Chinese Dim Sum (Siu Mai)

Dim sum (meaning "(to) touch the heart") is a Chinese small bite dish usually served in the bamboo baskets or on the small plates. This dish has a special "bond" with drinking tea, and there is a good reason for it - the dim sum's history. The travelers who went along the Silk Road in ancient China used to stop for a rest at the tea houses. And, since tea helps digestion, it was served alongside bite-sized pieces of food. And that is how the tradition of this dish began. The origins are connected to Hohhot, Inner Mongolia. The dim sum that we know today (in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia) was invented in the 1950s in Guangzhou and then they expanded to Hong Kong. It is Hong Kong's restaurants that were responsible for creating the well-known relaxing atmosphere related to dum sum. They served the tea with the dum sum when the family and friends could talk, drink tea, and have a snack.

Dim sum can be sweet or savory, depending on what kind of filling you use. There are also different types of preparing it - it can be fried, baked, or steamed. The ingredients are usually, pork or mutton, mushrooms, and dough. The dish is not only called dim sum. It has many alternative names like shui mai, sui mai, she mai, shaomai, siu mai, shao mai, etc. They are usually served hot, so they should be served fresh or if they are frozen they should be reheated.

There are so-called "street dim sum" which are sold in mobile carts in many cities. It is a kind of food to eat "on the go" while walking or standing. But many stores and supermarkets have fresh or frozen dim sum in their offer. But the most common way of eating dim sum is in the specialized dim sum brunch restaurants (or teahouses)

Dim sum restaurants

In these restaurants, dim sum is served out of the pushing carts while the customers sit at the tables. So, the tables nearest the kitchen are the most popular ones, because the cart will go past those tables first. Dim sum is typically eaten in the company of others. The more the merrier. For that reason, there are large tables at the restaurants that can take whole large families. It is a fun way to spend some time with family and friends, and nibble something with tea. Kids love going to dim sum restaurants because it is a fun experience with a lot of interesting food choices. Dim sum comes in a lot of varieties and with a lot of different flavors. And they are usually served in the bamboo baskets. So kids and adults enjoy this dish. Many restaurants serve the dish on the trolleys. Trolleys go around the restaurant and you wait for the food to come to you. Those who are a little impatient can choose to go to the trolleys instead of waiting for them to come to the table. It is not common but it is allowed.

Some restaurants still choose not to serve dim sum on the trolleys. Instead, they have the checklist on every table. The checklist contains a lot of different dim sum dishes, So, you tick what you want, and then the dim sum is brought to your table.

The unwritten rule is that dim sum dishes are best enjoyed when you order different dishes at the same time. So, you can try out and enjoy different flavors. Therefore, be sure to include some sweet, dessert versions. You won't be disappointed.

Popular dim sum dishes

Dim sum can be served in different shapes or with different ingredients. Common shapes:

  • dumplings
  • rolls
  • buns and
  • cakes

Common ingredients:

  • meat
  • vegetables
  • seafood
  • rice
  • or as a dessert

There are hundreds of versions of dim sum, and here are some of the most popular ones.

1. SIU MAI (Pork and shrimp dumplings) - shaped into a basket or a cup, steamed and served with mushrooms.
2. CHEONG FUN (Rice noodle rolls) - wide steamed rice noodles, filled with different ingredients, rolled and topped with soy sauce.
3. XIAO LONG BAO - dumplings with the filling made of seafood or meat, but with the broth inside.
4. SPRING ROLL (deep-fried) - roll that has different colorful vegetables inside (and sometimes meat).
5. CHA SIU BAO (Barbeque pork-filled bun) - it can be steamed, in which case they are white in color, or baked until they have a gold color.
6. PHOENIX CLAWS - chicken feet that are fried, or boiled and served with beans.

Teas to serve with dim sum

An important part of the dim sum dish is drinking tea. And there are teas that fit perfectly with the dim sum. Here they are.

1. Black tea - a tea with a strong flavor is the traditional choice.
2. Chrysanthemum tea - herbal, light tea, and lightly sweet.
3. Black and Chrysanthemum tea blend - if you can't choose between the two, why not take the blend and enjoy the combination of the flavors.
4. Green tea - green in color, refreshing, and grassy tea. Maybe it is the safest choice if you are a beginner since the taste is familiar.
5. Shoumei tea - sweet, but a bit bitter white tea made of fresh leaves.
6. Oolong, blue tea - is between the green and the black tea, and therefore, it is often called blue tea.
7. Jasmine tea - tea with the aroma of jasmine, while the base is green tea, white tea, or black tea.

What is gyoza?

It is a popular dish in Japan and they are basically dumplings filled with different kinds of meat and vegetables. Usually, it is pork, onions, cabbage, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, chives, and sesame oil, but there are a lot of variations. Typically, this dish is served hot. They are also known as "pot-stickers" or "jiaozi". The latter is the Chinese word for the gyoza. And China is actually the place of origin of this dish. It is meat and vegetables wrapped into a thin dough, sealed by pressing at the edges of the dumpling. They were "brought" to Japan from China by World War II soldiers. They ate jiaozi when they were in Manchuria and when they came back home, they wanted to recreate the dish.

