Food Focus: Dim Sum

By: Justin Chan

Chinese cuisine in America is often defined by typical dishes such as orange chicken, dumplings and chow mein. Those dishes only represent a small portion of the vast number of culinary treats the Chinese have to offer. Stroll through Chinatown in the vibrant Lower East Side, and you'll find roasted pork or duck hanging in front of restaurant windows and vendors selling mini pancakes made from a gooey batter. Better yet, walk into a restaurant, and you might have the chance to experience a popular Cantonese serving known as dim sum.

Dim sum traces its roots back to the ancient Silk Road, which connected East Asia to parts of Africa and Europe. The trade route allowed merchants to exchange goods but also gave rise to a delicacy that many Chinese families have come to adore. Farmers and laborers would stop by teahouses along the route where they would yum cha (drink tea) and help themselves to dim sum or small platters of food. The Cantonese in Southern China particularly took a liking to the bite-sized edibles, and what used to be a quiet dining experience quickly became a raucous one.

Dim sum can now be found served throughout China's Guangdong province and Hong Kong.  The variety of dim sum platters served has also continuously expanded. Small dishes such as siu mai and beef rice noodle rolls, in particular, are becoming increasingly popular among Chinese and non-Chinese alike. Other types of dim sum include congee, steamed beef tripe and glutinous rice wrapped in lotus leaves.

Don't worry if you can't buy a ticket to the East to try an authentic yum cha experience. New York's Chinatown features several noteworthy restaurants that serve some great dim sum:

Dim Sum Go Go - 5 East Broadway, New York, NY

Vegetarian Dim Sum House - 24 Pell Street, New York, NY

Jing Fong - 20 Elizabeth Street, New York, NY

Ping's Seafood - 22 Mott Street, New York, NY

Golden Unicorn - 18 East Broadway, New York, NY

What's your favorite dim sum?

Photo: Stefan Lins 

For more food stories, follow me on Twitter (@MarcusCooks)