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Aug 16, 2000 01:24 PM

"Dumb" dim sum question/Ton Kieng

  • k


I know the other chowhounds will think this is a silly question, but what exactly is dim sum? How does a dim sum lunch work?

What are some eating/participating/paying guidelines? What are some good choices? Also, is tipping 15-20% customary, etc?

I have heard great things about Ton Kieng (sp?), but what do you all think? What are some good dim sum spots in SF?

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  1. Just a few comments from me, while entirely skirting your pertinent questions! For every "dumb" question posted here, there are any number of folks who think, "Boy, am I glad someone asked that question". How else are we going to learn?
    I hope someone will reply to your specific questions. pat

    1. I've never been, never had it - but hope to rectify that Labor Day weekend. In the meantime, check out this website: "", click on restaurants, then on dim sum in the categories listed to the right hand side (I also happen to be hopelessly low tech). They give what seems to be a pretty thorough explanation.

      1. Dude,

        The only dumb questions are the ones that don't get asked.

        The literal translation of "dim sum" is little treasures that pull at the heart. This is one of the best ways to eat!

        Imagine , if you will, having a meal consisting of course after course of tiny appetizers. That is how dim sum works. In less formal places you simply order off a menu, or order takeout at a deli counter. Formal dim sum is presented on carts. If a passing cart has somehting you want you take some. At the end of your meal your plates are counted to determine the bill for your meal. Everyone should try this at least once!

        There is a place in the city thats famous for it's formal dim sum, the name escapes me. Hounds?


        1. karen,

          lucky you, you get to have dim sum for the first time. it's such a great eating experience that i'm sure you'll remember this for a while.

          basically, it's done during lunch or brunch hours on the weekends. you just go, usually wait in line for as long as one and a half hours for the really popular places (bring something to read, but the wait is worth it), and then get seated.

          at the traditional places, there will be people rolling carts around with little dishes, different kinds of dumplings, chicken feet, mini spare ribs, etc. each dish will have about 3 or 4 of the same thing in it, kind of similar to spanish tapas, the point being, you get lots of different things, and try a little of each. it's best to go in a larger group so you can all share.

          basically, when a cart comes around, just ask to see what they've got and (bonus if the person pushing the cart actually speaks english) ask if they can tell you what it is. best bet is to just go crazy and try as much as you can, since it's probably something you'll do more than once, and though you may get lots of dishes, the price usually doesn't end up being all that much.

          when you're done, just pay the bill and give the usual tip.

          i've heard ton kiang has always been good though i've never been there myself.

          there's a great place in daly city/pacifica called koi palace if you want to venture outside the city. the lines are killer but it's worth the wait. let me know if you have any other questions. and good luck and let us know how it goes no matter where you go.


          1. I've always liked both Yank Sing (Battery at about Saccramento or the new on on Stevenson) and Harbor Village (Embarcadero 4), although I'm sure there are lots of other good places. You need reservations at both, but I've never had much of a wait.

            One word of caution: go slowly -- it's such a temptation to get lots of everything, but those little plates start to add up (not the money, but you start to get really full) and you definitely have to save room for the custard tarts, especially if you go to Yank Sing.