My understanding of the Chinese language consists of ordering dim sum and counting to number ninety-nine. I’ve never learned how to say one-hundred. But that’s okay, these two things are all I need to know.
Being a Chinese-American and from San Francisco, I’ve been eating dim sum all my life. Eating dim sum, or yum cha, is not just the act of consuming miniature-sized food. We talk, we eat, we share. It’s an event where family and friends get together to share an experience.
One of my pet peeves is sitting at a Chinese restaurant and watching people order the wrong things. No, walnut prawns is not a dim sum dish. Stop ordering that during dim sum. It’s deep fried and soaked in mayo and that’s just a terrible thing to eat for a meal that’s supposed to be breakfast. So, I’m writing this post to share with you what I enjoy eating during at a dim sum restaurant.
Here are some Dim Sum classics:
- Cherng Fun with Beef – My dim sum experience isn’t complete until I have this dish. Soft thin sheets of rice noodles are wrapped around really tender ground beef and topped with a light, sweet soy sauce.
- Siu Mai (or Shumai – Pork Dumplings) – If you look around at all the tables with Chinese people, you’ll find this on every table. It’s a classic dim sum dish. Think of it like a pork and mushroom meatball wrapped in a won ton wrapper. Not my top choice of dim sum dishes at most restaurants, but I will almost always get it at Yank Sing. It’s super good there.
- Har Gow (Shrimp Dumpligs) – Like Siu Mai, this is another classic dish. This shrimp dumpling is wrapped with a translucent, chewy wrapper made from tapioca powder. Dunk these in hot sauce and you’re golden.
- Lo Bak Goh (Turnip Cake) – I love this stuff! Similar to potato pancakes, these are made with rice flour and sliced turnips. Soft and gooey on the inside and crispy on the outside.
- Lo Mai Gai (Sticky Rice) – Wrapped in banana leaves, these soft, sticky rice balls are filled with mushrooms, Chinese sausage and pork. If you’re not full from the little dumplings, order this dish. It’ll fill you up.
If you’re adventurous…
- Fung Jow (Chicken Feet) – I know, the thought of eating chicken feet is just disgusting, but trust me, it’s good. These little brown feet are deep fried then braised in a sweet, ginger sauce.
- Ngau Tou (Steamed Tripe) – Don’t confuse this with the brown sponge-like tripe. These thin strips of white tripe are crunchy in texture. The tripe itself is tasteless, but it’s steamed in a light ginger broth.
If you’re not adventurous at all…
- Guk Bao (Baked Char Siu Bao) – This barbecue pork bun is baked golden brown with a sweet glaze on top. From experience, all children love these.
- Jin Deui (Sesame Balls) – Sesame balls are chewy, crispy balls made from glutinous rice flour tolled in sesame seeds and filled with lotus bean paste. The best ones I’ve ever had are from Yank Sing Restaurant in San Francisco. Trick is to ask for fresh ones so that they’re still warm and soft from the oven.
- Mango Pudding – I could eat mango pudding all day. The best kinds are rich, creamy and loaded with chunks of mangoes.
- Dan Tat (Egg Tart) – Egg Tarts are like mini egg custard pies. Light, crispy crust filled with a silky smooth egg custard. So good!
So, there’s my list of favorite dim sum dishes. Also, everything tastes better with hot sauce. My favorite is the chili sauce from Yank Sing. I usually unload a whole bottle in one sitting!