Every time I tell my friends that we eat dim sum often, they give me a shocked look and say “Really?” I think most people hear dim sum and think it’s all tripe and chicken feet. Now don’t get me wrong, you definitely can eat both of those at most, if not all, dim sum restaurants. You can also eat some great dishes that most of your picky eaters will enjoy. In fact, Evan and I insisted that we go to dim sum when we came back to Calgary from our RV trip through the US.
I will pause for a second and say that if you have a shellfish allergy and/or don’t eat pork, dim sum may not be for you. You can definitely still eat it but you may have a tougher time picking dishes. Nicole has a shellfish allergy and she generally skips going with us to dim sum. While there are lots of non-shrimp dishes, I worry about cross contamination too much to be 100% comfortable with it. Okay…back to the post.
Here are a few of our favorite family friendly (ish) dishes that we order almost every time we go to dim sum:
Steamed BBQ pork buns – Char Sui Bao. I love these sweet buns filled with chopped bbq pork. These are a great introductory dish because the bread is sweet and yummy. Evan ate just the bread for the longest but now eats the whole thing.
Pork and Shrimp Dumplings – Siu Mai – These are mine and Dewey’s favorite dish. They are topped with a bit of fish roe. They are a savoury delight that you will love if you like shrimp.
Shanghai Soup Dumplings – Xiao Long Bao. These dumplings are filled with soup and a pork meatball. I love them because they have a hint of ginger as well. They are served with a small dish of vinegar which really sets off their taste so don’t skip it. Soup dumplings are Evan’s absolute favorite dish. Be careful, though, the soup may be very hot and burn your mouth.
BBQ Pork or Shrimp in Rice Crepe – Cheong Fan – This pic is of the bbq pork version. Both are delicious. Evan likes this dish a lot, especially the noodles.
Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaf – I decided to take a pic of what the rice inside looks like instead of the lotus leaf. Imagine a packet of rice in a big green/brown leaf inside a steamer basket. Inside is glutinous rice mixed with Chinese sausage, ground pork. mushrooms, possibly a dried shrimp or two (but usually not…unless you are at U&Me in Calgary), egg yolk and bbq pork. We all love this dish and we have our favorite parts. For me it is the big chunk of mushroom (seen above), for Dewey it is the Chinese sausage while Evan loves the rice with as little of anything else as humanly possible.
Red Bean Paste Balls – Jian Dui – These are my absolute favorite dessert. We rarely get them, though, because I am usually too stuffed. They are deep fried dough filled with red bean paste (tastes a bit like peanut butter) and rolled in sesame seeds. Delicious!
Shrimp Toast – Exactly like it sounds. Minced shrimp smeared on toast and deep fried. Delicious!
Shrimp Dumplings – Har Gow – (Bottom left in the pic below) Shrimp wrapped in dumpling. That’s it but they are oh so good.
Steamed Sweet Cream Buns – (Bottom right in the picture below. They almost always have a yellow dot on top of the bun.) Sweet egg cream inside sweet dough very similar to that used in the steamed pork buns.
One of the things I most like about dim sum? It is the same (or very similar) everywhere. When we were in Thailand and Evan was feeling a bit meh about eating more Thai food? We went to Chinatown and ate Dim Sum. It was kind of funny because we went into a restaurant and they led us up to the “white people section”. They looked super surprised when we asked for the dim sum menu. 😉 That’s a pic of our lunch above.
Things to know about Dim Sum:
- Most dishes are served 3 or 4 pieces to a basket. If you are new to dim sum, order one each of 4 or 5 dishes for a family of 3. That way you don’t have a ton of something you don’t like.
- Dim Sum restaurants may be all carts (where the push dishes around to you for you to choose), menu (where you order what you want), steam table (where the most popular dishes can be picked up from a server at a steam table) or a combination of all. If you are confused, just ask. If it is your first visit, I reccomend going to a restaurant with carts. It is easier when you can see what you are ordering.
- When you need to ask, realize that everyone may not speak English. The person that works the front desk definitely does, your server probably does, the person pushing a dim sum cart…maybe and the person bussing tables most likely does not. This is a sweeping generalization but it will help figure out who to try to get the attention of. (And this is based on our experience in many restaurants in North America. In Asia….good luck.)
- You will usually get hot tea to drink when you sit down. If you want other drinks or water just ask.
- If you don’t see one of the dishes above and you want to try it, ask for it. Today, we didn’t see soup dumplings on the carts. We asked and they made it for us. We had to wait but they are Evan’s favourite so it was totally worth it.
- We enjoy our dim sum with hot sauce and soy sauce. Ask for both if you want them.
- They will bring you a fork if you need one, just ask.
- Don’t sit and wait for then to come ask if you need anything. It may not happen. It is totally acceptable to wave someone down…nicely.
- Dim Sum is generally a brunch or lunch thing. Few restaurants serve it after around 3pm. Don’t be put off by a wait if you go on the weekend. They usually go pretty fast.
Great Dim Sum Restaurants in Calgary that we enjoy include U&Me (menu only), Silver Dragon (carts or menu depending on time of day), Regency Palace (carts and steam table, menu later) and Forbidden City (carts and/or menu). Each has its own pluses and minuses. All of the pictures above (except for the Thailand picture) are from U&Me or Silver Dragon.