I have been thinking about what about the culture part when I just began this little blog. At the very first, I am thinking about providing some real and useful information about Chinese cooking as a reference for those who are interested in Chinese Food. However over the past months, I am just busy with detailed recipes. And I have just decided to draw up around 2 posts each month introducing some seriously Chinese cooking culture.
Today, I am sharing with you the dessert part–Chinese Desserts and Dim Sum
When I was young, I was not the candy girl. I just loved fresh ingredients cultivated around our house and fruits filled the gap between meals. If you haven’t heard, I grow up in a small village in large mountains of Sichuan province. However, after graduating from university and travelling all over the country, I understand each dish has its reasons to exist. And the beautifully shaped Chinese desserts really grab my attention. I am continuing searching, trying, repeating and enjoying.
Chinese desserts are foods and dishes that are served between meals, with tea, along with meals or at the end of meals. In Chinese languages, they are called as “点心”, literally means touching your heart.
Since China has a long history, there are many varieties of desserts of Chinese desserts in different forms. However, in general, there are main three types of Chinese desserts popular in China: traditional Beijing style desserts, dim sum, and Su style desserts.
Among those three, I guess dim sum enjoys the highest popularity in western countries. Personally I am a big fan.
Dim Sum actually is a collection of small bites of Chinese desserts with Cantonese style as the most famous representative. The Chinese name of Dim Sum 点心 which equals to small dessert. In fact, dim sum exists in almost every cuisine of China. However, the Cantonese style is the most famous and affluent one. Usually dim sum is made in small sizes just for one or two bites Those Chinese desserts are served in small steamer or small plates.
According to the history, dim sum (点心) starts from a general in the Eastern Jin Dynasty. When he saw how hard his soldiers were fighting, he wanted to express his thanks via some small bites of food. Then the mean 点心 which internally mean “touch the little heart” was created. Additionally the English dim sum is the Cantonese pronunciation of Chinese 点心.
There are a wide variety of dishes over 2000 in dim sum, while most of the dishes adopt the cooking methods of steaming, sautéing or deep fry. For more information about Chinese cooking methods, please check Chinese cooking methods.
Cantonese dim sum
Cantonese dim sum is the most famous representative of the Chinese dim sum family. The English name dim sum is actually translated from the Cantonese pronunciation of Chinese “点心”
In many Cantonese restaurants, customers can choose the types of dim sum freely since the cooked dim sum are usually carted around the dining room. And usually there are hundreds of dim sums served at the same time.
In Cantonese life, morning tea (yum cha) in one of the most important part of the eating culture. In Chinese, 早茶or yum cha means to drink tea in the morning and along with the morning tea, dim sum are served. The popularity of yum cha also makes the Cantonese style dim sum become outstanding of the scattered dim sum of other cuisines in China. Some of the most famous Cantonese dim sum dishes are listed below.
Shrimp dumpling (虾饺)–Shrimp dumpling recipe
Shummai （烧麦—Shummai recipe
Char Siu Baau（叉烧包–Char Siu Bao Recipe
Lotus leaf rice（糯米鸡）
Crispy Durian Cake （榴莲酥）
Steamed chicken feet (凤爪)
Water chestnut cake （马蹄糕）
Sesame bun （芝麻包）
Rice Noodle Rolls (肠粉)
Egg Tart (蛋挞)
Other Chinese Desserts
Compared with other two main schools of Chinese dessert, Dim sum is mild and less of oil.
Traditional Beijing desserts have eight large desserts and eight small desserts. Featured by the heavy oil used, traditional Beijing style desserts are popular in Northern part of China.
Su style desserts are popular in Shanghai, Zhejiang and Jiangsu province. Those are somewhere between dim sum and traditional Beijing desserts. Usually Su style dessert has dedicate shape of fruits, animal and plants. And they usually appear in hotels and high-class restaurant.
There are around 12 sub-collections of Chinese desserts classified according to their shapes, texture and tastes.
1. Boazi—steamed bun with stuffing such as char sui bun or shanghai steamed buns. Mantou is also a type of steamed bun but no stuffing is included.
2. Dumplings including shrimp dumplings, pot sticker, shaomai and soup dumplings. Following is a picture of pot stickers.
3. Cake such as peanuts cake, taro cake and water chestnut cake. (糕类)
Picture of a famous summer cake dessert–Mung bean cake.
4. Balls such as fried glutinous rice balls with sesame, Nuomici etc.
5. Rolls including egg roll, spring roll, and rice noodle roll and tofu rolls.
6. Pancake(饼) including thin pancake, scallion cake and some of the moon cakes. This is a picture of Chinese Scallion Pancake.
7. Crisp including apple crisp and walnut crisp cake. This is a picture of Crispy Durian Cake (榴莲酥)
8. Noodles as rice noodles, noodle soup and fried noodles
9. Rice such as fried rice and eight treasure rice
10. Congee for example fish slice congee, persevered egg congee.
11. Pudding: mostly are sweet such as almond tofu and watermelon puddings. This is a picture of pawpaw pudding.
12. others such as Chinese doughnut and rice dumpling