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How to host a Chinese dim sum dinner party

To the Chinese, “dim sum” is more than a steamed dumpling. Cantonese for heart’s delight, it’s a style of serving up an array of appetizers – perfect for a party!

Many Chinese food fans will tell you that menu items are best enjoyed when everyone at the table orders something different and shares. A dim sum party capitalizes on this approach, providing a range of tastes, textures and conversation points that makes for an interesting gathering. There’s something for every palate!
Anything bite-sized fits the bill; think tapas with an Oriental flair. Traditionally, dim sum is served on carts that roll from table to table. For your party, you might arrange all your items on platters in a central location, like a kitchen island or dining table.
Traditional dim sums are always accompanied by tea. After all, the Chinese also know dim sum as “yum cha” – taking tea. The custom arose in teahouses, where people congregated once or twice a day for tea and conversation. Originally, eating anything along with tea was discouraged because the Chinese believed it would lead to obesity. Gradually, however, the Chinese realized that tea aids digestion and cleanses the palate, so small snacks became part of the ritual.
Consider offering several different types of tea. Oolong and green teas, for example, are good all-around choices – pleasant backdrops to any food. Jasmine, chrysanthemum and other herbal/floral teas are delightful with desserts.
Below is a list of food ideas. If you’re short on time, don’t despair: Many of these are available in premade form at grocery and wholesale stores; you’ll find still more at the local Oriental grocery. If not, think of preparing a few new items as a culinary adventure, and enjoy the kudos later of your appreciative guests.
Whatever you choose, remember that presentation is always key in Oriental cookery. Choose simple, brightly colored or intricately illustrated platters and dishes (many retailers sell dim sum sets). Provide cocktail napkins on the serving table as well as any other places where people may partake; remember, you’re serving mostly finger foods. Place toothpicks, cocktail forks and any other necessary utensils in pretty containers to make serving and eating easy and clean. Use small, pretty condiment bowls in which to offer soy, duck, sweet and sour, hot mustard and any other dipping sauces.

Great choices:

  • Steamed dumplings – the most oft-served item, in limitless varieties such as shrimp, veggies, chicken, beef, egg etc.
  • Teriyaki meatballs
  • Fried wide chow mein noodles
  • Fried chicken wings
  • Fried won ton
  • Steamed daikon cakes
  • Turnip cakes
  • Stirfried green beans
  • Moo shu pork
  • Lettuce wraps
  • Sesame seed balls
  • Barbecued pork buns

For dessert:

  • Tofu chunks drizzled with ginger sauce
  • Custard tarts
  • Coconut buns
Really, the choices are as vast as your imagination. Buy premade, research recipes… or come up with your own!

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