Guangdong: Dim Sum (Yum Cha)

Restaurant: New Port Restaurant
City: Sunnyvale, CA

I had dim sum with 15 coworkers at lunch today! It’s prolly been a year since I had dim sum… The more people in your party, the better dim sum is because you get to order more and have a better variety of dishes. In the SF Bay Area, restaurants serving dim sum is typically held from late morning to early afternoon. Also, many dim sum places are packed on weekends as it’s very popular among Cantonese families, so go on a weekday if you can!

dim sum - 1dim sum - 2

We had a good variety; we had 38 dishes! Here are some of the dishes we had, with a few of them posted individually:

Har Gow – shrimp dumplings
Siu Mai – pork dumplings
Cha Siu Bao – barbeque pork bun
• Cheong Fun – rice noodle roll (typically with shrimp, beef, or bbq pork)
• Lo Mai Gai – glutinous rice filled with various ingredients
Chicken Feet
• Shrimp and Spinach Dumpling
• Deep Fried Taro Dumpling
Pan Fried Rice Rolls w/ XO Sauce
• Gai-lan – Chinese broccoli
• Dan Tat – egg tart

In the U.S. and UK, the phrase dim sum is often used in place of yum cha; in Cantonese, dim sum (點心) refers to the wide range of small dishes, whereas yum cha, or “drinking tea”, refers to the entire meal. The Cantonese Chinese term yam cha or yum cha primarily refers to the tradition of morning tea in Cantonese cuisine exemplified by the traditional tea houses of Guangzhou (Canton). Due to the prevalence of Cantonese cuisine outside China, the Cantonese yum cha tradition can be found in many parts of the world. By analogy, yum cha is also used to refer to morning or afternoon teas in other Chinese cultural traditions, even though such meals have different native names. Similarly to a Western morning or afternoon tea, despite the name, yum cha is focused as much on the food items served with the tea as the tea itself. These food items are collectively known as “dim sum”, a varied range of small dishes which may constitute or replace breakfast, brunch or afternoon tea. (Wikipedia)

The unique culinary art of dim sum (Cantonese) or dian xin (Mandarin) means “a little bit of heart” or “touch the heart” and originated in China hundreds of years ago. Teahouses sprung up to accommodate weary travelers journeying along the famous Silk Road. Rural farmers, exhausted after long hours working in the fields, would also head to the local teahouse for an afternoon of tea and relaxing conversation. Still, it took several centuries for the culinary art of dim sum to develop. At one time it was considered inappropriate to combine tea with food. In the third century AD, Hua To, a highly respected Imperial physician, advised that eating food while drinking tea would cause excessive weight gain. But the Cantonese in southern China disregarded that advice and turned quiet teahouse into a lively eating experience, which is also how the term “yum cha” (to drink tea) became synonymous with consuming dim sum. As tea’s ability to aid in digestion and cleanse the palate became known, tea house proprietors began adding a variety of snacks, and the tradition of dim sum was born. (Nom Wah Tea Parlor)

Cantonese dim sum is a form of brunch stemming from baozi, which originated in Guangdong. First seen in written records from the Yuan dynasty. one story says that shāomai/siu mai (燒賣) were first sold in teahouses as additional refreshments. Like jiaozi, the play on pronunciation applies here. Eating dim sum remains a daily activity in Guangdong and Hong Kong for older generations and a weekend family tradition for eating, playing mahjong and chatting. There are hundreds of dishes available from stainless steel pushcarts. (About.com)

The unique culinary art of dim sum originated with the Cantonese in southern China, who over the centuries transformed yum cha from a relaxing respite to a loud and happy dining experience. In Hong Kong, and in most cities and towns in Guangdong province, many restaurants start serving dim sum as early as five in the morning. It is a tradition for the elderly to gather to eat dim sum after morning exercises. For many in southern China, yum cha is treated as a weekend family day. More traditional dim sum restaurants typically serve dim sum until mid-afternoon. However, in modern society it has become common place for restaurants to serve dim sum at dinner time, various dim sum items are even sold as take-out for students and office workers on the go. (Wikipedia)

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