1. How to spot a good dim sum parlor
As new dim sum teahouse pop up, it’s hard to tell if a dim sum place is legit. To get the best dim sum, don’t go for the fancy Americanized looking places where it’s decked out like a scene from Rush Hour. Those are just money-sucker and you get the generic dim sum. The good ones are the ones in Chinatown. Find your local Chinatown, and then scout out ones where there’s a bunch of people waiting outside. Good Asian restaurants are all about word-of-mouth and if you see a crowd waiting, you’ll know it’s a decent place.
2. Clean your plates & utensils with tea before use
Not to say that dim sum teahouses aren’t sanitary (they’re kind of not) but it’s more of a common practice. The legit places assume you’ll follow this practice, so just do a quick wipe down to make sure there’s nothing that’ll give you the runs later.
3. Don’t fall for the chef’s special
Dim sum teahouses usually offer chef’s specials and these are catered to dim sum newbies. These dishes will have really fancy ingredients to them like “Deep fried lobster claw” or “Roasted pork ribs”. OR they’ll sell it as “Fresh new item, really good!” Not to pop your dim sum cherry, but these dishes usually are left over ingredients from their dinner menu and they’re just selling it as special daytime dim sum items. Just stop ordering deep fried lobster claw. It’s not dim sum.
4. Order the chicken feet
You can’t truly say you’ve dim summed if you haven’t tried the chicken feet. Chicken feet are not some exotic food. It’s actually a very common item found in soups and eaten as an appetizer. Just because they’re chicken feet doesn’t make it gross. I’m not asking you to have a foot fetish. I’m just saying, don’t imagine a chicken walking around on its feet. I mean, do you ever think about how a chicken egg comes out from the same place it poops? No. So, make peace with it. Close your eyes and eat it.
5. Don’t question it. Just eat it.
You’ll know you’re at a good dim sum teahouse if you don’t understand half of the words that your dim sum server is saying. 99% of the good places hire native Chinese speaking employees and quite honestly, some of the dim sum items cannot be translated. Just know that you don’t need to know what you’re really eating but that it’ll be good and weird and it won’t kill you.
6. Cheap prices ≠ bad food
Dim sum teahouse price their items as small, medium, large with a slight price difference between each level. Each level represents the level of intricacy of the dish. The best way to dim sum is a 50-30-20 ratio. Most of your dishes should be in the small level, a few in the mid, and then a couple in the large. The secret to dim sum is that the small level (cheapest) dishes are actually the best ones.
7. Take your sweet ass time
If you look around, most people go to dim sum teahouses on the weekend to enjoy a good cup of tea with their newspaper and then a dim sum dish here or there. It’s meant as a delicacy to enjoy for a long period of time. So take your time too. Don’t order everything at once from one trolley or one server. Pick and choose and wait for other dim sum trolley to roll over. They’ll always come back and may even come back with a fresh batch of goodies!
8. Talk really loudly and make a scene –no one will notice
People tend to talk really loudly at dim sum teahouses and that’s actually normal. Dim sum teahouses are meant to be loud. It tends to sound like an angry mob of people yelling at each other. Dim sum is a time for extended families or friends to get together and break news. Of course, that’ll trigger everyone to have a piece to say.
9. Fight for the bill
Fighting for the bill is a tradition of dim sum because it basically determines who has bigger balls. No seriously, whoever wins the tab and pays has the bragging right about their financial status. It’s all about ‘em dollar-dollar bills and dim summing like a boss.