Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dim Sum

Today I accompanied Keegan and the rest of the NIS kindergartners and parents to a dim sum restaurant as a special excursion prior to the approaching Chinese New Year holiday. 

I have never had dim sum before, so it was all new to me. Thankfully, the other mothers at my table were very patient explaining the history and the recipes and the procedure to me. So now I can share it with you!

The assortment of delicacies that made up our Chinese dim sum had been pre-ordered to save time, but one of the teachers printed this menu from which the children could pretend to order. 

Dim sum is the name for the Chinese cuisine which involves a wide range of light dishes (what we would call appetisers) served alongside Chinese tea. It literally means "touch the heart", possibly because you select to your heart’s desire what you want from a wide variety of choices.

Originally just a snack, dim sum is now a meal in its own right and a staple of Chinese dining culture, especially here in Hong Kong. It is usually served in the mornings until noon time at Chinese restaurants, such as the one we went to in Tai Po.

My table setting consisted of a little tea cup, a bowl, a small plate, a soup spoon and a pair of chopsticks. The food was served  in small steamer baskets stacked high one above another or on small plates which were placed on the lazy susan (revolving turntable) in the middle.

Most of the dishes were either steamed or deep-fried. They were all small portions and included meat, seafood, vegetables and dessert. 

I was pleased that Keegan tried a bit of everything, but he definitely had his favourites, namely the steamed beef meatballs and the sweet Malay cake. 

True to form, Tirzah ate everything that was given to her. Her favourite food was the sweet egg bun; she ate two.

I received many strange looks for refusing any hot tea to drink (What? No tea with dim sum? That's sacrilegious!), but I used the excuse that Tirzah was on my lap and might burn herself.

Keegan's Chinese teacher explained to me that the way to express gratitude to someone who has poured you tea is not verbal, but instead, a slight physical action.  There's no need to say "thank you" aloud, you just tap your two index fingers on the table.  This was very useful because it was very loud in the Chinese restaurant, and a verbal "thank you" may have gone unheard, or our mouths might have been full of food, or we might have been engaged in conversation.  The practice, Keegan's teacher explained, emerged from a story about an ancient Chinese emperor who decided to travel incognito around his kingdom. The Emperor dressed in normal clothing and was accompanied by two of his ministers. When the Emperor went into a teahouse to drink and eat some dumplings he surprised his ministers by pouring tea for them (a high honour). The ministers couldn't bow in gratitude and risk exposing the Emperor. Instead they bent their two fingers and tapped them on the table, which looked like a person kow towing. I love this idea and think that it would appeal to many of my Deaf friends too.

I enjoyed the whole dim sum process. I liked the informal atmosphere in the restaurant, the fact that no one minded if food and drink spilled on the tablecloths, and I especially liked the crispy deep fried wonton with shrimp in the middle.We will definitely be dim sum-ming here in Hong Kong again!


  1. Looks wonderful - it's making me feel hungry!

  2. I love dimsum. Have your children been given any red envelopes yet, for Chinese New Year? We use to get them when was young. In Melbourne, our church had a large Asian community and we would often celebrate Chinese New Year with them and receive the red envelopes. Kong He Fat chou. (dont know if that is how you spell it!!)

  3. I love dim sum...especially anything steamed!