Join 3,572 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


The Essential Guide to Dim Sum
January 2, 2013 9:41 AM   Subscribe

The essential guide to dim sum: know exactly how to order thanks to this breakdown of 24 dishes, including photos and Chinese pronunciation.
posted by xingcat (117 comments total) 134 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was just trying to explain dim sum to a couple of family members. This breaks it down nicely! Thanks!
posted by Chuffy at 9:46 AM on January 2, 2013


Dim Sum is the opiate of the soon-to-be-massives.
posted by srboisvert at 9:53 AM on January 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


*sigh* Just makes me even sadder that the Dim Sum place we wanted to go to and drove 45 minutes to get to was closed with no notice on their website or their voicemail. Grr.

Hmm... looking through the list the biggest omission to me is century egg porridge with you tiao. Yummmmm.

Also, as native Beijingers my family never calls dim sum "dian xin" (that refers to sweet pastries, usually), but "zao cha", literally "morning tea".
posted by kmz at 9:54 AM on January 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


This is a great resource, and is making me hungry.
Now, if only there was a dim sum restaurant anywhere near me...
posted by Thorzdad at 9:59 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Last night, I dreamt that I was attending a work luncheon at a well-known dim sum place. To my horror, I found we'd been given dumbed-down, a-la-carte menus, with sweet-and-sour chicken and Kung Pao beef and such.

Seriously, that was it. That's my nightmare.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:00 AM on January 2, 2013 [19 favorites]


That wouldn't be dumbed-down, that would be a completely different (and of course way shittier) menu.
posted by kmz at 10:06 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Tldr version: just nod your head when the lady brings a cart past your table. When she puts a plate of food down, eat it. After a couple of hours, if you are still concious, have the wait staff bring you a bucket and a wafer-thin dinner mint.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:06 AM on January 2, 2013 [12 favorites]


ooh and the year of the snake is only one month away..
posted by ninjew at 10:08 AM on January 2, 2013



I used to run (manage) a chinese restaurant* in Appleton, WI.

The first time I ever saw what too much success looked like it was the first day we offered a dim-sum Sunday brunch. We (meaning me) completely underestimated demand. It was a colossal mess.

It was amazing - we only advertised on the marquee board out front; we wanted to start small and see how it went. Ooops. I had no idea it would be so popular.

I did better at managing it in later weeks and such, but we never saw the numbers we saw on that first day. I need to find a decent DimSum place here in Madison.

* It burned to the ground later that year - I believe the owner of the building did it, but whatever, I can't prove it and it worked out in my benefit anyway. I really miss that place though, the head chef** made amazing food.

** he made me eat some disgustingly salty egg thing once, on a dare. I got my revenge when I brought him some lutefisk. He made the best faces trying to eat it. That guy was a riot. I guess he moved back to HK 10-12 years ago. I hope he's doing well.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:10 AM on January 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Dim Sum is the Killer App for the Chinese language.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:10 AM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Dimsum is one of the few things for which I'm willing to wake up early on a weekend morning. Even better - dimsum buffets!
posted by hellopanda at 10:11 AM on January 2, 2013


Siu mai is the best food ever.
posted by neuromodulator at 10:13 AM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


All the names I recognize are the Cantonese ones. Dim sum is not the killer Chinese app, it's the trojan horse leading to the resurgence of Cantonese over Mandarin.
posted by zippy at 10:16 AM on January 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


Oh god, I would quite cheerfully kick a baby in the mouth* for some sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves and a steamed bean curd roll right now.

*would not actually kick a baby in the mouth, calm down
posted by palomar at 10:17 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


he made me eat some disgustingly salty egg thing once,

Was it just a really salty egg? I love those. You're not meant to eat it by itself, of course... Generally just eat small bits at a time with big mouthfuls of rice or congee.

Even better - dimsum buffets!

!!! WHAT I MUST KNOW WHERE THIS IS.

Offtopic, the last time I was in Beijing my uncle took me to a sushi buffet place and it was amazing. It's not like most sushi buffet places in the States that are just California rolls and shifty looking salmon rolls. This was all made to order that you selected from a menu and the medium level (around 20 USD) included tons of sashimi choices and just about everything I ever order at a sushi place (outside of a few much more expensive things like otoro or uni.)
posted by kmz at 10:18 AM on January 2, 2013


Interesting, kmz, knowing I loved to eat, my Beijing coworkers took me out for a banquet as my going away party. We went to a massive four-story buffet place that included a full-scale sushi bar/buffet inside. As I recall there was also an entire durian section in one corner!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:25 AM on January 2, 2013


My workflow is somewhat less detailed.
posted by cortex at 10:26 AM on January 2, 2013 [13 favorites]


All dim sum places need Chinese broccoli and jellyfish. That is if you really want to make me happy.
posted by bswinburn at 10:27 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dimsum buffets do not exist in the US? In Singapore many mid to high range Cantonese restaurants offer dimsum buffets on weekends. It's all-you-can-eat dimsum, for a fixed price per person. Oh and everything's made on order and brought to your table; no sushi-style conveyor belts or buffet warmers. It's....heaven.
posted by hellopanda at 10:28 AM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ah, dim sum. For a vegetarian, it's like tasty russian roulette.

Especially if you want to steal my custard buns. Definite bloodshed there.
posted by Jilder at 10:36 AM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


My workflow is somewhat less detailed.

This strategy doesn't work for McDull though.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:40 AM on January 2, 2013


Just to gloat.

