The Dim Sum Guide

Grant YSeptember 7th, 2007
By: Grant Y

If you’ve ever ventured into an authentic Chinese restaurant or have passed by one on the weekend, you’ve probably seen or heard of the phrase “dim sum”. For many people, the strange phrase alone is enough to cause eyebrows to arch, heads to shake and stomachs to become uneasy. While it’s completely natural to err on the side of caution when it comes to new and exotic foods, the good news is that dim sum is probably some of the best-tasting Chinese food that you’ll encounter in your adventures.

So what exactly is dim sum, you ask? It’s been described as the Chinese version of tapas (small plates of Spanish dishes), or small delicacies or snack food. Usually offered during weekend brunch, dim sum is a collection of small Chinese dishes that are usually steamed, baked or fried. Dim sum often features meat dishes, pastries and desserts that you won’t normally see on a restaurant menu otherwise.

Whether you are completely new to dim sum or are an experienced foodie looking to expand your taste buds, our guide will walk you through the perils, pitfalls and joys of finding the best dim sum around. So sit back, relax and let’s begin!

How to Choose a Good Chinese Restaurant

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Chinese restaurant in Seattle

The obvious and most important part of a good dim sum experience boils down to choosing the right restaurant. There’s nothing worse than a first impression, so it’s important that your first dim sum experience be a good one. In general, there is some truth to the fact that Chinese restaurants that serve dim sum are usually better than average. However, the popularity and mainstream acceptance of dim sum have encouraged some less-than-stellar operations to try their luck as well.

Another important thing to do: bring your friends! Dim sum is a group experience that gives you the opportunity to sample and taste more dishes than you would otherwise. Also, there’s a good chance that the restaurant servers will ignore you if you come completely alone on a busy weekend (you’re taking up valuable table space as a party of one) or you’ll be grouped at a table with a bunch of other single diners.

When scouting for a dim sum restaurant, go on a weekend around 11a.m. to noon. This is when the dim sum restaurants are most crowded, but you’re likely to get fresher food and a bigger variety of dishes (you might even see some of the more uncommon dim sum dishes that they wouldn’t normally serve at other hours or during the weekday). Because of the usual weekend crowd around noon, the restaurant prepares the food accordingly to offer the freshest servings possible.

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