Dim sum covers many tiny delicacies – dumplings, meat balls, spring rolls, buns and spareribs. Guo qian ceng, for example, is a large glutinous rice dumpling, filled with duck, preserved egg yolks and mushrooms, and wrapped in lotus leaf shape. Guang dong gao is a steamed dumpling stuffed with minced pork and chicken soup. Feng zhua is deep-fried chicken feet. Theres courses are followed by sweets like Dan ta (tasty custard tarts) and Nuo mi zi (coconut snowballs). Dim sum dishes are said to number over a thousand in all.
Dim sum restaurants in Hong Kong are usually very large – some seating thousands – yet there are also some small but renowned ones. To some people dim sum is any time after 4 am; in Hong Kong it’s usually available in the restaurants from about 7 or 7.30 am up until 3 pm.
The food comes in small round bamboo baskets or in wooden pots. These are stacked on trays or trolleys which are brought round to the tables. As the waitresses do the rounds they call out the name of the dish and if you like what you see, try it. Dim sum dishes cost a few dollars for each container and the bill is reckoned by tallying the empties on your table at the end of the meal.
Yin cha, strictly speaking, is what you do with dim sum – it means to drink tea. It also means to have dim sum – the two go together. A pot of tea will be brought, and when you need more, just take the lid off the pot, place it over the rim and the handle, and you’ll get a refill. In Hong Kong there are three types of black tea: Qimen from the north, oolong from the south and orange pekoe. There are also green and sweet-scented jasmine teas.