My workplace is in Richmond, BC. Dim sum capital of the universe, assuming global thermonuclear war has levelled Hong Kong. I can get dim sum on a whim, anywhere anytime. Excellent dim sum too, not the steam table crap in the picture. Perhaps the most competitive environment outside Asia. And to their credit, places are competing on quality and skill, not size or price, so yay for that. No AYCE dim sum here. All you can eat has decimated local sushi, thank God the dim sum purveyors haven't followed the same MAD path.

I've always wondered why there's not a 24hour dim sum place. It'd be the Cantonese equivalent to IHOP. People eat pancakes at non traditional times. Why not dim sum?

Second, you may be asking yourself, Keith, why are you being such a gloaty asshole about this? Because, in the frequent Mexican food threads all I can do is murmur weakly about the Taco Del Mar down the road and then go back to being jealous. This is my time to shine. Allow me this.
posted by Keith Talent at 10:41 AM on January 2, 2013 [24 favorites]


Keith, what are your favorite locations?
posted by neuromodulator at 10:54 AM on January 2, 2013


Gazing wistfully with watering mouth, knowing that the closest decent dim sum is a 3.5-hour drive away in Atlanta (unless something new has opened in Charlotte).
posted by achrise at 10:55 AM on January 2, 2013


How would I pronounce the Mandarin/Cantonese names with the proper tones?

I'm sure "har gow" with the wrong tones means something hilarious and/or obscene.
posted by gimonca at 10:56 AM on January 2, 2013


What's that dish called that looks like a roasted whole sparrow and which food would work best for covering my eyes when the sparrow passes by on the cart? I'm thinking some sort of steamed bun would be most comfortable.
posted by orme at 10:58 AM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've never gone out for dim sum and have no idea where to find it. However, all of my attempts, to this date, of deploying "pronunciation-key Chinese" in any settings where it might be called for has ended in confusion, irritation, and puzzlement.

I mean, I do pretty much the same thing to people who try pronunciation-key Russian on me, but still.
posted by Nomyte at 10:58 AM on January 2, 2013


chopsticks duel!

I have a 24-hour dimsum hole-in-the-wall place in my hood. It's perpetually crowded and steamy and noisy. We love our late night dimsum!.

gimonca, "har" is said with a high tone and "gow" in a rising tone.
posted by hellopanda at 11:00 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


neuromodulator - My favourite spots right now are Neptune Seafood at Ackroyd and 3. Vivacity on Alexandera and Empire Seafood next to London Drugs in the old Milestones location.

Kirin/Sun Sui Wah/Gingeri are all good too, but are known quantities, the old guard perhaps? For cheap and (kinda) cheerful, try Lucky Tao on Alexandera, opposite SSW.
posted by Keith Talent at 11:03 AM on January 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Growing up in the Far East and in Vancouver during the Hong Kong diaspora, I grew up on and love dim sum. Still, there's something about the aggressive insistence on having all transactions occur in Cantonese or Mandarin that I always found a bit offputting.

Like, folks in the States always seem to make a big deal about insisting that Latinos and Hispanics speak English when conducting restaurant transactions; but nobody minds the fact that dim sum aunties will just blink at you blankly and move on if you ask for "steamed pork bun?" instead of "char siu bao?" That always seemed like another example of "model minority" double standards.

Still, my dream restaurant is a global small plates grazing place that serves izakaya, tapas, dim sum and deep fried Scottish delicacies. All totted up on little slips of paper with multicolored stamps.
posted by bl1nk at 11:04 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


roasted whole sparrow

roast baby quail?
not dim sum but you might get that served in the same setting
(and it's a Western dish too)
posted by Bwithh at 11:04 AM on January 2, 2013


Can anyone figure out a way to download this as a PDF or something? My wife and I just made plans to go for dim sum, and neither of us is an expert in the subject. Having this guide at the table would be really handy. Ideally, I'd print it up as a little booklet or something.
posted by Dr. Wu at 11:05 AM on January 2, 2013


What's that dish called that looks like a roasted whole sparrow and which food would work best for covering my eyes when the sparrow passes by on the cart?

Or maybe you wandered unknowingly into an illegal underground French restaurant disguised as a Chinese dim sum place?
posted by Bwithh at 11:07 AM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Re: pronunciation - good luck trying to get it right just from reading. In Hoisan (a dialect related to Cantonese) the words for "head", "hair", and "hat" all sound like various forms of "mow" to me; i.e. "that hat made of hair on your head" is "Moe mow mo".
posted by achrise at 11:07 AM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Looks at calender. Notes morning appointment in Singapore's Chinatown. Sits back and relaxes.
posted by infini at 11:13 AM on January 2, 2013


Ah, dim sum. For a vegetarian, it's like tasty russian roulette.

For someone with a shellfish allergy, judging from the icons on this thing, it seems the only winning move is not to play. Please don't tell me too much about what I'm missing.
posted by ubernostrum at 11:31 AM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Exterior shiny white with spongy edges; interior sweet, savory, flavorful, and chunky with a light gravy.

This does not do justice to the char siu bao, one reason I will never be a complete vegetarian. I love them so.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:38 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


In Santa Rosa California I once saw a drive-through dim sum restaurant.

I figure you just keep driving around and around the place, picking up a new dish every time you pass the window.
posted by GuyZero at 11:41 AM on January 2, 2013 [21 favorites]


Exterior shiny white with spongy edges; interior sweet, savory, flavorful, and chunky with a light gravy.

This does not do justice to the char siu bao


Char siu bao? I thought they were talking about the people ordering this dish!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:43 AM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Among the things I am thankful to my parents for is having raised me to be culinary adventurous. My dad introduced me to chicken feet (and duck feet too, though I find that's harder and harder to find on a dim sum menu these days) at a young age and it remains my favorite part of the overall dim sum experience (with the additional fun of having the waitstaff virtual always looking shocked and second-guessing our order, assuming we think we're ordering wings or something, I guess chicken feet not being a common order among white patrons).

