Between the bustling restaurant culture and the rejuvenating Asian food, Dim Sum is an essential meal experience for any foodie. The Cantonese-originated cuisine is eaten during brunch; however, despite being just one meal, it can last for hours. Unlike regular meals, Dim Sum is a communal and social culinary affair. Dim Sum directly translates to “so close to the heart”, revealing its core principles: bonding over the course of a meal, sharing the love of food with each other, and engaging with our authentic selves over authentic dishes. There are many rules and tips that you should know before going out for Dim Sum, so here's my step-by-step guide to eating Dim Sum:

1. Finding the Right Spot

Dim Sum restaurants are pretty prevalent in all the big cities, especially if you go to Chinatown. For all our Boston foodies, here are some famous spots:

1. Hei La Moon Restaurant

2. Empire Garden Restaurant

3. Taiwan Cafe

4, Winsor Dim Sum Café

At a traditional Dim Sum restaurant, you will see big, round family-style tables, so make sure you go with a bigger group of people! An employee will guide your group to a table and set down an empty receipt. 

Rachel Lin

2. Choosing Your Tea

Your server will ask you what type of “cha” you would like for your meal. Cha is the Cantonese term for tea, an essential part of the Dim Sum experience. Tea cleanses your taste palate in between dishes while incorporating the traditional custom of tea drinking. If you are the youngest at your table, get ready to be the designated tea-pourer for your elders!

Typically there are about three to five selections of Chinese teas you could choose from, but no pressure! All of them are tasty. Here are the Big Three:

Chrysanthemum Tea or Guk Fa: The most classic and popular choice. Infused with a flowery and light flavor, chrysanthemum tea is the perfect refreshing drink to pair with steamed dim sum dishes. Bits of flower blossoms float in the teapot making the actual tea slightly sweet and exceptionally refreshing.

Black Tea or Bo Lay: For all those tea connoisseurs out there who prefer strong flavors, black tea should be your go-to. Earthy, full, and bitter, this tea goes well with all the oil in the dim sum dishes you will order. Note: the longer the black tea sits in the teapot over time, the more intense its flavor will become.

Black and Chrysanthemum Blended Tea or Guk Bo:  This choice is a nice in-between of the previous two teas is this one—because it's literally a blend of both! Balancing the earthiness of the black tea with the sweetness of the chrysanthemum tea, you can get the best of both worlds. Pick this tea if you are indecisive.

If you're worried about not having menus when your server walks away with your tea order, relax—the fun is about to begin.

3. Ordering Your Dishes

Dim sum restaurants have a unique serving method where servers offer dishes to customers from steam-heated carts. These servers roll around these carts with a designated set of dishes in each one, allowing you to pick and choose which dishes you want from every cart. That’s the satisfying part of dining in Dim Sum style—instead of waiting for your food, you get it immediately hot and fresh. You get to browse through multiple carts to pick and choose which dishes to order.

The servers will stamp a mark on your empty receipt to keep track of what you order, tallying up your final bill. 

4. What To Eat

Over the course of history, Dim Sum now includes over one thousand different dishes that are served across Asian communities and hubs. Some iconic Dim Sum dishes you should get are:

Feng Zhao or Braised Chicken Fingers: A personal favorite, Feng Zhao might seem unappetizing at first glance, but if you're a true foodie give it a try! Marinated and drenched in seasoning and black bean sauce, this dish is a lot like chicken fingers. To consume this tasty dish, you'll eat the skin around the bones. Feng Zhao is deep-fried in oil to puff up the skin around the fingers.

Rachel Lin

Cheung Fun or Rice Rolls: This Cantonese staple dish consists of a thin layer of steamed rice noodle wrapped around a choice of protein (beef, shrimp, vegetables). It sits in a plate of sweet soy sauce that adds a sweet and savory flavor to the rice roll. Cheung Fun is served in cut up, shareable sizes and adds a unique texture into your meal.

Rachel Lin

Har Gow or Shrimp Dumplings: These steamed crystal dumplings are for our seafood lovers. Wrapped in a translucent skin, Har Gow adds a fresh taste into your palette. These fun-sized dumplings normally contain prawns, ginger & chives, water chestnuts, and bamboo shoots.

Rachel Lin

Lo Bak Go or Turnip Cake: Despite its name, turnip cake is one of the most appetizing dishes for vegetarians. Shaped like a flat block, this cake is unusual because it's actually savory. The cake contains Chinese turnip/radish mixed with rice flour and has a slightly toasty texture.

Dan Ta or Egg Tarts: For a dessert to finish off your meal, Asian egg tarts are a must. Its ingredients are simple—custard tart is simply made from milk, sugar, and egg—but it has an addictive taste. Egg tarts are the perfect finish to any Dim Sum experience.

Rachel Lin

A meal that stirs your senses, hypnotizes your eyes, and fulfills your heart is what Dim Sum offers. Transcending just the typical experience of eating, this ancient Asian dining custom promotes togetherness. With a myriad of mini dishes to choose from, Dim Sum finds a home in everyone’s taste buds.