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Dim sum

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Dim sum (點心; pinyin: dĭan xīn; literally "touch the heart", "dotted heart", or "to order to one's heart's content"), a Cantonese term, is usually a morning to early afternoon meal with family or friends. Classical dim sum includes buns, dumplings, and rice rolls which contain a range of ingredients including beef, chicken, pork, prawns and vegetarian options. Many dim sum restaurants also offer plates of steamed greens, roasted meats, congee and other soups. Tea is always served, with some referring to it as yum cha (飲茶) which means "drinking tea".

Dim sum can be cooked by steaming and frying, among other methods. The size of the dim sum are usually small and are usually served as three or four pieces in one dish. Because of the small portions, people can try a wide variety of dishes.

People either choose dim sum dishes from a printed menu or the food is carried on a mobile serving cart by restaurants servers. Traditionally, the cost of the meal is calculated based on the number and size of dishes left on the patron's table. Some modern dim sum restaurants record the dishes on a card at the table. Not only is this tidier, it also prevents patrons from cheating by concealing or stealing the plates, which has been known to happen. Servers in some restaurants even use different stamps so that sales statistics per server can be recorded.


Travelers on the Silk Road needed a place to take a nap, so teahouses began growing up along the roadside. Rural farmers, exhausted after working hard in the fields, would also go to teahouses for a relaxing afternoon of tea. At first, it was considered inappropriate to combine tea with food, because people believed that this would lead to excessive weight gain. However, people later discovered that tea can aid in digestion. Therefore, teahouse owners began adding more variety of snacks, so the tradition of dim sum evolved.

In Hong Kong, and most cities in Guangdong province, many Chinese restaurants start serving very early in the morning at around 6:00. It is a tradition for the elderly to gather to eat dim sum after morning exercises, often enjoying the morning newspapers. For many southerners of China, yum cha is treated as a weekend family day. Consistent with this tradition, dim sum restaurants typically only serve dim sum to the afternoon; other Cantonese cuisine would be served in the evening. Nowadays, various dim sum are also sold in takeaways as many students and office workers' day-to-day breakfast.


Shrimp dumpling or ha gau (蝦餃)

; Dumplings or gau (餃 jiao)

This is a standard in most teahouses. They are made of ingredients wrapped with a tranlucent rice-flour or wheat-flour skin. Though common, steamed rice-flour skins are quite difficult to make. Thus, it is a good demonstration of the chef's artistry to make these translucent dumplings. The most common type is ha gau, which is a shrimp dumpling with transluscent rice-flour skin. There are also dumplings with vegetarian ingredients, such as tofu and pickled cabbage.

Barbeque Bun (义燒飽 xiajiao)

; Bun or bau (飽 bao)

Baked or steamed, these fluffy buns are filled with different ingredients of meat and vegetable. The most popular type is char siu bau (义燒飽 chashaobao), a bun with barbeque-flavoured pork meat and onions inside. It can be either steamed to be fluffy and white, or baked to produce a smooth golden brown crust, with a light sugar glaze.

; Shanghai steamed buns (上海小籠包 Shanghai xiaolongbao)
These "little juicy dumplings" are different in appearance from normal buns, and are famous for its flavor and juiciness. It is meat or seafood-filled. Shanghai Steamed buns are recognizable for their unique design, as the filled wrapper is gathered up into several folds prior to steaming.

; Taro root dumpling (竽角 yujiao)
This is made by mashed taro stuffed with diced shiitake mushrooms, shrimp and pork. It is surrounded by a light and fluffy crispy brown outside.

; Spring rolls (春卷 chunjuan)
Rolled inside a delicate flour skin are various type of vegetables, such as sliced carrot, mushroom and wood ear, making it suitable for vegetarians.

; Lotus leaf rice (糯米雞 rumi ji)
Glutinous sticky rice wrapped in a lotus leaf into rectangular shape. This is steamed with ingredients inside the rice ball, such as an egg yolk, chestnut, pork, and chicken. The leaf itself is not eaten, and is used for flavoring and as a wrapper.

; Rice noodle rolls (腸粉 chang fen)
They are rolls made of rice noodle through steaming. Rice noodle rolls are usually served with different types of meats or vegetable enclosed, but it can be served without any filling. Fried rice noodle rolls are fried after having first been steamed.

; Chien chang go (千層榚 qiancengao)
A special dim sum desert, the "Thousand-layer sweet cake with egg topping" or chien chang go is a piece of artistry as well. From the dim sum name, the cake is made up of many layers of sweet egg cakes.

; Sesame seed balls (麻糰 matuan)
Especially popular at New Years. A dough bread filled with red bean paste rolled in sesame seeds.