Dim Sum for Dummies

If you've never feasted on dim sum before, shame on you! It's a culinary adventure that everyone needs to experience. Unfortunately, if you're a dim sum noob, it can be an intimidating and chaotic encounter if you don't know what to expect or what dishes to order.

Dim sum is a style of Cantonese cuisine where food is served in bite-size portions and delivered in steamer baskets or small plates. These dishes are usually put in trolleys so that servers can push the food around the restaurant. When the server reaches your table, you get to choose what you want to eat.

Sounds simple enough right? Wrong. Usually there are multiple carts whizzing by with servers shouting in rapid Cantonese. And if you're dining at a busy time (morning to mid-afternoon), you could also be crammed in a table with strangers. But don't let that deter you from giving it a shot. It's definitely a dining experience unlike any other.

If you aren't a dim sum guru yet, not to worry! Here's my dim sum for dummies guide. Below are the most popular dim sum dishes you need to try.

Har gow 

Har gow are delicious shrimp dumplings consisting of a thin starch skin filled with either whole or chopped-up seasoned shrimp. They are steamed and usually served in portions of four.

Siu mai 

Siu mai are steamed dumplings filled with pork or prawns inside a flour wrap. They'll also be topped with crab roe and mushroom.

Paai gwat 

Photo Credit: Calgary Reviews 

Paai gwat are tasty spareribs that are steamed with fermented black beans and sometimes chillies. Prepare to get a bit messy! The spareribs are served with the bone in, so you'll have to do a bit of gnawing.  

Char siu bao 

Once you try char siu bao, I guarantee you'll be hooked! This popular bun is stuffed with sweet and salty barbecued pork. They are served either steamed (like the picture above) or baked. Be sure to try both! The baked bun is glazed with a crisp sugar coating while the steamed bun is light and fluffy.

Steamed meatball 

Forget having meatballs with spaghetti, have them at dim sum! Ground beef is rounded into balls and then steamed on a bean-curd wrap. They are drizzled with a tangy sauce similar to worcestershire.

Fung zaau (Phoenix claws) 

Photo Credit: Cherrylet

For the more adventurous diners, I dare you to try fung zaau. These are chicken feet that are firstly deep fried, boiled and then marinated in a black bean sauce. They are then steamed making the meat super tender and packed with flavour. 

Coeng fun 

Coeng fun is my all-time favourite dim sum dish. Delicately rolled out steamed rice noodles are filled with a variety of meats and vegetables. The most popular fillings are beef, shrimp and barbecued pork. All are delicious so give any of them a try! They'll also come served with a flood of sweetened soy sauce. 

Lo mai gai 

A savoury rice dumpling, lo mai gai consists of sticky glutinous rice wrapped in a lotus leaf. Inside, the rice holds egg yolk, dried scallop, mushrooms and either pork or chicken. The lotus leaf is steamed which infuses flavour into the rice. 

Daan taat 

Photo Credit: See-ming Lee

Don't forget about dessert! Finish your meal with a sweet and warm egg tart. The base is usually a flaky puff pastry filled to the rim with egg custard.

Bring an empty stomach or many friends because I can assure you, you'll order more than you can handle!  


I’m a Canadian girl on a quest to step foot in every continent before I’m 30. You’ll most likely find me chowing down on Japanese ramen, partying at a music festival, hiking to the top of a scenic lookout, cuddling with cats, or chilling out at the beach. I’ve visited over 60 countries so far and hope to inspire you to do the same.

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