Anyone ordering dim sum for the first time might feel a bit overwhelmed with all the available options but that’s where we come in! We’ve put together a list of the most popular dim sum dishes, so the next time you’re thinking about ordering, you’ll be able to tell your dumplings from your steamed buns.
What is dim sum?
Dim sum refers to a large selection of bite-sized dishes that are traditionally eaten for brunch and served with tea. Dim sum dishes come sweet or savory and in a variety of styles which include buns, rolls, wraps, dumplings and even the humble spring roll. Think of it as Chinese-style tapas.
Dumpling dim sum
Perhaps the most recognizable version of dim sum, dumplings are light, translucent, and stuffed with delicious fillings such as pork or veggies. They can be fried or steamed and are often served in sets of two, three, or six. Let’s explore some of the different kinds of dumplings:
Siu Mai – these steamed, open-topped dumplings are made with a wheat flour wrapper and most commonly contain pork and/or shrimp.
Har Gau – traditionally filled with shrimp and bamboo shoots, these steamed flavor-pockets are instantly recognizable by their translucent, stretchy outer skin.
Chiu-Chao Fan Guo – if you’re looking for maximum flavor with a unique texture, these pork, shrimp and peanut steamed dumplings are a great choice.
Siu Luhng Bao – meaning “steamed soup dumplings,” these delicious dim sum are usually filled with crab meat, pork and broth.
Wu Gok – otherwise known as taro dumplings, these lightly fried delights offer a filling of seasoned pork, inside a thick outer layer of taro.
Haam Sui Gau – the pork filling of Haam Sui Gau is encased in a rice dumpling and then deep fried, giving you a crispy outer shell that packs a punch.
Jiu Cai Bau – these dumplings are made of wheat starch, setting them apart from more traditional dim sum. Jiu Cai Bau are usually filled with chives.
Bun dim sum
Unlike their dumpling cousins, the increased absorption and rigidity of the outer buns means that they’re able to hold more fillings. Dim sum buns are usually steamed, making them ultra light and fluffy. Let’s take a look at some varieties of dim sum buns:
Cha Siu Bao – these classic buns are traditionally filled with pork and ooze tangy barbeque sauce, creating the perfect sweet and savory combination. They can either be steamed or baked, depending on your preference.
Cha Siu Sou – these are practically identical to the Cha Siu Bao, however, the barbeque pork is wrapped in Sou, which is a flaky Chinese pastry. If you want extra sweetness in your dim sum, you can’t go wrong with these.
Gai Bao– These buns are normally steamed and contain a mix of chicken, vegetables and seasonal herbs.
Lai Wong Bao – something a little bit different, these hot steamed buns are filled with custard so that they resemble something like a miniature doughnut. Perfect for those with a sweet tooth.
Rolled dim sum
Finally, you have rolled dim sum. This type consists of meat or vegetables wrapped in large rice noodle sheets, which are steamed for maximum succulence. Let’s discover the different types of dim sum rolls:
Cheong Fan – these freshly steamed rice noodles are packed with cuts of beef, pork or shrimp and then drizzled with soy sauce.
Pei Guen – your filling of choice, usually chicken or shrimp, is wrapped in tofu skin and deep fried, creating a crunchy outer layer with a juicy center.
Pei Guen (steamed) – as the name suggests, these rolled dim sum are practically identical to the traditional Pei Guen, the only difference is all the ingredients are steamed together.
Zhaliang – similar to Cheong Fan, with rice noodles making up the majority of the filling. However, in this variation the noodles are wrapped around savory, hoisin-flavored fried dough.