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I'm decidedly ignorant about Dim Sum...

But being that I am in the Bay Area, I would love to try some. What is the process for ordering? Is cart vs. counter even a debate? I'll eat chicken feet but I'd like to know what I'm eating before it goes down. If you all give me a quick run down on the ins and outs I will be more than happy to write about every bite! Thanks.

(I saw the lisitngs for the recommended spots. Just asking about etiquitte more than anything else.)

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  1. here's a link to a page about the dim sum experience - looks pretty good but there are several other alternatives when you Google "dim sum etiquette" - look forward to hearing about your dim sum experiences. Koi Palace for high end dim sum is worth the trouble ( long lines - unless you get there early enough to make the first seating ) In Oakland, the last lunch I had at Joy Luck was quite good and a good deal.


    1 Reply
    1. re: gordon wing

      Gordon the Lifesaver...I'll let you know how it goes!

    2. There's a recent dim sum for novices topic on the General board:


      1. Here's an insider tip about finger tapping / tea pouring ----


        1. Mm, I love dim sum! I think the best way to try it is to just pick things that look good to you. Here in the DC area, they don't seat you at shared tables, but years ago in Boston, when we were seated at larger tables, my friends and I would pick what looked tasty and/or what everyone else at our table was eating. And even if you find something you don't like so much, one plate of it is only a few dollars, so there's not much risk. Depending on where you go or the time of day, you might find several appealing things all at once, or you might have a few lulls, but it's a great time to sit and chat with your friends, sip tea, and consider the other options as they go round in the carts. Enjoy! :)

          1. zameloy, in the bay area I highly recommend Joy Luck Place in Cupertino Village. I now live near L.A.'s de facto Chinatown, but the dim sum at Joy Luck Place trumps all the rest I've had down here.

            One important thing to keep in mind: gesture with your fist(i.e. when asking what a particular dish is or something). If you point, you bought it.

            1. One of the important components about dim sum is tea (a dim sum lunch is often referred to in Cantonese as "yum cha" which translates to "drinking tea"). A good dim sum place should offer a good selection of teas above and beyond the basic Jasmine. Often the waitstaff would ask what kind of tea you prefer as you sit down. Popular choices include Dragon Well (long2 jing3), Iron Goddess of Mercy (tie3 guan1 yin1) and Pu-erh (pu2 er3). It's possible to progress from lighter to more robust teas; for big tables it's not unusual to have two different types of tea to accomodate different tastes. A number of places will offer a tea menu as well; Koi Palace (Daly City) and Fook Yuen (Milbrae) are two examples that I remember. As you are seated, ask about what kinds of tea they have if you're not offered a choice.

              2 Replies
              1. re: limster

                FYI, limster, you might want to wipe Fook Yuen out of your memory banks...it's gone seriously downhill.

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  Ah, that's too bad... really appreciate the update.

              2. So...much...information (taking notes as fast as I can)...Nodding and writting. Keep it coming. I can probably absorb so much information here that I won't even need to eat!

                1. If someone is carrying a tray of mismatch food, odds are they're the leftovers from the carts so don't take anything. Don't load up your table too quickly, even if it all looks good because it'll get cold. You can catch it next time around. If you have a sweet tooth for tea, try chrysanthemum and you'll get sugar crytals to put in. Some things are good but fill you up fast, like sticky rice (either in a bowl or in leaves) or jook. Take a few bites, share but don't feel like you have to eat the whole thing. Also, things like buns (char su--sweet pork and bolo bao--custard) are big and you can buy them from a bakery and it's the same. Or, order them at the end of the meal to go. They're also really filling. This is making me hungry--maybe I'll go out tomorrow for dimsum.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: chowser

                    I'm getting hungry reading this too! For the sticky rice, I find the kind in the leaves much more flavorful and tasty than the kind in the bowl.

                    1. re: Chocolatechipkt

                      As sticky rice goes, there are actually 2 types offered at most dim sum places: chicken (usually with salted egg yolk, mushroom, chinese sausage, and cornstarch-based gravy) sticky rice in leaf -- cantonese: no mai gai, mandarin: no mi ji; and sticky rice (usually with taro, chinese sausage, and sometimes other ingredients) -- cantonese: no mai faan, mandarin: no mi faan).

                  2. It doesn't matter how often you eat dim sum, there is always the potential for a happy surprise. This weekend I dropped by Ming's and sat at a tiny table facing the entrance to the kitchen. This was lucky, I could catch the eye of the ladies driving the carts and entice them over with an excited expression and get everything fresh. I saw a small baked item topped with sesame seeds, and just could not understand the description. A waiter happened by and translated it as "radish." Actually, it was more like a very mild sauerkraut. Fun, and I think I get to count it as one of my rare vegetable servings for the meal. ;-)

                    Of course, the opposite happens as well. A dumpling with scallops and vegetables turned out to have something like collard greens or kale in it, not the usual pea shoots. That was a shock. I really do need to learn some Chinese...

                    1. Ok so finally, I had my first dim sum experience. We went to a spot called Good Luck Dim Sum in the Richmond District. It was a countered spot so I missed out on the table side service but the food, oh the food. Wrote a full description of the experience at chinesefoodorpizza.blogspot.com. Thanks for the tips and opening my eyes to this genre of eating. It's a new favorite for sure!