Ultimate Guide to Eating Dim Sum in Hong Kong, China & Malaysia

One of the true joys of travel is sampling food for the first time and instantly falling in love. Unlike other exotic foods which are more of an acquired taste, dim sum was love at first bite.

I can still remember trying it for the first time one morning in Malacca, Malaysia at a popular little Chinese tea house. Elderly Chinese ladies wearing aprons pushed around carts filled to the brim with steaming trays releasing a mixed aroma of shrimp, pork, custard and red bean paste.

Men and women engaged in animated conversations at large tables while others sat alone sipping on tea while reading a newspaper.

Audrey Bergner of That Backpacker eating dim sum in Malacca, Malaysia
Audrey Bergner of That Backpacker eating dim sum in Malacca, Malaysia

Not knowing what to order (and without the aid of an English menu) I used hand gestures and pointing to select items that were placed on my table in delicate little trays.

Soon a pot of hot tea was placed on my table. With a tiny tea cup, chopsticks, a small serving bowl and sauce dish I randomly plucked at an ever growing spread of small bite sized food covering my table.

Nomadic Samuel Jeffery eating dim sum in George Town, Penang, Malaysia

Our Guide To Eating Dim Sum In Asia

Dim sum is a delectable style of Chinese cuisine that has become a beloved culinary tradition worldwide. Its origins date back to ancient China, where it was served in the teahouses along the Silk Road trade routes.

The teahouses were popular gathering places for merchants, scholars, and artists who would stop there to rest, socialize and share ideas. As they sipped their tea, they were served small portions of food known as “yum cha” that gradually became more elaborate and varied, giving birth to the tradition of dim sum.

Dim sum gained popularity in the Guangdong region of China during the Song Dynasty, where it was a convenient and quick meal for travelers on the go. Over time, it became an essential part of Guangdong cuisine and spread throughout China and beyond, becoming a staple of Chinese cuisine.

source: Samuel and Audrey on YouTube

Dim sum is a culinary adventure in itself, with an array of small dishes that are often served in steamer baskets or on small plates. From savory dumplings and buns to sweet cakes and pastries, dim sum offers a wide variety of flavors and textures to tantalize the taste buds.

While dim sum is enjoyed all over the world, there is nothing quite like the experience of savoring it in its birthplace, Guangdong. The region boasts some of the best dim sum restaurants in the world, with a range of options that cater to every taste and budget.

Travelers to Guangdong can explore the bustling streets of Guangzhou and Shenzhen, where they will find countless dim sum establishments serving up a delightful culinary experience. For those looking for a more authentic experience, they can visit the rural areas of Guangdong, where they can sample dim sum in traditional teahouses, complete with bamboo steamers and tea sets.

Dim sum is a true culinary gem, with a rich history and an array of flavors that has captivated the world. Its origins in the teahouses of ancient China have led to a tradition that continues to delight and inspire today, making it a must-try for any food-loving traveler.

Nomadic Samuel Jeffery sipping on Chinese tea while eating dim sum
Nomadic Samuel Jeffery sipping on Chinese tea while eating dim sum

What is Dim Sum?

Dim Sum is bite sized portions of Cantonese food served on tiny plates or in steamer baskets.

Traditionally, dim sum is wielded around in carts – pushed from table to table – where customers can select their order from the comfort of their own table; however, these days in Hong Kong, space is at a premium and unless you’re dining at a banquet hall style restaurant, you’re most likely to place your order on an slip of paper where you select your food items on a checklist.

To invite someone out for dim sum (点心 / 點心) is roughly translated in Cantonese as going out to ‘drink tea’ at a restaurant. It’s similar to etiquette in Korea, whereby you’d ask someone out for dinner by inviting them to join you for rice.

The wrDim sum literally translates as ‘touch the heart’ was originally intended to only be a snack; however, it is now a staple of Cantonese dining culture and restaurants can be found all over Hong Kong.

Chinese tea being served with dim sum

Dim Sum Decisions: What to order?

Dim Sum restaurants typically feature a menu with options galore; thus, it can be difficult deciding what to order. To simplify the process try sampling some of my favorites:

Dim Sum: Shrimp Dumplings (Har gow: 虾饺 / 蝦餃)

Shrimp Dumplings (Har gow: 虾饺 / 蝦餃)

These delectable transparent dumplings are stuffed with prawns and were instantly one of my favorites.  Apparently, dim sum masters are judged based on the skill of preparing this particular dish.  It’s such a delicate dish where the skin must be thin and transulucent yet sturdy enough not to spill open its contents when picked up by chopsticks.  This is one of the more expensive dim sum dishes often costing 1.5 times to double the price of others.

