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Dim Sum Dishes

  • Jan 28, 2010
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!
Douhua (Daofufa) (Tofu Pudding)
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!
Pineapple Bun
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 ;)
Egg Tart
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.
Mango Pudding
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!
Malay Steamed Sponge Cake
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.
Jin Deui
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.
Ha Gow
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 Roll
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.
Cha Siu Baau
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!
Lo Mai Gai
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.
Xiaolongbao (小笼包), Soup Dumpling
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.
Daikon Cake
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!
Phoenix Talons
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.

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February 01, 2010
Great start to a long list of dim sum dishes. Keep it up. {^_^}
February 01, 2010
Thanks! I'm flattered that my dim sum list has the approval of Some Asian Guy :) There are several other off the beaten path dishes that I love and may inspire me to create list #2. I'd love to see your list, too. Feel free to rearrange these dishes in the bar to the upper right! ;)
January 30, 2010
Debbie... This is such a great list!! I love going to dim sum but I always end up getting the same stuff because it's so hard to know what everything is. I LOVE this list but now I'm craving Yank Sing :(
January 31, 2010
Thanks, J.R.! Now you've got this guide. Either you need to get up here, or convince Yank Sing to expand! :D
January 29, 2010
I put the desserts at the end b/c sometimes there's no room for dessert. Depends on how many ppl you have going to dim sum. ;)
January 29, 2010
Haha, I put desserts at the top for that very reason! Because sometimes, there's no room for dessert... Well, I make sure there's room! This is my sweet tooth talking ;P
January 29, 2010
Cool! Keep them coming! Oh, that's the first time I heard about Daikon cake (we called it carrot cake in Singapore) ;-) You're making me hungry, just in time to catch dimsum for lunch!
January 29, 2010
Haha, I'm keepin' it coming! Carrot cake? Is it actually made of carrots, or is it another misnomer like the turnip cake? I'll still eat it :)
January 29, 2010
No idea. Had thought of it as carrot cake all along. In Singapore, the term carrot is equivalent to the chinese term for radish. But I think some of the terms are different in China. I mean if they are different even in Chinese, imagine the translation ;-) It's best with chilli sauce but that's depend on which kind as well. I've tried it at a restaurant in Shanghai operated by a Hongkonger. The chilli there is heavenly! Self made by the restaurant and I've never had it so good with the Daikon cake! It simply enhances it. Without the chili, I'm not game for it though. I do like #5 these days.
January 29, 2010
The Chinese word for Daikon is "luóbo." The Chinese word for Carrot is basically that + "red" in the front, so I'm not surprised it's called a crarot cake. And it's also known as "turnip cake."
January 29, 2010
Oh yeah... I didn't even think about the Chinese wording of it! Makes sense now. Thanks, Tinna! :)
January 28, 2010
omg #12 sounds SO GOOD. I've never had sweet dim sum dishes, only savory! I have to try to this stuff soon.
January 28, 2010
Yes, #12 is super tasty! Honestly though, I mainly show up to dim sum for the desserts... I can just eat #1 and be content with not eating anything else! :)
January 28, 2010
Nice list! I am hungry! # 10 and # 11 are so cool I had them a week ago at Yank Sing and they were real good! There's a place in C-town that makes excellent Gai Pao and sesame seed balls. Cheap too!
January 28, 2010
Mmmmm, Yank Sing :)  I've yet to go there for dim sum, only dinner, but I'll have to give them a try sometime!  One place that I like in Chinatown is Great Oriental on Washington Streeet.  Yummy and super cheap, and it makes me feel like I'm in Hong Kong!
January 28, 2010
Yank Sing for me is more catered to American customers. There's great place at 17th and Geary (forgot the name of the place, but you can't miss it). that has real authentic dimsum! but the line is longer...easy to spot because of all the people there.
January 28, 2010
Oh, totally. Everything in FiDi/The Embarcadero seems to cater to American customers, but Yank Sing is pretty authentic considering that, and is good for introducing non-Chinese people to the finer dishes of Chinese cuisine.  It's not typical, daily Chinese fare, it's more like, @Sharrie banquet style stuff :P  And I think I know the place that you're referring to -- Hong Kong Lounge! :)
January 29, 2010
it's Hong Kong Lounge Scot.
About the list creator
devora ()
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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
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