11 Of the Best Dishes You Can Order at Dim Sum

Ah, dim sum. This staple of Cantonese cuisine is a favorite of ours here at NextShark.

Unlike sushi, another popular Asian food option featuring bite-sized morsels, dim sum outside of Asia is generally not “Americanized,” for lack of a better word. No matter where you are around the world, the dim sum you’re picking off those carts is more or less the real deal.

If that’s a little intimidating for you, don’t fear; we’ve put together a little list of the absolute classics of dim sum so that the next time you go, you’ll be able to do more than just point and nod awkwardly to the nice trolley lady.

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1. Barbecued Pork Bun (叉燒包; cha siu bao)

 

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The barbecued pork bun is probably the safest option for beginner dim sum goers to try out. This classic dish consists of a gloriously soft and fluffy white bun, or “bao,” which encloses a sweet and savory pork interior. If you’re familiar with the sweet sauces used liberally in Chinese takeout dishes, this one will be right up your alley.

2. Phoenix Claws (鳳爪; fung zaau)

 

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If there’s one dim sum dish that Westerners tend to avoid at all costs, it’s the phoenix claws. And that’s exactly why it’s on this list: so we can tell you how much you’re missing out on! Seriously, if you can get past the fact that you’re eating chicken feet, these things are delicious.

Typically first deep fried and steamed, phoenix claws are then usually stewed in a mouth-watering black bean sauce with just the right amount of tang to it. Fun fact: chicken feet contain a high amount of collagen, which can help contribute to youthful-looking skin!

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3. Beef Tripe (牛柏葉; ngau paak jip)

 

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Here’s another funky one you might have skipped over in the past. Beef tripe — or stomach lining — may be a rather under-utilized part of the cow in most cuisines, but we think you’ll be wondering why that is after you’ve experienced its delectably springy texture.

4. Turnip Cake (蘿蔔糕; lobaahk gou)

 

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This pan-fried radish dish boasts a harmonious blend between a crispy exterior and a mushy, soft interior. If you’re vegan or vegetarian but your friends dragged you along to dim sum anyway, this is the perfect option for you; just watch out as some places add little bits of sausage or shrimp to up the umami factor.

5. Rice Noodle Roll (腸粉; chéung fán)

 

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These noodle rolls generally come filled with either barbecue pork (the same stuff from the first item on this list), shrimp, beef or veggies. Whatever you choose, drizzle some soy sauce on top and these deliciously slippery rolls will be sure to delight.

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6. Shumai (燒賣)

 

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Shumai is perhaps the most widely recognized dim sum dish, and for good reason. Usually made out of pork and shrimp, this delicious dumpling packs a flavorful punch with each meat-filled mouthful.

7. Har Gow (蝦餃)

 

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Every Batman needs his Robin, and shumai has found hers with har gow (or vice versa, depending on preference), a shrimp dumpling with a gorgeous translucent wrapping. Due to the difficulty of getting the wrapping just right, har gow is generally considered the dish on which a dim sum chef’s competence is judged upon.

8. Lotus Leaf Rice (糯米雞; noh mái gāi)

 

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This highly umami dish is comprised of sticky rice stuffed with a variety of savory ingredients (usually from a selection of chicken, pork, egg, mushrooms and scallions) and served wrapped in a lotus leaf. Be careful with this one, as the amount of rice can fill you up quickly!

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9. Xiao Long Bao (小笼包)

 

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Although traditionally not a dim sum dish, xiao long bao has slowly crept into the canon of dim sum due to its immense popularity. Alternatively known as a “soup dumpling” because of its encasement of hot broth alongside its meat and veggie filling, the burst of the xiao long bao when broken into is truly a one-of-a-kind culinary experience.

10. Sesame Ball (煎堆; jīn dēui)

Dessert time! These cute, sesame-speckled glutinous rice balls are filled with a sweet paste made from either lotus or black beans, and are a perfect way to wrap up an umami-overloaded dim sum meal.

11. Liu Sha Bao (流沙包)

 

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Liu sha bao translates to “flowing filling buns” because of the way the filling — made from eggs and custard powder — literally oozes out like lava when broken apart. These sugary treats are incredibly addicting, and we guarantee you you’ll be reaching for more.

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Feature Image via Instagram / (left) workthework & (right) oceanpalacehouston

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