Food and Culture

Fillings in Hong Kong Dim Sums

Dim sum served in fine dining establishments is very different from the dim sum served in many restaurants. Dim sum is simply a large array of small Chinese sweet dishes which are normally served either for lunch or dinner in traditional Chinese restaurants. Many modern day dim sum dishes also originate from Guangzhou in southern China, but are now commonly associated with Cantonese cooking and are often referred to as Cantonese food. Dim sum was first popularized by foreigners who were visiting China in the days before the twentieth century. At this time, food from all over Asia was brought to China which resulted in dim sum being one of the most popular dishes in the country. However, due to the social and political turmoil that China was undergoing at the time, many of these travelers were unable to return home and so they adopted new Chinese recipes and introduced them into their new homeland.

In these new dishes, which were mainly composed of simple ingredients such as fruits, meat, rice, nuts and vegetables, dim sum began to be called more accurately Chinese dim sum, which literally means “dish of small plates”. With this new definition in place, dim sum became a more familiar form of western dinning, especially to Americans who were then venturing into China for the first time. Although dim sum may sound like a simple dish, it actually has a number of ingredients which are normally found only in Chinese restaurants: mung beans, sauces, vegetables, meats and seafood. The typical dim sum menu consists of a variety of these ingredients being served on small plates which are then passed among diners while enjoying their meals.

The exact origins of the dim sum have been hard to pinpoint, though some historians have traced its development back to Japan, where it was used as an appetizer during tea time. Over the years, it has become popular among many Americans who find that this simple Chinese dessert is very easy to prepare and make. Indeed, many restaurants boast dim sum on their menus as an added service to attract diners from other countries. Modern day Hong Kong chefs are also learning to incorporate a wide range of fillings into their recipes as the appeal of this simple Chinese delight is growing even further among American diners who are looking for ways to enhance the flavor of their food without having to use a lot of spices and ingredients.