Food and Culture

The Tradition of Making Dim Sum in Chinese Restaurants

dim sum

The Tradition of Making Dim Sum in Chinese Restaurants

Dim sum is an array of exquisite small Chinese dishes which are normally served for lunch and dinner in many restaurants throughout Asia. In recent years, dim sum has become more popular in Western countries, especially in restaurants in major cities like London, where it is usually complimentary. Dim sum is usually served alongside Chinese food in large portions, so be prepared for an overwhelming taste.

Dim sum refers to dishes in different styles of cooking from the traditional Chinese Cantonese style to the more experimental Fujian style of Chinese cooking. Most modern dim sum dishes originate in Guangzhou in eastern China and are now popular in many restaurants in central and western countries including the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Western Europe. Unlike earlier forms of Chinese food, dim sum was often quickly prepared using a fire, as was the case with traditional Chinese cookery. In modern times, some dim sum dishes are still cooked over a fire, but this is not necessary for all of them. The most popular varieties are those which are stir fried or served with Mandarin oranges.

Dim sum was a major part of everyday life for the Chinese people during the prosperous Song dynasty, when there was an abundant supply of grain and other foodstuffs. Although the Cantonese people were the ones who invented dim sum, the tradition still survives today in many small rural kitchens across the country, where the tradition of preparing food by hand continues. Some Chinese language courses teach the history of dim sum to students who want to learn about the history and culture of Chinese food. The current fast paced lifestyle of most Chinese people has however preserved its traditions of preparing dim sum in small amounts so that its presence in our dining areas is not diminished.