to gather to eat dim sum after morning exercises. For many in southern China, yum cha is treated as a weekend family day. Consistent with this tradition, dim sum restaurants typically only serve dim sum until mid-afternoon (around the time of a traditional Western 3:00 coffee break), and serve other kinds of Cantonese cuisine in the evening.

Nowadays, various dim sum items are even sold as take-out for students and office workers on the go. While dim sum (point of the heart) was originally not a main meal, only a snack, and therefore only meant to touch the heart, it is now a staple of Chinese dining culture.

Traditional dim sum includes various types of steamed buns such as cha siu baau, dumplings and rice noodle rolls (cheong fun), which contain a range of ingredients, including beef, chicken, pork, prawns and vegetarian options. Many dim sum restaurants also offer plates of steamed green vegetables, roasted meats, congee porridge and other soups. Dessert dim sum is also available and many places offer the customary egg tart. Having a meal in a Chinese teahouse or a dim sum restaurant is known as yum cha (yam cha), literally "drinking tea", as tea is typically served with dim sum.

Dim sum can be cooked by steaming and frying, among other methods. The serving sizes are usually small and normally served as three or four pieces in one dish. It is customary to order family style, sharing dishes among all members of the dining party. Because of the small portions, people can try a wide variety of food.

Dim sum dishes can be ordered from a menu or sometimes the food is wheeled around on a trolley by servers. Traditionally, the cost of the meal is calculated based on the number, size, and sometimes color of the dishes left on the patron's table (more below). Some modern dim sum restaurants record the dishes on a bill at the table. Not only is this tidier, it also prevents patrons from cheating by concealing or stealing the plates. Servers in some restaurants use distinct stamps so that sales statistics for each server can be recorded.

dim sum restaurants have a wide variety of dishes, usually several dozen. Among the standard fare of dim sum are the following:

Gao / Jiao (Dumpling, jio zi):

Jiao zi is a standard in most teahouses. They are made of ingredients wrapped in a translucent rice flour or wheat starch skin, and are different from jiaozi found in other parts of China. Though common, steamed rice-flour skins are quite difficult to make. Thus, it is a good demonstration of the chef's artistry to make these translucent dumplings. There are also dumplings with vegetarian ingredients, such as tofu and pickled.

Bau ( bau or bao zi):

Baked or steamed, these fluffy buns made from wheat flour are filled with food items ranging from meat to vegetables to sweet bean pastes.

Rice noodle rolls or cheong fan (cheong fan):

These are wide rice noodles that are steamed and then rolled. They are often filled with different types of meats or vegetables inside but can be served without any filling. Rice noodle rolls are fried after they are steamed and then sprinkled with sesame seeds. Popular fillings include beef, dough fritter, shrimp, and barbecued pork. Often topped with a sweetened soy sauce.

Phoenix claws (fung zao):

These are chicken feet, deep fried, boiled, marinated in a black bean sauce and then steamed. This results in a texture that is light and fluffy (due to the frying), while moist and tender. Fung zau are typically dark red in color. One may also sometimes find plain steamed chicken feet served with a vinegar dipping sauce. This version is known as "White Cloud Phoenix Claws" ( baak wan fung jaau).

Steamed meatball ( ngau juk kau):

Finely-ground beef is shaped into balls and then steamed with preserved orange peel and served on top of a thin bean-curd skin.

Spare ribs:

In the west, it is mostly known as spare ribs collectively. In the east, it is Char siu when roasted red, or ( paai gwat, páigǔ) when roasted black. It is typically steamed with douchi or fermented black beans and sometimes sliced chilli.

Lotus leaf rice (lo mai gai):

Glutinous rice is wrapped in a lotus leaf into a triangular or rectangular shape. It contains egg yolk, dried scallop, mushroom, water chestnut and meat (usually pork and chicken). These ingredients are steamed with the rice and although the leaf is not eaten, its flavour is infused during the steaming. Lo mai gai is a kind of rice dumpling. A similar but lighter variant is known as "Pearl Chicken" ( jan jyu gai).

Congee ( juk):

Thick, sticky rice porridge served with different savory items. The porridge one will see most often is "Duck Egg and Pork Porridge" ("pei daan sau juk zuk")

Sou ( sou):

A type of flaky pastry. Char siu is one of the most common ingredient used in dim sum style sou. Another common pastry seen in restaurants are called "Salty Pastry" ("haam sui gok") which is made with flour and seasoned pork.

Taro dumpling (wu gok):

This is made with mashed taro, stuffed with diced shiitake mushrooms, shrimp and pork, deep-fried in crispy batter.

Crispy fried squid ( yau yu sou):

Similar to fried calamari, the battered squid is deep-fried. A variation of this dish may be prepared with a salt and pepper mix. In some dim sum restaurants, octopus is used instead of squid.

Rolls

Spring roll (cheun gyun): a roll consisting of various types of vegetables — such as sliced carrot, cabbage, mushroom and wood ear fungus — and sometimes meat are rolled inside a thin flour skin and deep fried.

Tofu skin roll ( fu pei guen): a roll made of Tofu skin

Cakes (Gao)

Turnip cake (lo baak gou): cakes are made from mashed daikon radish mixed with bits of dried shrimp and pork sausage that are steamed and then cut into slices and pan-fried.
Taro cake ( wu tao gou): cakes made of taro.
Water chestnut cake ( ma tai gou): cakes made of water chestnut. It is mostly see-through and clear. Some restaurants also serve a variation of water chestnut cake made with bamboo juice.
Chien chang go (cin cang gou): "Thousand-layer cake", a dim sum dessert made up of many layers of sweet egg dough.
(kwun tong gau or goon tong gau), soap with pork, shrimp and dumpling.

Sweets

Egg tart (daan taat): composed of a base made from either a flaky puff pastry type dough or a type of non-flaky cookie dough with an egg custard filling, which is then baked. Some high class restaurants put bird's nest on top of the custard. In other places egg tarts can be made of a crust and a filling of egg whites and some where it is a crust with egg yolks. Some egg tarts now have flavors such as taro, coffee, and other flavors. There are also different kinds of crust. There is also a flaky crisp outer crust with layers and layers of crunchy crumbs.

Jin deui or Matuan: Especially popular at Chinese New Year, a chewy dough filled with red bean paste, rolled in sesame seeds, and deep fried.

Dou fu fa: A dessert consisting of silky tofu served with a sweet ginger or jasmine flavored syrup. Mango pudding ( mong guo bou din): A sweet, rich mango-flavoured pudding usually with large chunks of fresh mango; often served with a topping of evaporated milk.

Sweet cream buns (naai wong baau1): Steamed buns with milk custard filling.

Malay Steamed Sponge Cake ( ma laai gou): A very soft steamed sponge cake flavoured with molasses. Longan Tofu: almond-flavoured tofu served with longans, usually cold.

 

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