Dim Sum: Baked Barbecue Pork Buns Cha siu bao 叉烧包 / 叉燒包

Baked Barbecue Pork Buns (Cha siu bao: 叉烧包 / 叉燒包)

If somehow I was forced to only ever one kind of dim sum to eat for the rest of my life (oh, what a tragedy!) I would select baked barbecue pork buns.  The baked variety (they’re also served steamed) features a crispy exterior that is browned and glazed with light sugar producing a delectable golden crust.  The interior is filled with saturated slices of slow roasted pork tenderloin combined with a syrupy concoction of hoisin, soy and oyster sauce, sesame oil and sugar.  When I sink my teeth into these baked pork buns I just let it roll around and melt in my mouth.

Sticky Rice with Chicken in a Lotus Leaf Wrap (Lo mai gai: 糯米鸡 / 糯米雞)

For those unfamiliar with dim sum, having a large lotus leaf wrap brought to your table could potentially raise eyebrows.  However, for those brave enough to peal away at the leaf wrapper will be rewarded with a sticky rice, chicken, Chinese mushrooms and sauce.  Considered a southern Chinese specialty, glutinous rice forms a base that is filled with chicken, Chinese mushrooms, sausage and scallions.  If you’ve ever tried eating Thai Mango Sticky Rice it is similar in terms of the way the rice is prepared.

Sesame Ball Jin deui: 煎䭔 煎堆 - 麻团 / 麻糰

Sesame Ball (Jin deui: 煎䭔 煎堆 – 麻团 / 麻糰)

Those with a sweet tooth will be rewarded at the dim sum table.  Be sure to try sweet sesame balls, a Chinese pastry, made with a lotus paste filling and crispy outer exterior consisting of glutinous rice flour coated with sesame seeds.

Dim sum set in Malaysia

Complete Dim Sum List:

Here is a complete list of dim sum:

  1. Har Gow (Shrimp Dumplings): Har Gow is one of the most popular dim sum dishes and is known for its translucent skin that wraps around a filling of juicy shrimp. The filling is often seasoned with soy sauce, sesame oil, and other spices, and the dumplings are steamed to perfection.
  2. Siu Mai (Pork Dumplings): Siu Mai is another popular dim sum dish that features a filling of ground pork, shrimp, and shiitake mushrooms. The dumplings are often topped with a small piece of crab roe or diced carrot, and they are steamed until the filling is tender and juicy.
  3. Char Siu Bao (Barbecue Pork Buns): Char Siu Bao is a sweet and savory dim sum dish that features a fluffy steamed bun filled with barbecue pork. The filling is often marinated in a mixture of hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and other spices, and the buns are typically served piping hot.
  4. Cheong Fun (Rice Noodle Rolls): Cheong Fun is a popular dim sum dish that features steamed rice noodle rolls filled with various ingredients such as shrimp, pork, or vegetables. The rolls are typically served with a sweet soy sauce or hoisin sauce.
  5. Lo Mai Gai (Sticky Rice with Chicken): Lo Mai Gai is a savory dim sum dish that features glutinous rice wrapped around a filling of chicken, mushrooms, and Chinese sausage. The filling is often seasoned with soy sauce, oyster sauce, and other spices, and the dish is typically steamed until the rice is tender and sticky.
  6. Turnip Cake: Turnip Cake is a popular dim sum dish that features grated radish and rice flour that is fried until crispy. The cake is often seasoned with dried shrimp, Chinese sausage, and other spices, and it is typically served with a sweet soy sauce or hoisin sauce.
  7. Egg Tarts: Egg Tarts are a popular dim sum dessert that features a flaky crust filled with a creamy egg custard. The tarts are typically served hot and fresh out of the oven.
  8. Xiao Long Bao (Soup Dumplings): Xiao Long Bao is a popular dim sum dish that features a thin wrapper filled with a savory pork filling and a small amount of soup broth. The dumplings are typically served with a mixture of soy sauce and vinegar for dipping.
  9. Bean Curd Rolls: Bean Curd Rolls are a popular dim sum dish that features a tofu skin wrapper filled with various ingredients such as pork, shrimp, or vegetables. The rolls are typically steamed or fried until crispy and are served with a sweet soy sauce or hoisin sauce.
  10. Fengzhua (Chicken Feet): Fengzhua is a popular dim sum dish that features marinated chicken feet that are steamed until tender and juicy. The dish is often seasoned with soy sauce, sesame oil, and other spices.
  11. Wu Gok (Taro Dumplings): Wu Gok is a popular dim sum dish that features a crispy exterior made of mashed taro, filled with a savory mixture of pork and mushrooms. The dish is often seasoned with soy sauce, sesame oil, and other spices.
  12. Haam Sui Gok (Fried Glutinous Rice Dumplings): Haam Sui Gok is a popular dim sum dish that features glutinous rice dumplings filled with minced pork and mushrooms, deep-fried until crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.
  13. Ngau Yuk Kau (Beef Meatballs): Ngau Yuk Kau is a popular dim sum dish that features beef meatballs that are seasoned with garlic, soy sauce, and other spices, and served with a sweet soy sauce or hoisin sauce.
  14. Pai Guat (Steamed Pork Ribs): Pai Guat is a popular dim sum dish that features tender and juicy pork ribs that are steamed with black bean sauce and garlic.
  15. Chiu Chow Fun Gor (Teochew-style dumplings): Chiu Chow Fun Gor is a popular dim sum dish that features a dumpling filled with a mixture of peanuts, pork, and water chestnuts, seasoned with garlic and chili sauce.
  16. Tofu Fa (Sweet Soy Milk Pudding): Tofu Fa is a popular dim sum dessert that features a silky-smooth soy milk pudding, often served with a sweet ginger syrup.
  17. Zhu Chang Fen (Pig’s Intestine Rice Noodle Rolls): Zhu Chang Fen is a popular dim sum dish that features rice noodle rolls filled with pig’s intestine, often served with a spicy sauce.
  18. Lo Bak Go (Turnip Cake): Lo Bak Go is a popular dim sum dish that features a savory cake made with grated turnip, often served fried and crispy, and seasoned with soy sauce and sesame oil.
  19. Dan Tat (Egg Custard Tarts): Dan Tat is a popular dim sum dessert that features flaky pastry shells filled with a creamy egg custard mixture, often served warm and fresh from the oven.
  20. Jjin Jja Ra Myeon (Korean-style Spicy Noodle Soup): Jjin Jja Ra Myeon is a popular Korean-style dim sum dish that features a spicy noodle soup made with chewy wheat noodles, seafood, and vegetables, often served hot and spicy.