Anyway, the Japanese gyoza wrappers are thinner than the Chinese version. The reason for it is that the Chinese use the handmade wrappers, and the Japanese use the machine-made wrappers which are thinner. Jiaozi can be boiled, steamed, or pan-fried. When it comes to gyoza, the most popular is Yaki Gyoza or the pan-fried gyoza which is made in the hot skillet in the water and cornstarch. But gyoza can also be boiled (Sui Gyoza) or deep-fried (Age Gyoza).

dim sum in the basket
Yields1 Serving
Dim sum ingredients
 1 tsp Sesame Oil
 3 Dried Chinese Black or Shiitake Mushrooms
 1 Green Onion
 6 oz Large Shrimp - deveined, peeled
 1 tsp Ginger - minced
 ¾ cup Ground Pork
 1 tbsp Oyster Sauce
 ½ tsp Granulated Sugar
 1 tsp Chinese Rice Wine or Dry Sherry
 20 Gyoza Wrappers
1

Chinese food may be one of the most underestimated types of food in the world. This might be because they tend to adapt their flavors and their classical dishes to the place they currently cook at (outside of China). That way, they create a kind of combination of that cuisine with Chinese cuisine. However, there is no need for that, since they have fantastic cuisine with lots of different dishes with unusual ingredients. Dim sum is one of the dishes that are popular worldwide. They are delicious, bite-size, and easy-to-serve. But, it is not that hard to make them, too. Here is a recipe to help you master the homemade dim sum dish.

dim sum in the basket

Soak the mushrooms
2

1. Soften the mushrooms by soaking them in hot water for 20 to 30 minutes
2. Then, squeeze out any excess water
3. Cut off the stems from the mushrooms

shiitake mushrooms

Soak the shrimp
3

1. Soak the shrimp in warm, lightly salted water for about 5 minutes
2. Then, pat dry

shrimp

Prepare the filling
4

1. Firstly, mince the mushrooms, shrimp, and green onion finely
2. Secondly, combine them with ginger and pork
3. Thirdly, stir in the seasonings
4. Lastly, mix the filling ingredients thoroughly and your filling is ready

dim sum filling

Wrap the dumplings
5

1. Lay a gyoza wrapper in front of you.
2. Then, wet the edges and place two or three teaspoons of filling in the middle (keep in mind that the filling should not get too close to the edges)
3. Gather up the edges of the wrapper and gently pleat so that it forms a basket shape, with the filling exposed at the top

filling dim sum

Steam the dish
6

Steam over boiling water until the filling is cooked, which is about five to 10 minutes.

Drinking pairing: Warm Jasmine Tea
Music Pairing: Soft Bamboo Flute Asian Classics

steaming dim sum

 

Ingredients

Dim sum ingredients
 1 tsp Sesame Oil
 3 Dried Chinese Black or Shiitake Mushrooms
 1 Green Onion
 6 oz Large Shrimp - deveined, peeled
 1 tsp Ginger - minced
 ¾ cup Ground Pork
 1 tbsp Oyster Sauce
 ½ tsp Granulated Sugar
 1 tsp Chinese Rice Wine or Dry Sherry
 20 Gyoza Wrappers

Directions

1

Chinese food may be one of the most underestimated types of food in the world. This might be because they tend to adapt their flavors and their classical dishes to the place they currently cook at (outside of China). That way, they create a kind of combination of that cuisine with Chinese cuisine. However, there is no need for that, since they have fantastic cuisine with lots of different dishes with unusual ingredients. Dim sum is one of the dishes that are popular worldwide. They are delicious, bite-size, and easy-to-serve. But, it is not that hard to make them, too. Here is a recipe to help you master the homemade dim sum dish.

dim sum in the basket

Soak the mushrooms
2

1. Soften the mushrooms by soaking them in hot water for 20 to 30 minutes
2. Then, squeeze out any excess water
3. Cut off the stems from the mushrooms

shiitake mushrooms

Soak the shrimp
3

1. Soak the shrimp in warm, lightly salted water for about 5 minutes
2. Then, pat dry

shrimp

Prepare the filling
4

1. Firstly, mince the mushrooms, shrimp, and green onion finely
2. Secondly, combine them with ginger and pork
3. Thirdly, stir in the seasonings
4. Lastly, mix the filling ingredients thoroughly and your filling is ready

dim sum filling

Wrap the dumplings
5

1. Lay a gyoza wrapper in front of you.
2. Then, wet the edges and place two or three teaspoons of filling in the middle (keep in mind that the filling should not get too close to the edges)
3. Gather up the edges of the wrapper and gently pleat so that it forms a basket shape, with the filling exposed at the top

filling dim sum

Steam the dish
6

Steam over boiling water until the filling is cooked, which is about five to 10 minutes.

Drinking pairing: Warm Jasmine Tea
Music Pairing: Soft Bamboo Flute Asian Classics

steaming dim sum

Chinese Dim Sum (Siu Mai)
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