Created on: January 31, 2013
Dim sum is a Chinese method of preparing and serving food in small, bite-sized portions or parcels. In this respect alone, it may be deemed to be similar to Japanese sushi or Spanish tapas. It allows a diner to enjoy a wide variety of flavors and textures at one sitting without over-eating or taking portions from a selection of main dishes.
The origins of dim sum
Dim sum originates from the Chinese love of drinking tea. In the days when trade between China and the West was conducted by traveling along the Great Silk Road, a number of tea houses were built along the way, affording travelers a place to rest and take refreshment. Over time, small amounts of food were introduced to these tea houses in bite-size snack form and the earliest incarnation of dim sum was born.
The development of dim sum
It was the Cantonese people in the south of China who developed the concept of dim sum to its recognizable form of the present day. Dim sum at first would only be served in the early part of the day, still meant as a snack rather than a dinner or main meal and as an accompaniment to the all important drinking of tea. Restaurants were soon preparing and selling dim sum from sunrise to early afternoon, finding it to be popular with the elderly after their morning exercises or with families at weekends or on holidays.
Popular dim sum dishes
Dumplings are a huge part of the dim sum eating experience. The thin skins are made from wheat or rice flour and are used to encase a wide variety of ingredient combinations. Popular inclusions include shrimp, pork and a variety of vegetables, before the formed dumplings are steamed and served with a dip. A great deal of skill is required to properly form these delicate creations and making them is not as easy as it looks.
Bao are small breads, filled with an assortment of ingredients, just like dumplings though more substantial. Fillings also vary, with barbecued pork being a particular favorite. The buns can either be steamed or oven baked.
Although dim sum dishes are forever developing and being made to include an ever wider variety of tasty morsels, other frequent offerings are steamed ground beef dumplings with orange peel, twice cooked and marinated chicken feet and spare ribs prepared and served in a variety of tasty ways.
Dim sum today
Dim sum is now served at all times of day in restaurants around the world. Often, trolleys will be employed to wheel the particular restaurant’s offerings between tables, allowing diners to select first hand their own preferences. Menus may be stamped to show what has been ordered and are used to calculate the check at the end of the meal. Although this represents a major detraction from the origins of dim sum, the tea drinking that inspired its creation is often still a big part of its consumption and should never be forgotten as the true origins of the tradition and concept.
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