Chicken feet are definitely a line in the sand for some people as far as how brave they are willing to be regarding trying new things. One of the funnier dining experiences I've had was going out to dim sum with my family along with my sister's fiancée (now husband of nearly 20 years) shortly after they had gotten engaged. Her fiancée, desperate to find a point of connection to our father (their relationship had started off a little sour after my dad found him less than fully clothed in my sister's bedroom shortly after they had begun dating), decided to fully embrace the chicken feet experience, knowing this was something of a male bonding ritual in our family.

My BIL is a pretty adventurous eater himself, and is actually now a chef professionally, but this was definitely past his comfort zone. The look of him in complete horror and disgust at the thought of what he was eating, while simultaneously trying to put on a brave face in front of my dad, still cracks me up to this day.
posted by The Gooch at 11:59 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh yes. I did not know that I needed this until I clicked the link and realized that yes this has been missing in my life. Thanks!
posted by likeatoaster at 12:04 PM on January 2, 2013


Char siu bao? I thought they were talking about the people ordering this dish!

In the grim future past of The Untold Story, you can have both!
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:10 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sun Sui Wah seems to have gone downhill in recent years if my wife's family are to be believed.
We had some good dim sum at Western Lake on Victoria Drive on New Year's Eve. Huge portions too.
posted by arcticseal at 12:11 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Great link, but oh man, I'm on that difficult Day Three of a New Year's Resolution diet and reading it is making me tear up a little.
posted by Catch at 12:13 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Chicken feet are definitely a line in the sand for some people as far as how brave they are willing to be regarding trying new things.

Being Chinese I will eat all kinds of weird shit, and I actually remember liking chicken feet when I was a kid, but nowadays it just seems like there's not much eating on them. Maybe I need to try them again. I remember similar disappointment with fish eyeballs and gill flaps (not sure what exactly they're called) when I grew older. Loved them as a kid, don't really care for them as an adult.

On the other hand, pig trotters, yum!

Honestly, I don't even really understand why chicken feet are considered icky? Is it just the feet thing?
posted by kmz at 12:36 PM on January 2, 2013


As a vegetarian, dim sum is sort of what I imagine Tantalus' travails to have been like-- dozens of delicious-looking eats entrayfened by miniscule yet present quantities of meat. Thank God for jin deui.
posted by threeants at 12:38 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


ok they left out one very extremely important thing - what tea to order. best recommendations to accompany are either jasmine tea (fa cha) or chrysanthemum (gok fa). if you don't ask for anything it will probably be black tea, which is fine, or maybe jasmine. don't ask for ice water or coke - with hot food, you drink hot tea.

good (intentional?) "yum" tag for yam-cha.

excellent recommendation by kmz for jook with yau za gwai (deep fried ghosts aka you tiou) one of my favorite things in the world although less sure it truly counts for dim-sam. same crullers wrapped in cheung-fan with the sweet thick soy sauce are also quite good.

oh and they left out daufu fa one of the most delicious things in existence and yet pleasing to vegans and spice-haters alike.

also also, wave your hand in the direction of people pushing carts and shout "m'goi, m'goi!" for some good attention. and try to say it too when choosing from a cart, to be polite e.g. char siu bao, m'goi.
posted by dorian at 12:43 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Consider my chops licked.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:45 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


You can vegetarian dim sum at Buddhist restaurants but of course if they exist in one's neck of the woods is the big question. North of Toronto there's Graceful Vegetarian and of course a large variety of places serving dim sum around it.
posted by juiceCake at 12:47 PM on January 2, 2013


Honestly, I don't even really understand why chicken feet are considered icky? Is it just the feet thing?

I'd guess it's the same reason that eating heads or eyes or brains or cheeks or snouts wigs a lot of folks out; there's something more distinctly anthropomorphic going on in our reactions to those specific features than there is to a flat slab of major muscle meat out of context. Nobody who isn't a surgeon or a trauma medic or at least really into surgical documentaries is going to spend a lot of time thinking about how a good raw steak cut looks like it could be a human thigh, etc, but we all know what feet and faces are at a very instinctive shape-recognition level and it connects a little bit, viscerally, in a way that might need to be conditioned out (easier in childhood than later on) by some normalizing exposure to that stuff as part the eating experience.

I wouldn't not feel a little weird about it, but I'd be willing to give chicken feet a try at this point. Though I do wonder how much there is to eat on there.
posted by cortex at 12:48 PM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


jasmine tea (fa cha) or chrysanthemum (gok fa). if you don't ask for anything it will probably be black tea, which is fine, or maybe jasmine.

My grandmother would like to pinch your cheeks and ask if you want a salted plum.

(Which is to say that my family maintains that anybody who orders jasmine tea or chrysanthemum tea at dimsum is clearly a seven year old who likes to eat rock sugar, as the floral taste interferes with proper enjoyment of porky/shellfishy goodness. Iron Guanyin is the way to go at classy dim sum places. Failing that, the house bo lei will be adequate for slaking your MSG thirst.)
posted by joyceanmachine at 12:53 PM on January 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


This post is close to my heart, as dim sum would be my choice for a last meal, should I ever be put in that situation. I have been eating it since before I had teeth (apparently it was very funny to watch me try to eat fried squid, but I loved it).

