Review: Chinese Dim Sum

By Lee Hwa-Lin

1993: Wei-Chuan Publishing  ISBN-13: 978-0941676243

This is the first Dim Sum cookery book I ever purchased and so I have something of a sentimental attachment to it, I suppose. Still, to be fair, I have to say that, although I have found a lot of inspiration just browsing through the pages, I have never found it to be much of a practical cookery manual… 

Content and Organization

There are 88 recipes for various types of dim-sum snacks all of which are illustrated. Some dishes are accompanied by more than one photograph and include some pictures of the various steps in the cookery process. The text is in both Chinese and English, as is the case with most Wei-Chuan publications, and there is a brief introduction covering the special ingredients used in the book.

Critique

The Chinese title of the book does not contain the characters for Dim Sum but instead reads ’飲茶食譜’. The first two characters are literally translated as ‘drink tea’ but in Cantonese culinary tradition, going to ‘drink tea’ is just a way of describing the lovely ritual of whiling away a morning with the little snacks we all know as ‘dim sum’. In full, then, the Chinese name can thus loosely be translated as ‘Dim Sum Food Manual’ but, unfortunately, as a ‘manual’ it falls a little short on a couple of counts:

In the first place, although there is a good variety of delicacies on offer, only a few are of the sort that most people will have encountered in Dim Sum restaurants. There are no steamed rib or squid dishes, both of which are favorites of mine, no ‘Choy Sum’ or chicken feet, and, more surprisingly, no recipe for ‘Har Gow’ which is probably one of the most popular dumpling dishes on any regular dim sum menu. A lot of the of the other dishes are very interesting and tasty looking but they won’t be familiar to most people even if they are real dim sum aficionados.

The second failing of this book as a useful manual is that the instructions are frequently inadequate. There are step-by-step photographs for quite a number of dishes bit these are mostly not that helpful, especially for some of the more complex preparations. In the long run, decreasing the number of recipes slightly and devoting page space to better photographs and more detailed textual descriptions of some of the intricate techniques required would really have improved this book.

Overall

Despite the shortcomings, this is still not a bad little book. For those with other dim sum books in their collections, and some experience in this type of cookery, this publication is nice to browse through for ideas. However, for those looking for a good introduction to dim sum and the basic techniques required, you really need to start with something a lot simpler.

Available Here…

16 thoughts on “Review: Chinese Dim Sum”

  1. My mom has many Wei-Chuan books, and while they are amazing, I agree with you that sometimes they are lacking in the “description” department! I wish they had better instructions, but I love the mouth-watering pictures and recipes.

  2. From “The Wife”: This book seems to spend many many hours on our kitchen table (on my husband’s end) so it must not be TOO bad! LOL

  3. I didn’t discover this post till now! 飲茶 Means drink tea…it is ! We Cantinese go to 飲茶 which is the correct way of referring to this kind of cuisine. Going to dim sum is the western way of saying, because people will not understand that 飲茶 is going to eat dim sum! You are more interested in Chinese cuisine than me….so many books? You need to go to Hong Kong to try out all the wonderful Chinese and non Chinese cuisine ! I will give you recommendations if you go there next time! The ‘wife” will love Hong Kong…the paradise of shopping…although most things are expensive now, including restaurants and hotels!

      1. Ha ha …I do have ESP..she has good choice. Ask her to try Peking duck and take pix for you. I am sure you already know which restaurant has the best Peking duck in Beijing! Also the street with lots of interesting food …the street is called wang fu jiang…

      2. 黃虎井 is the area. the street is very famous. The area is close to almost all the important tourist “must see” in Beijing . The street is called 黃虎井大街。

  4. I have enjoyed your Wei Chuan reviews very much. I am a big fan of the series and own them all except for Appetizer s Chinese Style, since I can’t find a copy for less than $80 or so… I am keeping my eyes out for one. With something like forty five volumes there is a lot of duplication, but there are occasional variations which make it interesting. You are certainly right about the Mexican book not being up to par.

  5. If you’re interested a good resaurant style Chinese cookbook “The Potsicker. Chronicles” by Stuart Chang Berman is excellent…and fun to read!

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