Dim sum literally means “to touch your heart”, and linked to the Chinese tradition of “yum cha” or drinking tea. It consists of a variety of steamed or fried dumplings and an assortment of other tasteful goodies. It is usually served in bamboo baskets, or on small plates.
The unique culinary art of Dim Sum originated in China many hundreds of years ago. According to some sources the first Dim Sum was made 2,500 years ago, as evident in the poetry and music of that time.
Although Dim Sum is inextricably linked to Cantonese cuisine, it did not originate in Canton. The first Dim Sum is believed to have been made in Northern China and has changed and developed enormously over the centuries. The names of these little delicacies have also gradually changed.
Originally it was an exclusive luxury made for the Emperor and his family, but it was also enjoyed by the wealthy. Eventually it was also served in tea houses, particularly the busy tea houses along the famous Silk Road.
In the early 20th century there were many developments in the world of Dim Sum. The descendants of the Manchurian empire did not need to work so to pass the time they frequented eating and drinking establishments. Tea houses and restaurants vied with each other for business by offering Dim Sum in ever increasing varieties.
Nowadays Dim Sum is an integral part of Chinese culture, and is widely appreciated in many other Asian countries. The filling, pastry and shape depends on the region and climate from which it originates. The tastiest and best, according to many, comes from Southern China, Canton and Hong Kong. Eating Dim Sum at a restaurant is usually known in Cantonese as going to “drink tea” (yum cha), as tea is typically served with Dim Sum.
(Regrettably, despite our vast visual library, I have no original photos on dim sum and as such borrowed the visuals for this blog post off the internet. If any of the four photos belong to you, please let me know and I will gladly remove them from here.)
Continue reading China – part 10 (of 20).