I suffered dim sum heartbreak this year, when my favourite dim sum restaurant just outside of Toronto, The Ambassador, closed down into just a catering business. I'm not ashamed to say I cried real tears of anguish. I am contemplating having my wedding catered by them (which would likely mystify both sides of our decidedly not-Chinese families) just so I can eat their food again. My family is auditioning replacements, and so far The Emperor is winning, but I'm still in mourning. Does anyone have a favourite place in the Toronto area?

*Pours out a 40 of tea for The Ambassador*
posted by ilana at 12:54 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


ah and if you are simply getting a bunch of buns as take-out from a bakery or restaurant - (yit-gau bau - hot dog bun, daan-tat - aforementioned delicious egg tarts, ham and egg bun, pineapple bun, scallion bun, etc. etc.) then the tea to order is laai-cha - milk tea)

joyceanmachine on preview lol. then again I don't take sugar and I hate classy places. altho me eating a bunch of buns and a milk tea does seem rather childlike...
posted by dorian at 12:57 PM on January 2, 2013


Oh, and I just noticed that the last photo is from 88 Palace, which is a pretty good choice to go to if you're in NYC. I used to go there when I lived in Manhattan, but not exclusively (Ocean Jewels, which became Asian Jewels, in Flushing, became more of my go-to place).
posted by ilana at 1:01 PM on January 2, 2013


Wasn't this guide somewhere else once upon a time? I remember blogging pretty much the exact same thing maybe six or seven years ago, but I don't remember it being at BuzzFeed.
posted by briank at 1:02 PM on January 2, 2013


It appears that I am the only person in the world who doesn't like bao. It's totally a texture thing - thick, steamed dough just doesn't work for me. :/

Oh, well. More for the rest of you. Just don't get between me and the siu mai.
posted by hanov3r at 1:06 PM on January 2, 2013


gaozi vs baozi, fight!

and sometimes it's really nice instead to go out for some siu beng (shaobing) or hakka food, but in nyc that means basically taking the train all the way out to flushing.
posted by dorian at 1:12 PM on January 2, 2013


oh wait do they still have the $1($2?) shuttle from manhattan chinatown to flushing?
posted by dorian at 1:13 PM on January 2, 2013


Okay, so we now need to have, like, a dozen Meetups at every dim sum hotspot in the world. We'll start in New York, work our way west, finally arriving in BC, where we'll plow through every place that Keith Talent recommends. By then, we'll have enough combined mass that we can hold hands, form a human raft, float our way to HK, and arrive in time for Sunday brunch.

LET'S MAKE THIS HAPPEN, METAFILTER.
posted by RakDaddy at 1:13 PM on January 2, 2013 [11 favorites]


. . . they left out ham sui gok, the little glutinous deep fried rice sesame balls with pork inside that are essentially a delicious pork mochi. Also, the tripe, both the white curtainy kind with black beans and the brown mixed bowl with giant diakon. And where are my meatballs with Worchestershire sauce and two sad sprigs of spinach on top?

WHAT KIND OF LIST IS THIS?

I kid, I kid, but my family has dogmatic opinions about dim sum. In addition to the tea rule mentioend above, here are some more:

1. Everything must be piping, steaming, just this side of burn-your-mouth hot.

2. The ha gao skins should be thin enough that you can see the pink shrimp inside. The shrimp must be deveined. The classiest places use big ol' whole shrimp, so that you get about 1.5 to 2 shrimps per ha gao. Rice noodle rolls may have rice skins that are a little thicker, but they should not (as seen in the ones in the slideshow) be pillowy.

3. A list of things for white people and American Born Chinese who did not receive the excellent parenting that you and your sister have received, and that will therefore not be ordered, no matter how much you beg: sodas, egg rolls, potstickers, mango pudding, crab claws, green vegetables, salt-and-pepper squid, and fried chicken wings. Also, roast meat, because we can get a better price on roast duck and pig from the store that sells them. Also, your mother makes better radish cake with more Chinese sausage and good-sized dried shrimp, so sit down.

4a. If you see the egg custard person come out with a tray, get the slip and leave the table and go up to him/her, because s/he will inevitably run out the table before yours, and it will be too late.

4b. If they have Macau egg tarts -- you know, the ones with the creme brulee tops -- get those. Shove old people out of your way if you have to. Get them hot out of the oven.

5. Yes, they do in fact, call deboned duck feet "fairy's oars".
posted by joyceanmachine at 1:17 PM on January 2, 2013 [14 favorites]


Beginners' list if I may say so myself. I regularly make a feast out of going to Hei La Moon in Boston but I can never get the tea ladies to tell me the name of this scrumptious shrimp thingy in a tofu wrapper. She squirts them with sweet soy sauce and then cuts them in half with her little sewing scissors. Needless to say, I'd love to know what they're made of. Apologies for now-stoopid Instangram filters.

Bonus points for knowing what these Szechuan pickles are made of.
posted by jsavimbi at 1:27 PM on January 2, 2013


Do you think that some of these items are bought frozen from the Chinese equivalent of Sysco? Like maybe the custard tarts and fried sesame balls? Not in your fancy Richmond places, maybe, but in your run-of-the-mill dim sum place? I do.
posted by HotToddy at 1:54 PM on January 2, 2013


Believe me, I've tried the frozen char sui baos from the Oriental food store, and there's just no comparison to fresh.
posted by achrise at 2:05 PM on January 2, 2013


Here is a pretty interesting thread arguing both ways on the frozen/not frozen issue.
posted by HotToddy at 2:07 PM on January 2, 2013


So, I've never had dim sum (ducking under table for a moment...) I do like Chinese food, though, and I've had bao before (if the fast food chain Wow Bao counts, anyway). I think the main thing that's kept me away from dim sum is my perception that most of it has shrimp in it (sorry, don't like shrimp)... and/or that it's hard to tell which things have shrimp and which don't. Am I just being too shy and paranoid? Is it generally easy to say "bring me just the stuff without seafood" and not be looked at like a hopelessly stupid white person?
posted by dnash at 2:10 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I never knew how delicious tripe could be until I tried it at yum cha (= dim sum in Australia). Now I can't get enough of those rubbery little hexagons! Sad to see it didn't make this list.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 2:11 PM on January 2, 2013


I'd recommend the beef tendon dish at yum cha for those who haven't tried it.
posted by quosimosaur at 2:12 PM on January 2, 2013


Dim sum! My eternal love...
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 2:13 PM on January 2, 2013


I've had the very best quality frozen dim sum from various Asian markets and tbh, it's not even close. The texture in the skins is all wrong and the steam buns are mushy.