Dim Sum Dining Etiquette

Dim sum is a social meal.  Friends from Hong Kong have mentioned the optimal group dynamic is 3-4 people considering dishes typically are served in portions consisting of 3-4 small serving sizes.

If you’re alone don’t let that prevent you from frequenting a dim sum restaurant.  In the past, I’ve gone solo and feasted on many trays of dim sum alone.

If you want to eat more like a local don’t fill up a sauce tray with soy sauce.  Dim sum ‘done well’ doesn’t require sauce.  You won’t notice locals eating at their favorite spot dipping their dim sum in any sauce.

Where To Eat Dim Sum in Hong Kong?

Dim Sum Sqaure (Hong Kong Island)

This small family run dim sum restaurant is located in Sheung Wan.  We’ve typically had to wait for a table.  I’ve never tasted better barbecue pork buns (Cha siu bao) anywhere else.  Try to come in the late afternoon or before lunch hour to avoid the crowds.  Two can dine for 70-100 Hong Kong Dollars

G/F, 88 Jervois Street, Sheung Wan

Tim Ho Wan (Kowloon)

Tim Ho Wan has the impressive distinction of being the cheapest Michelin Starred restaurant in Hong Kong.  High quality dim sum at affordable prices is what brings in people by the droves.  We ended up dining here for the first time with a group of fellow expats based in Hong Kong.  We’ve ended up coming back many times considering it is located within walking distance from our hotel in Mong Kok.

Shop 72, Ground Floor (Outside), Olympian City 2 | Olympian City Mall, Hong Kong, China (Mong Kok)

More dim sum in Malaysia

Other Dim Sum Locations In Hong Kong

Hong Kong is considered by many as the birthplace of dim sum, and the city has an abundance of restaurants serving up this delicious Cantonese cuisine. Here are some of the best dim sum locations in Hong Kong, along with a brief description of each:

  1. Tim Ho Wan: Known as the “world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant,” Tim Ho Wan has several locations throughout Hong Kong, including in Sham Shui Po, North Point, and Central. Their menu is extensive, but their must-try dishes include their famous baked barbecue pork buns, har gow (shrimp dumplings), and pan-fried turnip cakes.
  2. Lin Heung Tea House: This classic dim sum spot has been around since 1928 and is a favorite among locals. Located in Sheung Wan, Lin Heung Tea House is known for its traditional ambiance and old-school service. They offer a wide range of dim sum dishes, including their signature steamed pork buns and egg tarts.
  3. Maxim’s Palace City Hall: Located in Central, Maxim’s Palace City Hall is one of the largest dim sum restaurants in Hong Kong and is famous for its grand interior and stunning harbor views. They offer over 150 types of dim sum dishes, including classics like siu mai (pork dumplings), cheong fun (rice noodle rolls), and egg custard tarts.
  4. Duddell’s: This elegant restaurant in Central is known for its upscale take on dim sum. Their menu includes both traditional and modern dishes, with highlights such as their truffle and pork dumplings and wagyu beef puffs. The restaurant also features an art gallery, making it a unique dining experience.
  5. One Dim Sum: Located in Prince Edward, One Dim Sum is a popular spot for its affordable yet high-quality dim sum. Their must-try dishes include their steamed shrimp and spinach dumplings, pork and shrimp siu mai, and deep-fried sesame balls.

