WHAT IS DIM SUM?
The gastronomic southern Chinese tradition, Dim Sum, originates back to the times of the Silk Road travelers. Tea vendors would set up their shop along the Silk Road to serve tea and small snacks to the passing travelers. Back then, it was called ‘yum cha’.
WHAT DO YOU EAT?
Staying true to its origins, Dim Sum, is still small portions of food served with tea, just in a different setting: You can find it primarily at Chinese Restaurants, street food vendors and supermarkets. Dishes usually include various steamed and fried dumplings either with pork, beef, shrimp or vegetables, open-top dumplings, noodle rolls, steamed or baked pork buns, sticky rice, vegetable dishes and egg tarts. Click here for pictures and descriptions.
WHEN DO YOU EAT IT?
In general, Dim Sum is eaten in the morning. In southern China, you can find elderly people go for Dim Sum after their morning exercises as early as five in the morning. Some see Dim Sum as an opportunity for a weekend family brunch at their local Chinese restaurant. You can also find Dim Sum street vendors selling to hungry commuters, resembling the traditional Yum Cha. As the idea of Dim Sum grew popular, supermarkets started to carry frozen Dim Sum that can be recooked in the microwave: A hit amongst young students.
WHAT DOES DIM SUM MEAN TO ME?
Growing up in Vancouver, it was impossible not to go for Dim Sum at least once a month either with friends or family. Although it is a Chinese (Hong Kong) tradition, it was not uncommon to see non-Chinese families going out for Dim Sum as well on a Sunday morning, my family included.
HOW TO DIM SUM
For me, Dim Sum is an experience. It’s definitely an informal, friendly environment and also chaotic with clanking dishes, rolling carts and loud voices. If you don’t go early enough on the weekend, you will find yourself waiting for a table. Many times, I have had to wait with a friend that spoke Chinese because they would call out your number in Chinese and not English. Part of the experience!
Once you got to your table, you were given a list of all the dishes with check boxes along the side to indicate what you wanted to order. The problem is that there are no pictures beside the description. That’s where your Chinese friends come in handy again. Most of the time, I would just get my Chinese friends to order and when I would ask, “What’s that?” They would usually respond with a quick, “Just eat it.” No trust issues there, I ate everything that was put in front of me. Except the egg tarts. I was never a big fan of the egg tarts.
In addition to ordering from a list, there are waiters pushing carts full of hot Dim Sum in bamboo steamers and yelling out what the various dishes are. You can stop them or call them over to add to your order and they will plop the dish down on the table for you and check the item off your list.
By the end of the brunch, I am always rolling out of the restaurant, ready to take a nap. That’s how you know you’ve had enough Dim Sum.
ON THE SEARCH FOR ASIAN FOOD IN ITALY
My husband is quite adventurous for an Italian when it comes to trying new cuisines. When we took him out for this first Dim Sum experience, he loved it. From that day on, he’s always been on the look out for new Asian restaurant openings in Italy.
Finally, he heard from his cousin that she had discovered a restaurant in Milan called Dim Sum Milano. You don’t say! We had to make reservations. As soon as we stepped into the restaurant, I stepped back outside to make sure I got the address right.
This was not your typical Dim Sum Chinese restaurant. The decor was sparkling and fancy, there was barely any noise, no line up, several dining areas, no carts and elegantly-dressed waitresses. The main attraction was the glass enclosed laboratory with its masked food scientists carefully preparing each dish with precision and care.
DIM SUM MILANO – PHOTO REVIEW
We started with some San Pellegrino water and were offered to see the wine list and the menu. No tea? At least the menu had pictures.
Here are some pictures of a few of the dishes we enjoyed:
Needless to say, everything tasted just as good as it looked. The prices are on the higher end, as was expected, and the service was top quality. I understand why owners, Yike Weng and Chiara Wang Pei, made the choice to ‘upgrade’ the Dim Sum experience to suit the Milanese clientele as it is working quite well for them.
Would I go back? Maybe for a special occasion. As much as I enjoyed the food and wine, Dim Sum, for me, will always be the loud, cheaper, Chinese restaurant with the carts and green tea.