How I love dim sum. Long ago, before I was a vegetarian, I ate it for every meal whenever I was in HK. Now I can only go with one of my Cantonese-speaking friends who can interrogate the cart ladies on what is contained beneath those blissful clouds of aromatic steam. And even then, I've had either shrimp or seafood presented to me, since they weren't considered "meat". I make my own veggie char siu bao, making the filling out of portobello mushrooms, Japanese eggplant and these crunchy pickled things that you get in cans at Japanese markets. Season the whole mixture like char siu, then stuff and steam. When the g/f comes home and there's a stack of steamer baskets on the counter and I'm in a food coma, she immediately knows the reason. And demands her share. There had better be her share. At least four. I found this out the hard way.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 2:17 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


gaozi vs baozi, fight!

and sometimes it's really nice instead to go out for some siu beng (shaobing) or hakka food, but in nyc that means basically taking the train all the way out to flushing.


Do you mean jiaozi vs baozi? If so, I have to say I generally far prefer jiaozi. Just less "filler" to get through for that delicious delicious filling. Yes, I'm also the guy that likes thin-crust pizza. I do like bao, but I will even sometimes (especially with traditional home made bao, not char siu bao) eat the top dough part first, so I have a perfectly scrumptious lump of meat filling on top of a sliver of grease soaked bun. Mmm.
posted by kmz at 2:22 PM on January 2, 2013


3. A list of things for white people and American Born Chinese who did not receive the excellent parenting that you and your sister have received, and that will therefore not be ordered, no matter how much you beg: sodas, egg rolls, potstickers, mango pudding, crab claws, green vegetables, salt-and-pepper squid, and fried chicken wings. Also, roast meat, because we can get a better price on roast duck and pig from the store that sells them. Also, your mother makes better radish cake with more Chinese sausage and good-sized dried shrimp, so sit down.

This made me sad. Now you've made me feel like I can't order squid without being perceived as some kind of asshole.
posted by neuromodulator at 2:28 PM on January 2, 2013


I usually have at least one bag of chicken feet in my freezer for making stock. They really do add a little more flavour and much more body.

I once -- ONCE -- added chicken feet to a rather pallid curry, hoping that they would work their magic before I just fished them out whole, but they came out in many, many pieces instead. I wound up spitting out toenails and wee foot bones with almost every bite of the finished curry. Next time: wrap the feet in cheesecloth first.

But I do have a few feet left downstairs that might be nice eaten on their own. Anyone have a good recipe?
posted by maudlin at 2:30 PM on January 2, 2013


frozen daantat or chasiubao, oh hells no nevars. and joyceanmachine was exactly right you don't buy siu ngaap or baby pork at a restaurant - even the scary food counter at ranch99 or nj international foodmart or super88 will make better roast pig or duck. (but go to the smaller places). so, definitely not frozen. (esp egg tarts that is like asking if frozen baguette is why not as good as fresh)

most kind of dumplings gaozi/gyoza you can get ok frozen but really little effort to do it yourself better.

but the frozen black sesame dessert balls, oh yes; steamed scallion or leek buns sorta ok yes. frozen fishballs or meatballs, yeah not terrible, if you're making hotpot. frozen chun yao beng, oh yes esp the malaysian ones (or indian chapatti types) and if you fry it first then make a sort of omelette underneath it and roll it all up. even the frozen yau za gwai can be surprisingly good. well, if you make a good enough congee with it.

on preview kmz leih yat zan siu sam di ah leng chai (leng mui? m'hou yisi...)

Purposeful Grimace satisfying vegetarian food is less far than you may think
posted by dorian at 2:30 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Eep, sorry, I'm a Mandarin only rube.
posted by kmz at 2:37 PM on January 2, 2013


kmz no worries I get that, that's why my indirect insult on the jiaozi/gaozi thing ;-)
posted by dorian at 2:39 PM on January 2, 2013


Beginners' list if I may say so myself.

Heh. I totally agree. Where are the beef balls? My former flatmate is a whizz at ordering food in every culture, and she is responsible for my best ever dim sum experience. Not only was she fluent in Cantonese, she'd worked in Hong Kong for 2 years, and knew to order things that were standard in dim sum restaurants but weren't usually on the regular menu. I have a photo from that day--there is the requisite har gow and egg tarts, but also "cotton chicken" (steamed fish maw and chicken with mushrooms), salt and pepper calamari, and some tripe thingy in "superior XO sauce".

Also, what joyceanmachine said: tieguanyin and pu-erh/bo-lei are the best teas to cut through all that grease and MSG.
posted by peripathetic at 3:02 PM on January 2, 2013


and joyceanmachine was exactly right you don't buy siu ngaap or baby pork at a restaurant - even the scary food counter at ranch99 or nj international foodmart or super88 will make better roast pig or duck. (but go to the smaller places)

No way. A good Cantonese restaurant worth its salt will have either a supply of good roast meats or its own in-house roast specialist. When you get a cut from those little mom and pop roast shops, you have to haggle with the butcher to give you a piece that's not too lean or too fat. When you order roast pork during dim sum, you know you'll be getting a cut with good fat to meat ratio.