No matter which of these dim sum locations you choose to visit, you are sure to have an unforgettable culinary experience in Hong Kong.

(Dim sum in George Town, Penang, Malaysia. A different experience where push carts are still used to serve customers)

Where To Eat Dim Sum in Malaysia: George Town and Penang

Penang and Melaka are two states in Malaysia that are well-known for their vibrant food scenes, including their delicious dim sum offerings. Here are some recommendations for where to eat dim sum in Penang and Melaka:


  1. Tai Tong Restaurant: Located in the heart of Georgetown, Tai Tong Restaurant is a popular dim sum spot that has been around for over 60 years. They offer a wide variety of dim sum dishes, including har gow (shrimp dumplings), siew mai (pork dumplings), and egg tarts.
  2. Yum Cha Dim Sum: Yum Cha Dim Sum is a modern and chic dim sum eatery located in Straits Quay, a waterfront development in Penang. They offer a range of creative dim sum dishes, including squid ink siew mai and salted egg custard buns.
  3. Aik Hoe Restaurant: Aik Hoe Restaurant is a local favorite that has been serving up traditional dim sum dishes for over 60 years. Located in Air Itam, their signature dish is their steamed char siu bao (barbecue pork buns).

source: Samuel and Audrey on YouTube


  1. Dim Sum Dynasty: Dim Sum Dynasty is a popular dim sum restaurant located in the heart of Melaka city. They offer a wide variety of dim sum dishes, including steamed chicken feet, fried turnip cake, and deep-fried squid tentacles.
  2. Oriental Ria: Located in the Hatten Square shopping mall, Oriental Ria is a modern and upscale dim sum restaurant that offers a range of creative dishes, such as their signature deep-fried durian puffs.
  3. Bei Zhan Restaurant: Bei Zhan Restaurant is a traditional Chinese restaurant located in Melaka’s Chinatown. They serve up a variety of dim sum dishes, including chee cheong fun (rice noodle rolls), lo mai gai (glutinous rice with chicken), and egg tarts.

No matter where you choose to dine, be sure to indulge in the diverse and delicious dim sum offerings that Penang and Melaka have to offer.

Dim sum served in traditional baskets with an assortment of varieties

Where To Eat Dim Sum In Singapore?

Singapore is renowned for its diverse and delicious cuisine, and dim sum is no exception. Here are some top spots to enjoy this beloved Chinese cuisine:

  1. Swee Choon Tim Sum Restaurant: Located in Jalan Besar, Swee Choon Tim Sum Restaurant is a popular spot for dim sum lovers, serving up classic dishes like Har Gow (shrimp dumplings) and Char Siu Bao (barbecue pork buns) alongside unique items like Crispy Prawn Rolls and Fried Mee Sua.
  2. Tim Ho Wan: Originally from Hong Kong, Tim Ho Wan is a Michelin-starred dim sum chain with locations throughout Singapore. Highlights include their famous Baked Bun with BBQ Pork and Steamed Egg Cake.
  3. Imperial Treasure: With several locations throughout the city, Imperial Treasure is a luxurious option for dim sum, featuring high-end ingredients like abalone and bird’s nest in dishes like Steamed Scallop Dumplings and Double-boiled Fish Maw Soup.
  4. Yan Ting: Located in the St. Regis Hotel, Yan Ting offers an elegant dim sum experience with dishes like Truffle Mushroom Bao and Steamed Lobster and Scallop Dumplings, as well as a wide selection of tea.
  5. The Dim Sum Place: This casual eatery in Bugis offers a range of dim sum classics, including Siew Mai (pork dumplings) and Custard Bun, as well as more innovative dishes like Cheesy Lobster Ball and Salted Egg Yolk Lava Croissant.
  6. Asia Grand: Located in the Odeon Towers, Asia Grand offers a wide range of dim sum dishes, from Steamed Chicken Feet to Fried Carrot Cake. Don’t miss their signature Salted Egg Custard Bun!
  7. Crystal Jade: With locations throughout the city, Crystal Jade is a well-known name in Singapore’s dim sum scene, offering classics like Pork and Shrimp Dumplings and Steamed Custard Bun alongside more modern dishes like Baked Cheese Tart and Scallop and Spinach Dumplings.
  8. Wah Lok: This award-winning restaurant in the Carlton Hotel serves up a range of traditional and innovative dim sum dishes, including Fried Dumplings with Prawns and Chives and Baked Barbecue Pork Puff.
  9. Swee Heng 1989 Classic: This casual eatery in Toa Payoh offers affordable and delicious dim sum dishes, including Fried Prawn Rolls and Steamed Rice Rolls with BBQ Pork.
  10. Yum Cha: With locations in Chinatown and Orchard, Yum Cha offers a modern take on dim sum with dishes like Flowering Mushroom Dumplings and Salted Egg Yolk Custard Pau. Don’t miss their cute and Instagram-worthy Piggy Custard Bun!

