Dim sum takes two of the best things in life – brunch and Asian food – and creates a dining atmosphere highlighted by family-style sharing, rolling carts and lots of impulsive eating decisions. The experience can be overwhelming, especially with the amount of options to choose from. Luckily, we’ve sorted out the top 13 foods you can order. All you have to worry about is winning the fight over the last dumpling.
13. Lo Baak Gau (Turnip Cakes)
This savory dish is made with dried shrimps and shallots and is fried into a gooey cake. While the outside is a crispy golden brown, the inside is stuffed with crunchy radishes and assorted meats.
#SpoonTip: Ask for some oyster sauce on the side. You’ll thank us after you try it.
12. Har Gow (Steamed Shrimp Dumplings)
These are a bit tricky to make correctly since the wrapper shouldn’t be too thin or too thick, but we all go HAM on them no matter what. They’re even better when aromatic scallions and crunchy bamboo shoots are mixed into the filling.
11. Cha Siu Bao (Steamed Barbecue Pork Buns)
These little round buns are beacons of happiness. Super saucy pork is slowly cooked and hidden under fluffy, steamed bread – though that isn’t the only way to make pork buns. Some may argue that these are cuter and more portable versions of baos, but all is well as long as we get more of that sweet, sweet dough.
10. Fung Zao (Fried Steamed Chicken Feet)
While they may not be your typical choice of food, these chicken feet are cooked so perfectly in a tangy and salty sauce that you won’t have any qualms afterwards. The feet are fried then simmered to give the meat a bloated appearance, lending itself to a gelatinous texture that soaks in all the savory broth.
9. Do Fu Fa (Tofu Pudding)
This pudding is made from extra thick silken tofu and drizzled with a spicy ginger simple syrup. This dessert often works as a nice palate cleanser after all the saucy dishes beforehand, and also serves as a great segue to other sweet treats afterwards.
8. Haam Sui Gok (Fried Pork Dumplings)
Fried pork dumplings are basically fried mochi stuffed with chopped pork, and they tastes even better than they sound. You get the best of both worlds with a crispy outer shell and a gooey interior. Restaurants will traditionally cut them in half for sharing, but if you’re really into it, you can just take the entire dumpling like I do. #oops
7. Pai Gwut (Steamed Spareribs)
While they may be a bit tricky to eat, they’re so worth the time. Doused in a sauce of fermented soy beans and black beans, these tiny pieces of pork are still attached to the bone, rendering each bite more tender and flavorful.
#SpoonTip: Don’t be afraid to just pop the whole thing in your mouth and gnaw at it until you have the bare bone. This method saves you time so you can get on to the next one.
6. Daan Taat (Egg Custard Tarts)
Many consider these to be the classic dim sum dessert, deeming them worthy to be in the upper half of our ranks. The tarts are characterized by a flaky, buttery crust and a rich, custard center and are enjoyable either hot or cold. Eventually you’ll get so good at eating them that you can pop ’em whole.
5. Ngao Yuk Kau (Steamed Beef Meatballs)
Yeah, yeah, you can find meatballs anywhere. But how many meatballs are covered in razor-thin tofu wrapper and cooked with Worcestershire sauce? You can only find these beauties at a dim sum restaurant, making them worth ordering each time.
4. Shumai (Steamed Pork and Shrimp Dumplings)
The great thing about shumai is their versatility: you can find some filled with different meats, seafood, or no meat at all. This makes this dish one of the most vegeterian-friendly on the cart, and it satisfies even the pickiest of eaters. You’ll often find some fresh ginger and green onions inside the dumplings to season the meat and give it more flavor.
3. Wu Gok (Taro Dumplings)
These dumplings are intriguing for their ability to have a fluffy texture inside while maintaining a light crunch on the outside. Taro root is mashed into a creamy mixture, shaped with shrimp and garlic and deep fried until the web-like coating forms. Looks like taro isn’t just for froyo after all.
2. Jian Dui (Sesame Seed Balls)
Why is it that the best dim sum dishes are deep fried? These chewy balls are made with glutinous rice flour, which lends some sweetness to the nutty sesame seeds and smooth red bean paste in the center. These can get a little messy, but picking every sesame seed off the plate is so worth it.
1. Xiao Long Bao (Soup Dumplings)
Don’t pretend like you didn’t even see this coming. The soup inside is gelatin-rich, so it’s chilled until solid, cut into small cubes, and thrown inside the wrapper with the meat. Once steamed, the cubes revert back to liquid and you’re left with filling that you can chew and sip. Grab as many of these as you can find, because if you didn’t have any soup dumplings, did you really dim sum?
Keep these in mind the next time you go out for some Chinese-style brunch. And if you’ve never been, it’s definitely worth experiencing at least one time. Or ten, if you’re like me.