A really good friend of mine defined dim sum as something you can eat with tea. But as a tea lover, I already eat a bunch of stuff with tea. (I didn’t instantly get it until I researched it.) We agreed on one thing though – they’re the ones served by cart in those small round steamers.
Like a dedicated amateur foodie, I went to the one website where you can find all the things you want to know about food. Why yes, the Jamie Oliver website. Perfect. I did check some ~journal articles~ on food to confirm whether Jamie Oliver was lying or not.
Dim sum means ‘to touch the heart’. I honestly have no idea why a word that means such is related to food. Some people think it’s because there is an overwhelming number of bite-sized foods to choose from. Since it is also often related to a tea activity called yum cha (drinking tea), it’s called such because drinking tea almost feels like filling your heart with warmth
So let’s get on with it. I will be showing you 5 dishes I love, how I eat it, as well as where to get them! Sorry, I don’t frequent Binondo or Ongpin 🙁
Siu Mai (siomai)
What: Ground pork is wrapped in thin dough before being sent to the bamboo steamers. If you’re not allergic to seafood, siomai can also come in pork & shrimp, which is my favorite.
How: Just dip and eat! I prepare a dipping sauce with calamansi, Kikkoman soy sauce, and chili garlic. I wouldn’t substitute chili garlic for siling labuyo though.
I recommend a light soy sauce that isn’t as strong as the ones used for adobo (the really thick dark-colored one).
Where: Golden Chopsticks, hands down.
No extenders, only fresh ingredients.
Har gow (hakaw)
What: Hakaw is a steamed dumpling made with shrimp wrapped in a thin a translucent wrapper often referred to as crystal skin.
How: Just like eating siomai. I prepare the same dipping sauce, and eat the dumpling in one bite. Restaurants in China usually serve the two together.
Where: Causeway or King Bee
I tried the Hakaw they sell frozen in supermarkets, but it just doesn’t beat the ones that are freshly made.
I heard that a good hakaw should be flavorful, despite being just shrimp wrapped in thin dough. And that the dough should be sturdy enough so it won’t break while using chopsticks.
What: It is barbecued pork wrapped in a fluffy cloud-like bun called bao. Unlike the previously mentioned dim sum, you can’t eat this in one bite. It’s like the size of small sandwich that you eat… just like you would a sandwich. In the Philippines, this bao is usually filled with meat, but it’s considered a ‘special’ siopao if it has duck egg in it like a mooncake.
How: Siopao is always served with this sweet sauce. Take one bite until you reach the meat part and pour the sauce. It seems excessive but for each bite, I always put sauce!
Story time! When I was little, I’d only eat the bao bun. It was like eating sweet bread that you dip in some sauce. I would discard the meat part and have my mom or grandma consume it.
Where: Kowloon. I’m sure it’s not the best since I haven’t really been going around Manila for siopao. Though for the price, it’s sulit.
For baked barbecue pork buns, I recommend Tim Ho Wan. They serve it warm, but I don’t enjoy it that way because it gets crumbly. Instead, I prefer it in room temperature. I don’t know, it’s probably because it mimics the usual siopao? Try it!
Mantou (Chinese steamed/fried buns)
What: It’s only recently that a Chinese friend informed me that there’s a dim sum called mantou. Mantou is what you get when you take the meat out of the siopao. This fluffy white bread is also steamed, sometimes fried, and I only get to eat it in 12-15-course lauriats.
How: Eat it like how you instinctively would. Pick it up with your hands, poke it with a fork, chopsticks, a spoon even. Anything!
Where: Gloria Maris. I don’t think mantou is always around the city, unlike siomai and siopao. You can check your favorite Chinese restaurants but I would really recommend the fried mantou in Gloria Maris (though it’s expensive).
What: It’s sticky rice like suman filled with savory filling, usually shredded pork. This triangular shaped dim sum is wrapped in banana or bamboo leaves, then boiled or steamed.
How: Have it with lots of sweet tomato ketchup. It seems like a strange combination but surprisingly it works. My friends recommend having it with hot sauce or Sriracha too.
Where: Not sure, because they’re given to us most of the time. Some recommend to try Ongpin, and your nearest Chinese restaurant that’s not Chowking.
I haven’t eaten all the kinds of dim sum in this world. I’d love to though. I did tell myself that if I was only given one kind of food to eat for the rest of my life, it would be dim sum.