Enjoying dim sum is as much as the dining experience as it is about the food itself. In addition to amazing flavors, you’ll also get to engage with friends and family, sip tea, and linger over a great meal. Whether you’re interested in heading to the nearest dim sum restaurant to enjoy your favorite flavors, or you want to create some dishes of your own at home, there are many excellent recipes to pick from and tastes to savor.
Here at Fly By Jing, we want to make it as smooth and easy as possible to get the dim sum experience you and your loved ones are looking for. That’s why we offer the best spices and oils to use in your dim sum dishes, and why we’re sharing this go-to guide for ordering, making, and enjoying dim sum.
What Is Dim Sum?
Dim sum dates back to the Silk Road hundreds of years ago, though the flavors and dishes go back even further. After the closing of opium dens, travelers needed rest stops in which to eat and share conversation with others. They turned to tea houses, which is why tea plays such an important role in the dim sum dining experience.
And dim sum truly is all about the dining experience. Rather than ordering your own plate or sharing a plate for the table, you and your dining companions will enjoy several smaller platters over the course of the night. This allows you to taste-test many unique dishes and to truly experience the different flavors available. You will also take your time to rest and eat, so you can also enjoy the company of friends and family, as well.
How to Order at a Restaurant
Because you won’t order dim sum like you would order a meal at a diner or other restaurant, there are a few things you’ll want to note. Traditionally, dim sum would be served on carts by servers walking around the restaurant. If you or your dining companion saw an item on the cart that interested you, you would gain the attention of the server and ask for that dish directly off the cart.
Today, it’s more common to have a menu card on the table when you arrive, which you will fill out over the course of the evening. You will likely place more than one order throughout the night, so don’t worry about picking all the dishes that interest you at once.
Dim Sum Etiquette
There are very defined dim sum etiquette guidelines that you’ll wish to follow, whether you’re dining in a restaurant or looking to host a dim sum dinner at your home. Here are a few ways to ensure you are being respectful when eating dim sum.
Focus on the Tea
Tea is a quintessential part of dim sum dining. After all, dim sum got its start in tea houses. Specific teas pair well with specific dishes, and there are a few main flavors of tea you’ll enjoy in a dim sum restaurant: black tea, jasmine tea, or chrysanthemum tea, though there are other options.
If you are serving dim sum at home, you’ll want to do a little research to see which tea flavors pair best with the dishes you are serving.
Besides being part of the dim sum history, the tea is also an important aspect of the dining ritual. If you serve the tea, be certain to serve others at the table first. You may indicate your thanks to the person pouring you the tea by tapping your index and middle finger against the table in a sign of gratitude. (You would not indicate thanks to the server.) If your tea needs to be refilled, simply leave the top slightly ajar on the pot.
Expect to Order Again
You probably won’t put in all of your requests in a single go. Most dim sum dishes are meant to be consumed just out of the kitchen, and you don’t want them sitting on the table while you eat.
Instead, order a few plates at a time. This will allow you to pick which flavors you like most and make it easier to avoid ordering too much. Since it is not considered good etiquette to ask for a doggy bag, ordering more slowly will ensure you get the right amount of food.
Enjoy Each Bite
One important aspect of the dim sum dining experience is that you are sharing it with other diners. For that reason, you will want to take small bites of your food and allow others to do the same so that you can each enjoy the food.
Smaller, more intentional bites can also ensure that the food isn’t too hot to eat since it comes out immediately after you order. Of course, dim sum is about relaxing and taking in the tastes and scents to the fullest, so enjoy each moment with your food before moving onto the next.
Don’t Eat Directly From the Shared Plate
Even if there’s one pork bun left, you’ll want to move it to your plate before picking it up to eat, as a sign of respect to the other diners you’re sitting with. You want to use your serving utensil or chopsticks to bring it to your place setting and avoid ever eating from the communal bowl or server. It’s also important to always ask the table before you take the last piece of food from the dish.
How You Can Make Dim Sum at Home
You may be wondering if you can capture that wonderful dim sum dining experience at home—and you can! Bring together loved ones for a restful and joyous meal and serve your favorite dishes, and you can create that wonderful dim sum meal in the comfort of home. Here are a few things to consider as you plan your next dim sum dinner.
Plan the Perfect Food Menu
While you won’t be able to order fresh dishes from the kitchen, as you would in a more traditional dim sum restaurant, you can still put together some amazing combinations of flavors. Common dishes for dim sum include dumplings—of several varieties—pork buns, chicken feet, rice noodle rolls, and shumai. You can also incorporate sweet dishes for dessert, like egg tarts or sesame bowls.
Pick Simpler Recipes—and More of Them
Some dim sum recipes are simpler than others. Even if you’ve made dim sum before, there can be a lot of moving parts to putting together a full meal, and you want to make sure there’s enough for everyone to enjoy. That means don’t feel obligated to make your own dough or wrappers for every dish. There are many delicious ingredients that will help you to put together a wonderful dim sum dinner with ease. Don’t forget about all the great sauces and oils we offer here at Fly By Jing.
Plan the Perfect Tea Menu
In addition to making the perfect food for your dim sum dinner, you’ll also want to ensure that you have the best tea flavors to complement and support your dishes. There are many options to pick from, so explore and research to find the right flavors for your kitchen. Another essential part of the dim sum hosting experience is to make sure there is always tea on the table.
Don’t Forget the Wine
At a dim sum restaurant, the tea reigns supreme, but at most gatherings with friends and family, you’re going to have some kind of wine or beer. As with the tea, it’s essential to find those great flavors that complement and enhance the dishes you’re offering. Find beers, wines, or even cocktails that can add a little something extra to your dim sum dinner without overpowering the great meals you’ve made.
Have the Right Sauces on Hand
When it comes to dim sum, you’re going to want to accompany all of that delicious food with the right sauces so that you can really bring out the flavor. Black vinegar is one that you won’t want to miss. Unlike balsamic vinegar, which most people are familiar with, black rice vinegar has a distinct aroma and a sour, smoky taste that perfectly accompanies the delicate flavors of dumplings. In combination with some chili crisp to bring the heat and the crunch, you really will have the perfect duo of flavors for your dim sum table.
Whether you are dining at a dim sum restaurant or looking to bring the unique experience into your home, dim sum is a special and delicious way to enjoy good food and good company. It offers you the chance to relax with loved ones and to savor the food before you eat without pressure or a time crunch.
There are a few simple etiquette rules you’ll want to follow in a dim sum restaurant or if you offer dim sum at home, but it’s always a joyful and exciting meal. Try out your favorite recipes, pair them with complimentary tea, and share the flavors you love most with the friends and family who are sure to enjoy. There are so many delicious recipe options to pick from! The biggest question will be, how do you narrow down the best?