Friday, November 30, 2012

Dim Sum Friday

Various Dim Sum Dishes
Today I had dim sum with my brother. For those who don’t know what dim sum is, you’re missing out on a real culinary delight. Dim sum is the Chinese breakfast delicacy of small bit-sized dumplings and fried or baked pastries served with traditional teas like jasmine or green tea. In addition to being delicious, it’s a fun way to eat as different items are usually brought around from table to table ready-made and customers simply select the individual dishes they want as they see them. At the end the bill is often tallied up based on the number and type of small dishes and steamer trays left on the table.

A Brief History

Various Dim Sum Dishes With Tea
I’ll spare you the Cantonese as I don’t speak it anyway. I’m of European descent, born in Detroit. Dim sum originated in the tea houses of southern China, but has in recent decades spread around the world in popularity. (Wiki) I was first introduced to dim sum as a child when my parents took me across the border to Windsor, Ontario to a Cantonese restaurant a coworker had recommended. I’ve been a fan ever since.

Dim sum as a culinary art form is centuries old but has evolved over time. While it is traditionally a light breakfast staple, dim sum is often served at various times of the day, such as dinner time and late night, as it is at the restaurant my brother and I visited today. Some modern and western restaurants even serve traditional dim sum dishes as appetizers and buffet items as part of full meals.

On The Menu

An excellent summary of some of the most popular dim sum dishes is listed on Wikipedia. Here is an abbreviated version of that list along with some comments of my own for your convenience:

Har Gow
Gao is a category of dumpling usually made of a translucent rice flour or wheat starch dumpling stuffed with various meats or vegetables.
  • Har gow is a delicious steamed shrimp dumpling. These are my favorite. I could live on these. Generally each dumpling contains one small to medium-sized shrimp. They’re excellent plain or with a small amount of soy sauce.
  • Chi-chao is a steamed dumpling containing peanuts, garlic, chives, pork and shrimp.
  • Jiaozi is a steamed dumpling that contains meat and cabbage. It is a northern Chinese dumpling not considered to be part of traditional Cantonese dim sum.
  • Shaomai is a steamed dumpling containing shrimp, pork or both with mushrooms. These are a close second for me. I find them to be slightly saltier than har gow.
  • Haam Sui Gaau are deep fried dumplings filled with pork and vegetables.
Steamed Char Siu Baau
Bau is a category of baked or steamed fluffy buns with meat, vegetable or sweet bean filling.
  • Char siu baau is a steamed or baked and glazed bun with a slightly sweet barbecue pork filling. These are delicious and another favorite of mine. I prefer the steamed variety, but both are great.
  • Shanghai steamed buns are dumplings filled with meat or seafood. As these are Shanghainese, they’re also often not considered to be part of traditional Cantonese dim sum.
Jin Deui (Sesame Balls)
Steamed meatballs are often made from pork or finely ground beef seasoned with green vegetables like scallions or broccoli.

Steamed vegetables are often offered with dim sum.

Jin deui (sesame balls) are sweet fried balls of dough filled with red bean paste and then coated in sesame seeds. These are excellent to finish off on as a desert, though today we skipped this part. Better for the waste-line I suppose.

I’ll skip the other dishes mentioned on Wikipedia as I am not very familiar with them and some of them are not as popular in western nations.

Don’t Forget The Tea

Dim Sum Tea
Tea is considered by Chinese to be as important to dim sum as the food even if many people in western nations often eat dim sum without tea or even with other beverages. There are various teas common in Chinese dim sum, though in western nations the choice of tea is often simply a question of ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Common teas served with dim sum are chrysanthemum tea, green tee, oolong tea, pu-erh and a variety of scented teas.

Some Of The Best In Detroit

These from Yelp

Dim Sum Steamed Vegetables

The Best of The Rest

These other North American restaurants from Lonely Planet

More Information

Baked & Glazed Char Siu Baau
Check out these sites for more information on the history, cuisine and etiquette of dim sum.

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