If you didn’t grow up eating dim sum, it’s a daunting cuisine to try for the first time. Not necessarily because the food is scary (though yes, chicken feet are on the menu), but because of the huge variety of small dishes you’re supposed to choose from. Not an easy thing to do if you’re unfamiliar with the cuisine, especially if the menu doesn’t feature any (helpful) descriptions. So here’s the first Delicious Dim Sum Guide to help you along, starting with some general tips and one of my favourite dim sum dishes: lo mai gai.
First time dim sum tips
Dim sum is served in small portions meant to be shared by everyone. The more people, the more dim sum you can try! The dishes are often served in portions of three or four pieces, but feel free to cut them in half in order to share.
Don’t pay for all-you-can-eat dim sum. Some restaurants offer this and it might seem like a good way to try a lot of different dishes, but there’s no reason to do this at all. Expect to pay 10 – 15 euros per person à la carte to fill up your bellies until near-bursting.
As dim sum is traditionally eaten as breakfast/lunch, not all restaurants serve it in the evening. Check with your local restaurant first if you plan to have dim sum for dinner.
Don’t be afraid to order more than you can eat. It’s perfectly fine to take home the leftovers!
Lo mai gai
But then, what to order? One of my favourite dim sum dishes is lo mai gai: steamed sticky rice with chicken, wrapped in lotus leaf. It’s one of the larger, more filling dishes. You can smell the aroma of the lotus leaf as it arrives. The filling of chicken, Chinese mushrooms, Chinese sausage and more is a burst of umami, and the lotus leaf adds a delicious fragrance into the rice. It’s hard to describe, you have to smell it yourself. The rice should be sticky, but not too wet, and it should have plenty of flavour on its own.
Plus, you get to unwrap the rice like you’re unwrapping a gift. That alone makes it extra delicious!
What’s your favourite dim sum dish?