Dim sum is a Cantonese term for a type of Chinese dish that involves small individual portions of food, usually served in a small steamer basket or on a small plate. Going for dim sum is usually known in Cantonese as going to "drink tea" (yum cha, 飲茶).
Dim Sum is usually linked with the older tradition of yum cha (tea tasting), which has its roots in travellers on the ancient Silk Road needing a place to rest. Thus teahouses were established along the roadside. Rural farmers, exhausted after working hard in the fields, would also go to teahouses for a relaxing afternoon of tea. At first, it was considered inappropriate to combine tea with food, because people believed it would lead to excessive weight gain. People later discovered that tea can aid in digestion, so teahouse owners began adding various snacks.
The unique culinary art of Dim Sum originated with the Cantonese in southern China, who over the centuries transformed Yum Cha from a relaxing respite to a loud and happy dining experience. In Hong Kong, and in most cities and towns in Guangdong province, many restaurants start serving dim sum as early as five in the morning. It is a tradition for the elderly to gather to eat dim sum after morning exercises, often enjoying the morning newspapers. For many in southern China, yum cha is treated as a weekend family day. Consistent with this tradition, dim sum restaurants typically only serve dim sum until mid-afternoon (around the time of a traditional Western 3:00 coffee break), and serve other kinds of Cantonese cuisine in the evening. Nowadays, various dim sum items are even sold as take-out for students and office workers on the go.
While dim sum (point of the heart) was originally not a main meal, only a snack, and therefore only meant to touch the heart, it is now a staple of Chinese dining culture, especially in Hong Kong. Health officials have recently criticized the high amount of saturated fat and sodium in some dim sum dishes, warning that steamed dim sum should not automatically be assumed to be healthy. Health officials recommend balancing fatty dishes with boiled vegetables, minus sauce.
The drinking of tea is as important to dim sum as the food. A popular tea which is said to aid in digestion is bolay (po lai, pu erh), which is a strong, fermented tea. Chrysanthemum, oolong (wu lung) and green tea can be served as well.
Full article ▸