In conjunction with my dim sum and Chinese tea culture review, I had to make a list of dim sum dishes. Desserts at the top, other dishes at the bottom! ;)
Consider this a crash course in Chinese and Chinese food, so grab a pen and paper... Or just print this list out for your next dim sum trip ;P If you don't have time to sit down for dim sum, a lot of the pastries can actually be acquired a la cart a Chinese bakeries. They'll just be larger though, because instead of being served in threes on a plate, you get one big one instead!
Daofufa literally translates to "tofu flower". This desserts uses the most silken tofu there is, and then topped with a caramelized sugar concoction. That syrup is best when it has ginger infused into it by cooking it with ginger slices in it. Think of this as a Chinese Flan, but healthier. This stuff is the bee's knees, and the reason why when I do dim sum, I always try to go on a weekend despite the crowd because most dim sum joints only make this then. This is because it's best served fresh and they want to make sure that it's all eaten by the time they close up their lunch hour!
The pineapple bun doesn't actually contain any pineapple, it just looks like one! It's a bun with a yummy, flaky yellowish-orange crust baked onto it. A lot of Chinese bakeries sell larger ones a la cart, but my favorite are the ones served during dim sum, where three smaller ones are served on one plate. They don't always have filling, but they can be filled with various things, and I love it when there's custard in it ;)
Mmmmm, a tart of happiness! The best, and most authentic egg tarts have a flaky crust. If you get an egg tart with an apple pie crust-like crust, then you didn't get an authentic Chinese egg tart. That flaky crust is filled and baked with egg custard. The end result is something like the texture of a delicate jello. So good. If you ever see something called a "Portuguese egg tart", which is from Macau, it's the same as a regular egg tart, except the top of it is fired with a fire torch for a caramelized creme brulee effect and it usually costs about 50 cents more.
This dish seems so un-Chinese, but surprise surprise -- it's at every dim sum restaurant that I've ever dined at! Best when made fresh, but I suspect that most places just make the pudding out of the box. It's actually less of a pudding and more of a jello-like dish. Like the daofufa, think of this as a Chinese flan. It's a solidified mango blob topped with evaporated milk. Tasty and refreshing at the end of a dim sum meal!
This is literally called, "Malaysian cake" in chinese. It's very fascinating and impressive to look at because it's a slice of a gigantic steamed cake. Its got all sorts of intricate bubbles and lines in it as it rises in the steamer. The more complicated those lines and bubbles are, the more soft and fluffy the cake tends to be and that's when you know you're eating a good one.
Of all the desserts I've listed, this is the greasiest, but that's what makes it tasty. It's a gluttonous ball that's filled with either mung bean, or red bean paste, rolled in sesame, and then deep fried. Deep fried. My non-Chinese friends are always fascinated by this when I introduce them to it. They're pretty fun to eat. These balls are typically cut in half upon ordering by the waitress for easier eating.
Shrimp dumpling, my favorite of the salty dim sum dishes by far. If made right, the wrapping is very delicate and your shrimp filling may just slide out of it upon eating! The bad ones have minced shrimp in it. The best ones have several decent sized, whole shrimps in it, help together by a mixture of minced bamboo shoots, pork fat, corn starch, and a few other ingredients.
Rice noodle rolls can be made with various fillings, the most popular being beef and shrimp. They can also be made vegetarian (and possibly vegan) by ordering it with cilantro, or by ordering it with standard Chinese vegetarian fare like shredded mushrooms, carrots, clear noodles, etc. Quality wise for the shrimp one, same thing applies with the har gow. The beef one, however, is actually a paste. A darn tasty paste, might I add. The rolls are cut with a scissor once brought to the table and topped with sweet soy sauce. It's literally somewhat sweet because sugar is added to it.
Literally translates to "barbecue bun". It's a bun with diced up barbecued pork in it. It can be cooked in two ways -- either steamed with a soft, spongy, white bun wrap, or baked with a toasty brown color and covered in a syrupy glaze. Either way, it's delicious!
Literally means "glutenous rice roll". It's glutenous rice filled with various filling wrapped up in a lotus wrap. At most dim sum places, it's served filled with diced up chicken. Beware though, there might be bones! The best lo mai gai pretty much falls apart on your dish upon unwrapping, because there's so much fat and juice that it can't hold itself together! It's so bad for you, but it's probably the best rice you'll ever eat.
Translates to "little Shanghai dumpling". Traditionally filled with pork, but I've been to some frou frou dim sum places in Hong Kong that serve it filled with the coveted Chinese mitten crab. They're steamed dumplings. The best xiaolongbaos are still full of soup on the inside after being steamed and are meant to explode in your mouth, or you could carefully sip it out. Beware of the heat! These things are delicate, so at good dim sum places with good xiaolongbaos, the waitress helps each person get theirs to avoid any accidental spillage or explosions for the optimal xiaolongbao experience.
Sometimes called a turnip cake, too, but that's a misnomer. These things are actually made with shredded daikon and steamed. Sometimes minced pork or minced dried baby shrimp are added to the mix. Most places pan fry it before serving it up. I like it when they do the latter because though it adds a layer of grease, it also adds a layer of crunch!
It would be cool to actually eat the talon of a mythological bird, but no, Phoenix Talon is actually just a euphemism for chicken feet. They're braised and served in a bowl of their own fat juices and topped with things like shallots and chili peppers, and there's usually white vinegar on the side for dipping. The texture is rubbery and these are definitely an acquired taste, but if you're an adventurous eater, try it out!
Another steamed dumpling dish, except this one's filled with pork and sometimes shrimp, and the wrap is super thin, pretty much the same one that wonton dumplings are wrapped in. The garnishing of the babies vary from restaurant to restaurant. Sometimes they're topped with a little piece of vegetable, and sometimes they've got roe on top.
Potstickers are also available during dim sum hours, and they're perfect for when I'm dining with non-adventurous eaters (which I, fortunately, don't often do :P). There's nothing wrong with potstickers, but there is something wrong when you decide to order it during dim sum considering there's so much other good food to be had. Okay, done with rant! These things can be prepared in a variety of ways, they can be steamed, boiled, pan fried, or even deep fried. Most dim sum places serve pork potstickers that are pan fried.
When I'm not Lunching, I'm a jeweler, and an all around, self-proclaimed web geek. My passions include social media, the interweb, technology, writing, yoga, fitness, photography, jewelry, fashion, … more