Also, your mother makes better radish cake with more Chinese sausage and good-sized dried shrimp, so sit down.

I got into arguments with my mom over radish cakes. She made pan fried radish cakes often enough at home and couldn't understand why I would order this when we ate out. And to top it off, I would always order the steamed version, which she considers to be vastly inferior. To this day, I find the pan fried version to be disgustingly greasy and boring.

Additional suggestions: steamed beef organs, marinated beef tendons, tripe, curry squid and fried wonton. And if you do order roast pork, make sure to dabble the fried skin in sugar.
posted by tksh at 3:08 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Though I do wonder how much there is to eat on there.

I can eat chicken feet, but typically don't as to my thinking they are mainly a vehicle for the sauce and more hassle than they are worth (ho ma fan). I also maintain that Vancouver has the best dim sum outside of Hong Kong.

I would however, make a special trip for the dumplings and beef noodles at Din Tai Fung in HK.
posted by arcticseal at 3:09 PM on January 2, 2013


It's all about the opaque coconut custard in cube form which, among my geekier dim sum-eating friends is known simply as Gelatinous Cube. Symbolically eaten after you've absorbed every other dish in the place.
posted by Spatch at 3:35 PM on January 2, 2013


Okay, so we now need to have, like, a dozen Meetups at every dim sum hotspot in the world. We'll start in New York, work our way west, finally arriving in BC, where we'll plow through every place that Keith Talent recommends. By then, we'll have enough combined mass that we can hold hands, form a human raft, float our way to HK, and arrive in time for Sunday brunch.

Are we doing this? Let's do this. Sydney has great Yum Cha.

Some notes - the noodle identified as cheong fan (rice noodle rolls) in the link are in fact ha fan (steamed prawn noodles, although they come in other varieties). Cheong fan is a fried dish - the rolls have bits of shrimp and vegatables in them, are pan fried and served with light soy and fish/peanut sauce. They are hands down my favourite dish.

I would however, make a special trip for the dumplings and beef noodles at Din Tai Fung in HK.

They have a Sydney branch too! Whee! The lines are the stuff of legend though.

Also, what joyceanmachine said: tieguanyin and pu-erh/bo-lei are the best teas to cut through all that grease and MSG.

Absolutely; bo lei is my pick too.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:40 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Honestly, I don't even really understand why chicken feet are considered icky? Is it just the feet thing?

and

I'd guess it's the same reason that eating heads or eyes or brains or cheeks or snouts wigs a lot of folks out; there's something more distinctly anthropomorphic going on in our reactions to those specific features than there is to a flat slab of major muscle meat out of context.

Speaking only as a chicken owner, there is also the fact that chickens will happily and obliviously walk through their own poo on an all-day, every-day basis.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:40 PM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Chee cheong fun is what they call a very delicate roll steamed with teeny shrimp and some fried scallions, at least in Singapore.

I am now hungry.
posted by infini at 3:50 PM on January 2, 2013


There's no xiaolongbao! Imagine a dumpling but bite-sized with a thin, slightly sweet skin. The meat filling is soft and almost creamy and it floats inside of the wrap in a tiny bit of this really delicious soup. It comes really hot, like burn the roof of your mouth hot, in a little bamboo steamer with about twelve of them. Dip the outside in rice vinegar but don't break the skin with your chopsticks or else the soup inside will gush out.

Speaking only as a chicken owner, there is also the fact that chickens will happily and obliviously walk through their own poo on an all-day, every-day basis.

My cat walks in her own pee and poo pretty much everyday and we still love it when she gets in bed with us.
posted by dubusadus at 4:23 PM on January 2, 2013


Oh God I want dim sum RIGHT NOW.
posted by sarcasticah at 4:26 PM on January 2, 2013


When you get a cut from those little mom and pop roast shops, you have to haggle with the butcher to give you a piece that's not too lean or too fat.

This, according to my mother, is part of the joy of going to a mom and pop roast shop. Next thing you know, you'll propose not dickering with the orange-seller about whether you can switch out this undersized orange in your crate for a bigger one or, alternatively, not telling the fishmonger to put the fish back in the tank and get the one you asked for, because you want a fat one that actually puts up a fight when taken out of the water. What is life without these things? How can you put the best food possible on the table if you don't do this?

True story: after she'd lived in America for 20+ years and succeeded at a variety of professional office-type jobs, my mother once reduced my teenage sister to tears by trying to haggle with the cashier at a McDonald's in suburban America about coupons.

I love my mother, and now that I'm no longer subject to it, I really enjoy her loving, despotic, iron-and-tight-fisted rule over matters of household economy.
posted by joyceanmachine at 4:27 PM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


arcticseal MAH FAN SEI LAH that shit is not worth the time

ha cheung / mai fan / cheung fan / etc. have some differentation ok but, still can possibly explain jsavimbi's pics. altho the steamed fish/shrimp cake/paste/forcemeat makes me think more of vietnamese origins. but the scissors and sweet thick soy still makes my brain think cheung fan.

on preview: dubusadus zomg I was going to mention siu lung bao as the outlier of gaozi/baozi it has a thin shell that is not chewy or filling at all! (well if made properly!) also it is crazy delicious. also west and south asians hate the foot. of basically anything. not sure I can blame them.
posted by dorian at 4:27 PM on January 2, 2013


joyceanmachine leih hou ah.
posted by dorian at 4:31 PM on January 2, 2013


Aren't xiao lung bao technically Shanghaiese or whatever, rather than Cantonese? I haven't seen them at the really old-school dim sum places.