Dim sum preparation in a basket with rising steam

Where To Eat Dim Sum In Guangzhou, China?

Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is considered by many to be the birthplace of dim sum. Here are some of the best places to sample this culinary tradition in the city:

  1. Tao Tao Ju: Established in 1880, Tao Tao Ju is one of the oldest and most famous dim sum restaurants in Guangzhou. Located in the historic Yuexiu district, the restaurant offers a range of classic dishes like Shrimp Dumplings and Steamed Pork Buns.
  2. Guangzhou Restaurant: With a history dating back to 1935, Guangzhou Restaurant is another popular spot for dim sum in the city. Located in the Liwan district, the restaurant is known for its high-quality ingredients and traditional Cantonese cuisine.
  3. Lei Garden: With multiple locations in Guangzhou, Lei Garden is a popular chain of dim sum restaurants known for its elegant ambiance and delicious food. Highlights include the Baked Barbecue Pork Bun and the Crispy Fried Prawn Dumplings.
  4. Panxi Restaurant: Located in the Tianhe district, Panxi Restaurant is known for its upscale atmosphere and high-end dim sum dishes like Abalone Dumplings and Steamed Shrimp with Chives.
  5. Lianxiang Lou: Another historic dim sum restaurant in Guangzhou, Lianxiang Lou has been serving up traditional Cantonese cuisine since 1889. Located near the Yuexiu Park, the restaurant is known for its fresh ingredients and authentic flavors.
  6. Wuyangcun Dim Sum: Located in the Haizhu district, Wuyangcun Dim Sum is a local favorite for its affordable prices and delicious dumplings. Don’t miss the Steamed Rice Rolls with Shrimp and the Pan-fried Turnip Cake.
  7. Guangzhou Dim Sum Academy: This unique restaurant not only serves delicious dim sum, but also offers classes and workshops for visitors interested in learning how to make these delicacies themselves. Located in the Panyu district, the restaurant is a must-visit for foodies and aspiring chefs.
  8. Taotaoju Xinghai Restaurant: This upscale branch of the Tao Tao Ju restaurant chain is located in the Zhujiang New Town area and offers a more modern take on traditional dim sum dishes. Highlights include the Steamed Crab Meat and Egg White Dumplings and the Baked Pineapple Buns.
  9. Jin Yue Xuan: This elegant restaurant in the Baiyun district offers a wide range of dim sum dishes, including the popular Deep-fried Shrimp Balls and the Steamed Rice Rolls with Beef.
  10. Dim Sum Square: This casual eatery in the Liwan district offers affordable and delicious dim sum dishes in a no-frills atmosphere. Don’t miss the Fried Glutinous Rice with Chicken or the Steamed Shrimp and Bamboo Shoots Dumplings.

Dim sum served with chopsticks and soy sauce

Best Places To Eat Dim Sum In North America and Europe

North America and Europe are home to many excellent places to eat dim sum. This Cantonese tradition is enjoyed worldwide and has inspired many innovative adaptations. Here’s a detailed look at some of the top dim sum restaurants across North America and Europe.

North America

  1. Yank Sing – San Francisco, CA, USA: Yank Sing is a household name in San Francisco when it comes to dim sum. Known for their upscale and modern take on this culinary tradition, Yank Sing’s offerings are impressive. From shrimp har gow, xiao long bao, to the Peking duck, each dish at Yank Sing is handcrafted using high-quality ingredients. The restaurant’s clean and elegant decor also offers an enjoyable ambiance.
  2. Nom Wah Tea Parlor – New York City, NY, USA: As the oldest dim sum restaurant in New York City, Nom Wah Tea Parlor has been serving traditional dishes since 1920. Located in the heart of Chinatown, it’s famous for its old-school charm and delicious dim sum. The “Original Egg Roll” and “Shrimp & Snow Pea Leaf Dumplings” are must-tries here.
  3. Bao Bei – Vancouver, BC, Canada: This modern Chinese brasserie blends traditional dim sum with Canadian influences. The innovative menu at Bao Bei includes items like sticky rice cake with lamb merguez and shaoxing wine, and their sesame flatbread. The warm and inviting atmosphere, along with a notable cocktail program, makes Bao Bei a go-to for locals and tourists alike.
  4. Imperial Lamian – Chicago, IL, USA: Renowned for their hand-pulled noodles and colorful xiao long bao, Imperial Lamian serves up a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. Their modern take on dim sum is elevated by unique offerings such as truffle xiao long bao and rainbow-colored dumplings. The contemporary design of the restaurant enhances the dining experience.


