A Foodie’s Guide to the Different Types of Dim Sum

Different Types of Dim Sum

At the end of the day, there is sometimes nothing more delicious and comforting than a serving of dim sum. So, it’s time for yumcha 飲茶!

What is your favorite type of dim sum? Or rather, do you even know the different types of dim sum? 

If you are not familiar with the types of dim sum, you’ve come to the right place. Learn from this guide, and you’ll be recommending common types of dim sum to your friends in no time. 

What Is Dim Sum?

Originating from the Canton region (Hong Kong and parts of southern China, such as Guangdong province), dim sum is a steamed dumpling. 

When you eat dim sum, you’re typically supposed to share it with those with who you share your table, such as your family. 

You can translate dim sum as “to touch the heart.” In older days, it was served in teahouses (chalou 茶楼 in Mandarin and caalau 茶樓 in Cantonese). 

When brought over to the United States and other countries, dim sum also came to mean Chinese restaurants that served bite-sized meals or appetizers. This includes dumplings but also expanded to other smaller meals. 

Common Types of Dim Sum

There are many different types of dim sum you can try. Here’s a non-comprehensive list of the best dim sum. 

Steamed Soup Dumplings

Steamed dumplings are the original dim sum dish. In Mandarin, it is pronounced xiao long bao (小笼包) and in Cantonese, you pronounce it siu luhng bao (小籠包). 

These steamed dumplings are soup dumplings. There is a bit of soupy juice within the dumpling itself. What you have to do is break open the dumpling with your teeth and suck out the juice before putting the rest of the dumpling in your mouth. 

Xiao long bao is a tasty meal and treat. The inside of the dumpling usually holds pork but can also hold shrimp, beef, and other flavors. 

Are you looking for the absolute best xiaolongbao in the United States? The XCJ has your back! Short for Xiao Chi Jie 小吃街, translated as “street food,” you can order these authentic frozen Chinese soup dumplings from anywhere in the U.S.

Steamed Pork Buns

Pronounced as char siu bao 叉燒包 in Cantonese, these are different than the steamed dumplings. With these, the meat is still in the middle, but it is encased in a bun, not a dumpling. The texture is more similar to bread. 

These are delicious and are often filled with barbecue pork. What goes in that barbecued pork? A variety of oils and sauces help tenderize the pork. Yum! 

Chicken’s Feet

Many countries worldwide eat chicken feet. Eating chicken feet in the U.S. isn’t a huge practice, but it does happen. Dim sum restaurants may serve chicken feet, or fung jeow (鳳爪), as part of dinner dishes. (In Mandarin, it is pronounced feng zhua 凤爪). 

The chicken feet at dim sum restaurants are spiced and marinated to delicious goodness. Eating chicken feet is also arguably pretty good for your health too. 

Har Gow/Xia Jiao aka Shrimp Dumplings

Har gow 蝦餃 in Cantonese or xia jiao 虾饺 in Mandarin are shrimp dumplings. These shrimp dumplings, however, are translucent, meaning you can see a bit of what is within the dumpling itself. 

It is smooth on the outside and very chewy once you bite into it. 

Har gow is often what chefs specializing in dim sum are judged on. Chefs must make sure that the flavors come out in the dumpling, as well as that the translucent dumpling wrapper doesn’t stick to the paper of the basket. Otherwise, it will undo the whole dumpling. 

You should pop one of these dumplings into your mouth and eat it within one bite. When made, they cannot be too full that people cannot eat it in one mouthful. 

Siu Mai (or “Open” Dumplings)

Get your open-air dumplings here! Everyone loves a good potsticker, but did you also know you can eat open dumplings?

In Cantonese, they are called siu mai 燒賣 and are one of the traditional dim sum dishes. You can put different ingredients into these open dumplings, such as:

  • shrimp
  • pork
  • scallions
  • mushrooms
  • bamboo shoots

With all of these potentially delicious combinations, you’ve got yourself one tasty and good-looking dumpling. It is cool to see the inside of a dumpling while you eat it as well since other dumplings are packed closed!

Rice Noodles

Rice noodles are called cheong fun 肠粉 in Cantonese, and they sure are delicious. 

These are made up of steamed rice flour water and then combined with ingredients such as pork, shrimp, or bean curd. To finish it off, top it with soy sauce. 

Rice noodles are a classic favorite when it’s time for yum cha, or going for dim sum. 

How to Order Dim Sum

Now that you know a few different types of dim sum dishes (but there are so many more that you should try too), you need to learn how to order dim sum.

First, you may order tea. 

After that, you can choose several different dim sum dishes. Be prepared to share too: when you eat family-style, as is the traditional way to eat dim sum, then you and the people at your table share every dish. There are no individual meals because everyone tries everything. 

Types of Dim Sum

Now that you are more familiar with what dim sum is, the types of dim sum, and how to order it, you are ready to sit down and fully enjoy it. 

From traditional xiao long bao to rice noodles, you are sure to find several dishes for you and your group of family and friends to savor. 

Want to read more Food & Culinary pieces? Check out the rest of our website for more posts like this one! 

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