how to order dim sum for newbies

The Gift of China: How to Order Dim Sum for Newbies

A great way to experience a culture is through food. China, one of Asia’s centers for cuisine, gave us a beloved dish: dim sum. Over the years, more and more variations of the traditional Chinese dish have been developed, but nothing beats tradition. If you haven’t tried dim sum before, you’re missing out on half of your life. But for newbies, how do you order dim sum?

  • Never Go Solo

Dim sum is traditionally meant to be experienced with a group. The servings come in woven bamboo baskets that steam the Chinese treasures, containing multiple pieces of each order. One of China’s values includes harmony, and nothing pays homage to that more than people come together to enjoy dim sum. 

  • Try the Classics

Newbies should experience dim sum the way locals and natives do it. First, order the essentials such as har gow or shrimp dumplings, siu mai or pork and shrimp dumplings, and guo tie or potstickers. These three food items are essential dim sum orders in every dim sum restaurant.

Some say that if these three fundamental orders taste great, it’s likely that the restaurant has a great chef, and all their meals will taste good. Next, try fried shrimp balls. These are hard to make since they require a crispy shell with a hot broth. If the chef nails all these food items, it means he’s skilled in the kitchen.

  • Enjoy Dim Sum with Tea

The dim sum experience is never complete without tea. Tea and dim sum have a longstanding association with Cantonese cuisine, where the phrase yum cha means “drink tea” is often interchanged with the phrase dim sum. A good dim sum place will offer a great variety of high-quality teas and even provide information about their origins. If a restaurant truly cares about its tea, it must care about its ingredients.

  • Hold on MSG

Pay attention to the restaurant’s use of monosodium glutamate or MSG. It is a way for some restaurants to trick people into thinking that the ingredients used in their meals are fresh and of the best quality possible. 

The combined effects of MSG include feeling too thirsty after a meal. Another way to know if the restaurant uses a lot of MSG is to identify the ingredients used and how they should taste. For example, if you can’t tell if it’s pork or shrimp, there might be other additives in it.

  • Check Freshness Before Eating

The best thing about dim sum restaurants is that they serve everything fresh. Even if you order seafood, you’ll likely receive a fresh catch from the ocean. Since most dim sum ingredients come from the sea, it’s vital to check for freshness even if the food looks too enticing to eat.

Aside from seafood, also check for the freshness of the dumplings. Low-quality dim sum spots may not freshly wrap their dumplings then overcook them to hide that fact. If the dumplings break apart when you pick them up, they’re likely made fresh, just after you ordered.


Through dim sum, we can taste the flavors of China through small-sized steamed meals. Dim sum has penetrated even the American palate as more and more dim sum restaurants open in America every year. More and more versions of dim sum are made every year, but nothing beats authentic recipes and flavors. 

The Ocean Palace Restaurant in Houston offers the widest authentic selection of dim sum in America. If you’re looking for the best Chinese food near you, then Ocean Palace Restaurant is the right way to go. Order our dim sum sets today and enjoy your dim sum now.

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