Which isn't to say that they're undelicious in any way. Even a bad xiaolungbao is a delight.
posted by joyceanmachine at 4:34 PM on January 2, 2013


yes siu lung bao is totally seung hoi yan. I thought I'd mentioned it earlier with lion's head, but apparently not (altho a particular person did apparently mention lion head in a way ;-)
posted by dorian at 4:38 PM on January 2, 2013


Best of Metafilter: yes siu lung bao is totally seung hoi yan
posted by infini at 4:40 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


A caveat for people in or planning to visit Vancouver/Richmond (don't know whether it's the same elsewhere) who haven't had dim sum before and are now planning to go: at many busy/popular restaurants (but not all) making a reservation will not make any difference at all and they will basically just put your name down on the list when you show up, so be prepared to wait.
posted by juv3nal at 4:56 PM on January 2, 2013


Many American dim sum restaurants do use frozen stuff. I once saw a truck of frozen dim sum items being unloaded outside NBC Seafood Restaurant in Monterey Park, LA (despite the name, they sell a huge amount of dim sum on weekends). I'm sure my previous impression that droves of cooks were employed in the kitchen folding up elaborately folded items was unrealistic.

As for the chicken feet, what do you think happens to the feet of all the chickens farmed and killed in the USA every year? They are exported to China. (Don't ask me to eat them, I don't like them, they taste like tripe and are mostly cartilage).
posted by bad grammar at 5:03 PM on January 2, 2013


That's my experience with Dim Sum places - there are two kinds of them: the ones you don't want to go to and the ones you can't get into.
posted by GuyZero at 5:03 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


NBC Seafood Restaurant, sorry
posted by bad grammar at 5:04 PM on January 2, 2013


Dim sum restaurants are basically where we taught our small child to eat in public. There are always kids wandering the aisles or banging utensils, so no matter where your child is on that learning curve you can relax and just enjoy the food.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 5:08 PM on January 2, 2013


I haven't had dim sum in a year. Thanks to this thread I now know there are a couple of places in Omaha that offer it, I've used Yelp and Urbanspoon to hopefully pick a good one, and we'll be going ASAP. I doubt it'll be as good as the stuff I've eaten elsewhere (Singapore eating spoils you for a lot) but that's ok.

I've had the fixings to make the sesame balls but haven't tried it yet. I'm also determined to make egg custard tarts. Any favorite recipes would be gratefully received. Yum.
posted by PussKillian at 5:15 PM on January 2, 2013


Oh if they have not been mentioned, if you're in Vancouver and loathe to get yourself to Richmond: Red Star on Granville, Kirin Mandarin on Alberni, and Golden Ocean on 41st Ave. are decent. I believe reservations may have some efficacy at Kirin Mandarin, but for sure none on a weekend at the other two. Golden Ocean is kind of a dump, if that matters to you, but it is probably cheaper than the other two.
posted by juv3nal at 5:19 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh yes, Kirin! That's where we had the banquet after our tea ceremony. Haven't been for a while, but always reliably good.
Fortune House in Metrotown is typically good.

GuyZero has it: "That's my experience with Dim Sum places - there are two kinds of them: the ones you don't want to go to and the ones you can't get into."
posted by arcticseal at 5:33 PM on January 2, 2013


[i]leih yat zan siu sam di ah leng chai (leng mui? m'hou yisi...)[/i]

I know almost no Chinese, but I can understand almost enough to be on the level of a 2 year old. This isn't pinyin though, so I'm guessing what this is a phonetic translation of Cantonese?

I think the literal translation would look something like this:

You later be careful pretty boy (pretty girl? sorry...)

So basically:

You better be careful later pretty boy (pretty girl? sorry...)

...I could just be talking out of my ass though.

Anyways, on the topic: I don't know what it is about those taro puffs, because I don't even think they're that tasty, but I always order them when I get dim sum. There's something... satisfying about their mouthfeel.
posted by Qberting at 6:05 PM on January 2, 2013


This post has perfect timing! As I speak, my husband, bil and I are driving from Tucson to San Francisco, and I've been fretting over chowhound and yelp about where to get decent dim sum. My main concern is to find a place where we can effectively communicate my bil deadly shellfish allergy, so he can enjoy porky goodness. Or maybe we'll just leave him in the hotel.
posted by lizjohn at 6:10 PM on January 2, 2013


It's canto slang for: watch your back kid (girl? my apologies...)

When done right, taro puffs can be a satisfying combination of savoury fillings inside sweet taro paste surrounded by light batter. Seldom done right though.
posted by tksh at 6:12 PM on January 2, 2013


I needed this a week ago when my mom and I went to dim sum in SF (Yang Sing's) and she didn't know what dim sum was. I pretty much figured I'd eat whatever, and did, and it was tasty. She did fine.

I dunno on chicken feet. I've considered eating it (one of my party wanted to, I was so-so, nobody else wanted to, so he didn't order it). On the one hand, it's probably real crunchy. On the other hand, what everyone else said about the "looks like actual body part" and "chickens are gross and walk in everything" thoughts that will go into your head. And reading this description, the idea of constantly spitting out little bones while you eat them honestly does not sound appealing.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:16 PM on January 2, 2013


Haha, that's right, you guys can argue about which city is second best for dim sum, as long as you acknowledge which city is the undisputed champion.

Next time someone asks me why I came to work in Hong Kong, I'll just point them at this post.

