Yum Cha 101: Chinese Dim Sum Etiquette
The discovery of “yum cha” is like the pairing of two things that were meant to be together, like burgers and fries, coffee and donut, and macaroni and cheese. In Hong Kong, there are so many teahouses sprawled in the rural areas and even the city that you’ll regret it if you have not heard of “Dim Sum“, “oolong tea”, and “dumplings”.
Before embarking on a food journey to the mecca of Dim Sum, you should be prepared with what most Chinese refer to as “Chinese Dim Sum etiquette”. It is best to arm yourself with a lot of knowledge and good manners for your own good and to avoid being ridiculed.
Food Terms to Remember
- Buns – puffy, bread like pastries that are usually filled with savory or sweet fillings.
- Dumplings – chewy, filled with meat or vegetable, and are either pinched closed or left open.
- Meats – can go from chicken feet to meatballs, these are usually placed in lightweight boxes and distributed in small portions.
- Rolls – covered or wrapped in noodle wrap made from rice and are usually stuffed with pork, minced meat and vegetables which are fried to perfection.
Best Dim Sum to Try for Beginners
- Har Gow – light and tasty shrimp-made dumpling inside a rice flour casing, steamed to perfection.
- Shu Mai – pork-based dumpling created to perfection with egg and encased in a flour-made wonton wrapper, steamed to perfection.
- Char Siu Bao – also known as barbecued pork bun, it is a steamed bun with slightly sweet and savory meat filling inside.
- Dan Ta – the Chinese egg tart that is sweet and buttery, making one of the best dessert after a huge serving of dumplings.
- Mango Pudding – cold dessert made from gelatin, mango, and condensed milk.
What to Do and Not to Do
- As a courtesy, it is polite to pour some tea for others first before pouring for yourself.
- Say thank you by tapping the table with your knuckles twice or thrice. This is traditional finger kowtow and it’s the best way to say “thank you for pouring me some tea.”
- While in other countries it is impolite to talk while eating, yum cha is considered as a highly sociable activity so go ahead and be loud. It is the best way to enjoy traditional Chinese Dim Sum.
- Eat with chopsticks or your fingers and enjoy the food. Traditional Chinese yum cha places are happy to see people eating with gusto so there’s no need to be overly technical with food utensils.
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