  1. Duddell’s – London, UK: Set in a historic building in London Bridge, Duddell’s offers Michelin-starred Cantonese cuisine and a superb selection of dim sum. Try their decadent Truffle Har Gau or the Crispy Peking Duck Pancake. The restaurant’s interior, which features modern art and elegant furnishings, makes the dining experience even more special.
  2. Orient London – London, UK: Located in the bustling Chinatown district, Orient London serves up an extensive menu of traditional dim sum. Known for its classics like Sui Mai, Har Gau, and Cheung Fun, this restaurant is a popular choice for dim sum lovers. The elegantly adorned dining room adds to the overall charm.
  3. Yauatcha – Soho, London, UK: This Michelin-starred restaurant offers an extensive range of dim sum with a modern touch. The Venison Puffs and Scallop Shui Mai are crowd favorites. Yauatcha’s interior, with its aquarium and blue lighting, creates a modern and relaxing atmosphere.
  4. Canton – Amsterdam, Netherlands: Located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Chinatown, Canton offers a variety of dim sum dishes in a casual setting. The restaurant is particularly known for its steamed dumplings and barbecued pork buns. Its unpretentious atmosphere is inviting, offering a homey feel to its guests.
  5. Dim Sum King – Paris, France: This restaurant stands out with its extensive menu of over 60 varieties of dim sum. The Har Gau and Char Siu Bao are not to be missed here. With its welcoming ambiance and authentic flavor profiles, Dim Sum King provides a great experience to its patrons.

These locations each offer a unique interpretation of the dim sum tradition, from faithful recreations of classics to more adventurous fusion dishes. Regardless of the specific style, all of them provide a great opportunity to enjoy this delicious culinary tradition.

Dim sum stacked on top of each other

Cultural Impact Of Dim Sum

Dim sum, a Cantonese culinary tradition that consists of small, bite-sized portions of food served in small steamer baskets or on small plates, has had a profound impact on global culture, altering perceptions of Chinese cuisine and facilitating cultural exchange. Its influence can be seen across gastronomy, social interaction, business, and even the creative arts.

Cultural Exchange and Global Gastronomy

Dim sum has greatly contributed to the global recognition and understanding of Chinese cuisine. Originally a Cantonese custom, it has spread around the world, facilitating cultural exchange and broadening the culinary horizon. Through dim sum, people worldwide have had the chance to experience Chinese flavors and ingredients. Its global proliferation has also sparked fusion dishes, combining Chinese flavors with local tastes, leading to a more diverse and enriched global gastronomy.

The worldwide spread of dim sum has also influenced other food cultures. For example, the concept of tapas in Spanish cuisine or the antipasto in Italian cuisine are similar to the idea of dim sum, where a meal consists of several small dishes that are shared among a group. This way of eating has now been adopted by many different cultures.

Social Interaction and Community Building

Dim sum has significantly impacted social interactions and community building, particularly within the Chinese diaspora. The tradition of “Yum Cha” (drinking tea), which usually goes hand in hand with eating dim sum, has evolved into a social event for families and friends. It has become a symbol of Chinese hospitality and a way to reinforce social bonds. The sharing nature of dim sum promotes conversation, camaraderie, and unity.

In many Chinese communities around the world, dim sum restaurants serve as important gathering places. These venues are not just places to eat; they are spaces for socialization, business meetings, and even political discussions. They serve as anchors in Chinatowns worldwide, aiding in the preservation of cultural heritage and community identity.

Impact on Business and Economy

Dim sum has also influenced the business landscape, contributing to local economies and encouraging entrepreneurship. The popularity of dim sum has led to a rise in specialized restaurants worldwide, creating jobs and boosting local economies.

The art of making dim sum, which requires specialized skills, has also created a niche market for chefs trained in this particular culinary tradition. In turn, this has led to the establishment of culinary schools focusing on dim sum, further contributing to local economies and the global culinary industry.

Influence on Creative Arts

Finally, dim sum has also had an impact on creative arts. Its unique culinary style has inspired movies, literature, and visual arts. For instance, the 2014 animated short film “Feast,” which won an Oscar, was inspired by the director’s experience with dim sum.

In literature, dim sum has been used as a metaphor to explore themes of cultural identity, family, and tradition. For example, in her novel “The Joy Luck Club,” Amy Tan uses dim sum as a metaphor to illustrate the complexities of mother-daughter relationships and cultural identity.

Furthermore, the intricate design and presentation of dim sum have influenced visual arts and design. The aesthetic of the bamboo steamer baskets, the delicate folding of dumplings, and the vibrant colors of various dim sum dishes are often depicted in paintings and photography, and have also inspired designs in fashion and interior decor.

In conclusion, dim sum’s cultural impact extends far beyond its origin in Cantonese cuisine. It has fostered cultural exchange, influenced social interactions and business, and inspired creative arts, underscoring its significance as a global cultural phenomenon.

Colorful dim sum served in a giant serving tray

Dim Sum Final Thoughts

Dim sum, with its long and rich history, has had a remarkable journey. From the teahouses in Guangzhou in the Canton province of China to global cities like New York, London, Paris, and beyond, it has emerged as an international culinary delight, transcending its gastronomic origins to become a potent symbol of Chinese culture and heritage.

Gastronomic Delight

Dim sum’s appeal lies in its diversity and culinary complexity. Each dish, from the translucent har gow (shrimp dumplings) to the fluffy char siu bao (barbecued pork buns), is a masterpiece that requires skill, precision, and a deep understanding of flavors and textures. The array of choices, whether steamed, fried, or baked, offers a balanced meal that caters to different palates and dietary preferences.

The exquisite craft of dim sum, however, extends beyond the food itself. It embraces the tea that accompanies the meal, enhancing the flavors of the dishes and aiding digestion. This traditional tea-drinking practice, known as “yum cha,” is an integral part of the dim sum experience.

Innovations and fusions in dim sum have also led to a delightful evolution of this culinary tradition, making it a continually evolving art. From plant-based alternatives to exquisite truffle-infused variations, dim sum’s evolution reflects culinary creativity and the fusion of various food cultures.

Cultural Impact

The impact of dim sum extends beyond the gastronomic sphere, influencing social norms and practices. Its sharing nature has shaped the way people interact and connect, transforming meals into social gatherings that strengthen bonds and promote conversation. Whether it’s a family reunion, business meeting, or a casual gathering of friends, dim sum provides a communal dining experience that brings people together.

For the Chinese diaspora, dim sum holds cultural significance. It acts as a cultural tether, preserving heritage and identity across generations. This is evident in the bustling dim sum restaurants in Chinatowns worldwide, where traditions are kept alive, acting as cultural hubs that bind communities.

Economic Influence

The popularity of dim sum has also contributed significantly to local and global economies. The increase in demand for authentic dim sum experiences has led to the rise of specialized restaurants, creating jobs, promoting entrepreneurship, and contributing to the growth of the food and hospitality industry.

Moreover, the craftsmanship involved in preparing dim sum has led to the rise of specialized culinary education, further boosting the economic landscape while preserving and passing on the art of dim sum making.

Artistic Inspiration

Dim sum’s influence also spills over into the creative world. The intricate preparation process, the carefully crafted dumplings, the beautifully designed serving dishes, and even the vibrant, bustling atmosphere of dim sum restaurants have provided rich fodder for filmmakers, writers, and artists. It’s not just a food tradition; it’s an aesthetic and sensory experience that stimulates creative exploration.

In conclusion, dim sum is a multifaceted culinary tradition that combines gastronomy, culture, economy, and art. It’s a testament to the richness of Chinese culinary heritage and its profound influence worldwide. Its widespread appeal lies in its ability to adapt and evolve, yet retain its essence, making it a timeless culinary delight enjoyed by people across generations and geographies. As we look ahead, the journey of dim sum continues, promising more innovation, inspiration, and shared experiences in the global food culture.

Have you tried dim sum before?  What are some of your favorite dishes?  Any favorite spots to eat dim sum?  If you’ve never tried it before is it something that looks appealing to you?

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  1. says: rick

    I love the Dim Sum in Hong Kong, it is amazing to see that even a small tea house at the corner of the street can serve very delicious snacks, no wonder many people regard Hong Kong as a gourmet paradise…

  2. Great post! We luv dim sum – and have enjoyed lots of it on our trips to Hong Kong! We’re also very fortunate that here in Vancouver (Canada), we have hundreds of great Asian restaurants to satisfy our dim sum cravings whenever we want :-).

  3. says: Julia Busch

    I like Sticky Rice becase I like Rice from my childhood ,But I my country peoples did not eat but i like this way thank you for sharing and remanaing me

  4. says: Renuka

    What an awesome cuisine! Dim-sum sounds interesting! I have been to Malaysia once for a few hours, didn’t get a chance to explore its food. But after reading this, I think I need to go back!