HK 4 LYFE!
posted by C^3 at 6:17 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


My cat walks in her own pee and poo pretty much everyday and we still love it when she gets in bed with us.

Oh yes, I love my cats, and they sleep with me every night. But I don't lick their feet. (Er, except when the bratty one wants me to get up early and sticks her paw in my mouth when I'm snoring. Which happens two or three times a week.) And even if I were to want to consume little cat feet, they would at least be skinned first. Chickens', not so much. And chickens' feet, well, they have lots of little crevices. Crevasses, even.

That said, you can take my chickens to bed any day.
posted by mudpuppie at 6:45 PM on January 2, 2013


Haha, that's right, you guys can argue about which city is second best for dim sum, as long as you acknowledge which city is the undisputed champion.

Haven't you heard? HK is slated for thermonuclear annihilation.
posted by juv3nal at 6:53 PM on January 2, 2013


I don't think it can even be argued that there's any competition for HK taking the dim sum crown. There is nothing like it. I've had dim sum around the world, including BC and its surroundings, and nothing is like HK. The mad rush when a new cart rolls out, women and children be damned, some old amah stabbing her really hard feet into my instep in an attempt to take me down, the sheer lunacy of the return to the predator/prey mindset. Strategies agreed upon at the table falling apart at the first battle, treachery and backstabbing become the modus operandi between lifelong friends. Getting your dishes back to the table, hooding over them like a hawk over fresh-killed prey, attempts by tablemates to snatch a morsel from your steam basket resulting in a chopstick through the wrist, if not worse. All this, this wonderful chaos to get to eat the very best dim sum in the world, this is why HK is number one. It should be on every dim sum fanatic's bucket list. And if you're lucky, it'll be on that list more than once.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 7:11 PM on January 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Feet? No problem. What happens to all the beaks?
posted by sneebler at 7:17 PM on January 2, 2013


Oh mah gahh. I would kill for some steamed custard buns right now.
posted by town of cats at 7:45 PM on January 2, 2013


Chicken feet are definitely a line in the sand for some people as far as how brave they are willing to be regarding trying new things.

Chicken feet I don't enjoy, but didn't have a problem trying.

Duck tongue on the other hand. No. Just. No.

My ex-who-I-am-still-very-good-friends-with is first generation Chinese, and going out to eat with her family can be... entertaining. I'm really quite adventurous with food, and usually am the happiest whitey at the table, but when that flock on a plate arrived I faltered.

Her mom was nearly giggling. This is not a person who typically "giggles".

My workflow is somewhat less detailed.

You misspelled Siu Mai by quite a bit there.

Bao are great and all, but they are so filling and use up so much valuable siu mai space. This is doubly important because it appears to be illegal to make Siu Mai not terrible anywhere other than a crowded dim sum restaurant. Everywhere else, restaurant or frozen, are not just less good, but actively bad. I don't understand this, but I have stopped questioning, and just order them all at Ocean Seafood or Emperor's Pavilion or wherever someone has managed to get my hungover ass on a weekend morning. All of them. Ron Swanson-like.
posted by flaterik at 8:50 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]



Bonus points for knowing what these Szechuan pickles are made of.
posted by jsavimbi at 1:27 PM on January 2 [+] [!]


Looks like pickled mustard root to me
posted by Bwithh at 9:46 PM on January 2, 2013


Feet? No problem. What happens to all the beaks?

Above link to the talk.bizarre cookbook "Garnish with beak" is gzipped postscript. It'll open on a Mac.
posted by zippy at 11:47 PM on January 2, 2013


Oh my lord. Good thing I went out with friends for dim sum in Richmond over the holidays, or I'd be crying here now that I'm back in no-dim-sum-land. I'm taking notes on the other Lower Mainland faves in this thread for my next visit to Vancouver.

I have very fond childhood memories of frequent (though not nearly frequent enough) extended family dim sum in East Vancouver. We always seemed to go to Pink Pearl on East Hastings, if I recall correctly. It recently reopened after a fire, but I have no idea if it's still good--the reviews seem to indicate it went downhill after its heyday in the 1980s.

My parents, grandparents and aunts/uncles usually did the ordering; sometimes we kids would be asked what we wanted but usually I was happy just eating whatever the grownups picked. I like most types of dim sum, but those taro puffs were always my (and my grandmother's) favourite. The best part of going to dim sum as an adult is no one will scold you for ordering 3 plates of taro puffs. Ha ha!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:10 AM on January 3, 2013


Hell yeah on the taro puffs. "Fried hamsters" to the forever immature.

I went for dim sum on New Year's Day and it was su-fuckin'-perb. We hit up New World in London's Chinatown because they have rolling carts, as few other places here do. Also, there's always a fair number of Chinese families eating there, which I take to be a good sign.
posted by Pallas Athena at 4:19 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can't believe no one has mentioned water chestnut cake yet. That or gwei fa gou. No idea how to transliterate that but do know how to praise its existence while taking a 20 minute subway ride through HK to the only dim sum restaurant my family knows of that has it.

Ah, dim sum. Hong kong. Gustatory memories galore.
posted by ditto75 at 9:51 AM on January 3, 2013


Today the very first thing I ate was a big pork bun with an egg yolk included. Hot, steaming and very very satisfying. Thank you FPP
posted by infini at 11:09 AM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, I wasn't hungry. Now that's all ruined.
posted by Foam Pants at 3:11 PM on January 3, 2013


jsavimbi:
Bonus points for knowing what these Szechuan pickles are made of.
Looks like Zha Cai to me.
posted by joshwa at 9:11 PM on January 3, 2013


« Older To commemorate the Mayan Apocalypse, video game ty...   |   The Macroeconomics of Middle-E... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments