Chinese Dim Sum Lunch
It’s amazing how far Chinese dim sum lunch has come over the years. Although dim sum is still unheard of in most North American cities and towns, if you go to any city that is big enough to have a Chinatown and/or sizable Chinese population, there will be dim sum.
In Canada, cities that have dim sum restaurants include the Greater Toronto area including many where I’m based in Mississauga, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa and Montreal. In the USA, New York, LA, San Francisco and San Diego will have dim sum.
What exactly is dim sum? Well it’s a type of lunch or brunch that consists of many different types of little dishes of dumplings, rolls, buns and other smaller portions of Chinese delicacies that were invented in Hong Kong. So dim sum does not originate from main land China but instead, it is a Hong Kong Cantonese tradition. Typically, it is served only during the daytime hours.
Not every Chinese restaurant has dim sum. Most of the better Chinese restaurants that do serve dim sum specialize in it, ie, their daytime business hours are dedicated to dim sum. Many of the bigger dim sum restaurants have servers pushing carts filled with different dishes throughout the dining areas and customers just select what they want. Other restaurants do not use carts and just rely on customers ordering from menus.
Dim Sum A Cantonese Tradition
When I was a kid growing up in Toronto, I remember that most weekends, families would go to dim sum for brunch. Indeed, this Cantonese tradition continues today but I’ve noticed that there are many more dim sum establishments in the area where I live. Of course this growth is related to the growth of the Asian population.
One really good thing to see is that there are more non-Asians seen in dim sum houses these days. With the growing diversity of many communities, non-Asians have been gradually introduced to Chinese dim sum, usually by somebody from the Chinese community.
At our social Meetup group GTA Free Spirits, we have been doing our part in introducing newbies to Chinese dim sum as well. We usually get together for dim sum every other month or so and we do a circuit of the best dim sum houses in Mississauga. There are currectly eight such restaurants that we rotate through just in Mississauga alone.
Quite often at our dim sum events, there will be a newbie or two who have never experienced it before. So they will join our regulars for quite a feast since with a table of ten people, we will be able to sample many dishes. Indeed, skipping breakfast is well recommended for that day.
Here’s a goofy but fun short video showing myself with one of our regular non-Asian dim sum fans enjoying one of our recent outings.
So if you have never experienced Chinese dim sum before, you really don’t know what you are missing. Get yourself to a city with a sizable Chinese population (Cantonese speaking) and visit a dim sum house.
It’s probably best for the first time to recruit a Chinese friend or colleague who can accompany you to help identify the different dishes for you in order to ease you into the dim sum world, which can be a bit overwhelming (but tasty) when you first walk into a busy venue. The popular dim sum restaurants often have lineups waiting to get in during the weekends so it’s best to go early if on a Saturday or Sunday. Our group meets for 11 am for any of our dim sum outings.