  5. says: Majida

    Looks adventurous and tasty. My go would be the sweet one, with the sesame seeds 🙂

    If they would not be sticky, they remind me of the Idli of south India made of Legumes and rice flour, in different varieties, eaten with different chutneys, my favourite being a coconut chutney! They do need a chutney or a sauce to go along, as they hardly have any flavour.

  6. says: Nicole

    Those are some crisp photos of dumplings! We went to dim sum just the other day in Vancouver. And again nearby our house. Love it every time, but we’re kind of thinking Vancouver’s food scene is pretty awesome. =D

  7. says: Mary @ Green Global travel

    Yum! Fabulous post and wonderfully educational videos! Thank you! I have to admit to not really knowing the definition of dim sum 20 minutes ago and to being quite certain that I will now have it for dinner tonight – even if I am far from Asia!

  8. says: Kerri

    Great post – I actually tried Dim Sum for the first time this past weekend in my home city at a fantastic place called Baby Buddha Chinese Teahouse! The pork buns were amazing!

  9. says: Alex | Partial Parallax

    I love Dim Sum so much, although I’ve not been down to Hong Kong yet (I do need to visit) I had some wonderful Dim Sum in Shanghai from street vendors and shops alike. There is so much variety in Dim Sum its great!

  10. says: foongpc

    Yummy!! Drooling at all the dim sums here! I have yet to try Dim Sum Square and Tim Ho Wan in Hong Kong! Must give it a try next time I go there! I love har gow best! Oh yeah, still have push carts at dim sum restaurants in Malaysia but they are disappearing fast! : )

  11. Everything looks yummy. I’ve never had dim sum in Asia but I’ve had tons in Toronto due our large Asian population. It’s so good and such a fun thing to do with friends! I’d totally be intimated to go at one of these meals alone though …

  12. says: Peta and Ben

    We lovvve dim sum ~ it has always been a favorite. We blogged about eating it in Chinatown, San Francisco a year ago. The most fun place that we ate dim sum was Lima, Peru on Christmas day when everything else was closed ~ you can always count on dim sum to delight. Many cities in the world have Chinatowns, worth seeking out. Luckily for us, we are living in SE Asia now, so dim sum like food is all around.

  13. says: SnarkyNomad

    Dim Sum is the absolute greatest thing in the universe for people who have no idea what’s going on and just want to point to things and eat them and they’ll be amazing. I wish other cultures would steal this idea and serve food like this all over the world. I mean, we stole gunpowder and fireworks from them, so why not snag their food serving culture too?

  14. says: Anwesha

    Lovely pictures and videos. They made me salivate. I love dimsum as well. In India, the Tibetan momos are quite popular and commonly found. I love to eat them steamed or fried. 🙂

  15. says: Corinne

    Surprisingly I think this is one of those foodie/travel thingies that I haven’t done, at least done right. I don’t know why. With your handy dandy guide, I think I’m going to have to dive in again. Going to Malaysia in December…I’ll try and find a good Dim Sum restaurant.

  16. says: Agness

    Great guide Sam. You have no idea how much I enjoyed our last dim sum dinner. Next time I need to be more careful as I burned my mouth when trying the fried balls stuffed with mince 🙂

  17. says: Heather

    I love dim sum! My friend’s father is a native Hong Konger and took me to one of the old school places where the ladies still serve the dishes from push carts. Shrimp dumplings and pork puns are two of my favorites, along with deep fried yams stuffed with roast pork. Delish!

  18. says: Maria

    Where I live, Dim Sum is a Sunday brunch favorite… meet your friends and spend a couple of hours catching up – the pace of service and the small bites are perfect for such a gathering.

  19. says: noel morata

    Great overview Samuel,
    I’m a dim sum fan also, but I have to fly to Honolulu or San Francisco to even get my hands on some of these puppies, if you love har gaw, then you would probably also love the deep fried shrimp balls with sweet mayonnaise or even Sui Mai with pork and shrimp…missing it already!

  20. Sam & Audrey, thanks for reminding me how good it was in Hong Kong! My sister and brother in law took me to their favourite places in Central, Wan Chai, Causeway Bay, Happy Valley (HKJC, actually), and Tai Koo.

  21. Handy resource, especially if you are not with a local! I LOVE Dim Sum and especially those moments when you drop something from your chopsticks and you quickly place said food between them like it never happened 😉 I can’t do a lot of Dim Sum in one bite.

  22. says: Kay

    Almost all of my favorite memories of Hong Kong involve food, and with good reason too! The first thing we decided do do once we got to the city was drop our bags and get dim sum out by the harbor 🙂