Birmingham’s Southside is home to many regional Chinese cuisines and one of the most well-known is Dim Sum. Here’s everything you need to know about this traditional style of food.
The Chinese speciality dates back thousands of years and can be traced back to the ancient Silk Road where travellers would stop to rest at tea houses and indulge in small snacks. Nowadays, Dim Sum is considered an important part of Chinese culture and the Cantonese have long been considered one of the finest purveyors of the delicacy.
Consisting of bite size dishes, Dim Sum ranges from dumplings to buns and egg tarts to steamed ribs which are all served up in bamboo steamers or small plates. The Cantonese refer to eating Dim Sum as going to ‘drink tea’ or ‘yum cha’ as tea is typically served alongside the dishes. Originally popular as a brunch-time dish, dim sum is served all hours at Birmingham’s China town restaurants. If you’re new to dim sum, here’s our guide to a selection of must-have dishes.
Har gow, Chung Ying Cantonese, 16 – 18 Wrottesley Street.
A true classic, these steamed dumplings are a dim sum essential. Har gow consists of succulent king prawns in a thin translucent wrapper which have been finished with a neat pleated detail and usually served in a basket of four. We suggest trying the prawn and chive dumpling next time!
Siu mai, Ken Ho Restaurant, 41 – 43 Hurst Street.
An essential for any first time dim sum experience, Siu mai is made from pork, prawns and chopped Chinese black mushrooms. Encased in a thin pastry (similar to won ton pastry), they are usually garnished with fish roe.
Cheung fun, Wing Wah Chinese Restaurant, 8 Wrottesley Street.
Cheung fun is stuffed rice noodle rolls which are served up with a choice of stuffing and served with soy sauce. The thin, silky sheets of rice noodle are one of the trickier skills to master for dim sum chefs and popular variations include king prawns, char siu pork (Chinese barbeque pork) or beef.
Char siu bao
Char siu bao, Wing Wah Chinese Restaurant, 8 Wrottesley Street.
The original bao on the block, these steamed light and fluffy buns are shaped so that once they cook, they open slightly at the top so that the filling peeks through. Each bao is filled with a sweet roast pork filling and popular with children and elderly alike. There are many types of bao on the menu at Southside’s restaurants which include steamed, baked and pan fried variations, so once you’ve tried the char siu bao, try the chicken or custard buns.
Taro Puff, China Court Restaurant, 24 Ladywell Walk.
These deep fried treats are made from steamed taro which has been mashed and filled with pork, mushrooms, prawns and spring onions before being deep fried. Taro puffs are easily recognised because of their fluffy and crisp exterior and well worth adding to your Dim Sum list.
There are hundreds more dishes to choose from and are all available in Southside’s vibrant China town. Visit Wing Wah, Ken Ho, Chung Ying and China Court and find your favourite dim sum whilst sipping on a cup of tea. Our tea recommendation? Ask for ‘Guk bou’ which is a blend of Chrysanthemum tea and Pu’er tea.