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Dim Sum or Yum Cha?

Someone I know just returned from living in central China for 10 years.
I mentioned that we need a Dim Sum restaurant in our small city.
He then went on to say that 'Kong Kong' dim sum is WAY different than Cantonese Yum cha b/c different types of flour etc are used.
Can someone offer an explanation of why these two methods are or are not that different?
I guess I've only ever had dim sum. Is there really such a big difference?

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  1. Not sure what he's driving at, besides the fact that there are countless food variations in a country as large as China, where both wheat flour and rice flour are used.

    However, "yum cha" literally means "drink tea" which is what is generally consumed in quantity when eating dim sum. So outside the US, "yum cha" is frequently used to refer to the entire meal of tea and various delicacies, whereas we talk about "going out for dim sum".

    I hope one of our more traveled 'hounds can explain further.

    3 Replies
    1. re: mcsheridan

      My family is cantonese. For us, "Yum cha" (in cantonese pronunciation) is the meal, "dim sum" is the food.

      i.e. "Let's go "yum cha" tomorrow" would mean going to brunch at a dim sum restaurant.

      We never really use "yum cha" in the literal sense..it's a bit redundant since my family drink tea all the time.

      I remember older members of the family (like my great aunt) used to use the word "cha" for boiled water...not just tea. (It got me confuse for awhile, mom had to explain it to me).

      Dim sum refers to just the food for us.

      But to my non Cantonese speaking friends, we would go out for dim sum. I don't recall ever using "yum cha" with them.

        1. re: gnomatic

          It's sort of like "sic fahn," which is literally "eat rice" but in my (Cantonese) fam has always generally meant eat or have a meal.

      1. I'd like to know about "Kong Kong."

        2 Replies
        1. re: c oliver

          VERY FUNNY! LOL
          I'll be looking for your next typo.

          1. re: Puffin3

            Oh, honestly, I thought the person you're referring to actually called it "Kong Kong." No joke :) Since it was in quotes I thought you were joking about it!

        2. I the US the names are really interchangeable.

          1. Curious as to where in "central China" this person lived, as that's not exactly dim sum central.

            1 Reply
            1. re: BuildingMyBento

              I'll ask him this week. What is the proper pronunciation of Yum cha.
              He said the words but I wasn't paying that much attention at the time.
              C oliver. I wasn't joking. Just a typo.
              BTW I made Lo Mai Gai tonight and it was a disaster....again.
              Too much stinky horrible dried little shrimps and too much hosien sauce. I'll NEVER buy ANYTHING that's been frozen from China again!!!!!!!!!
              I usually don't rinse the rice and I get a really nice 'sticky' rice. This time I followed a Youtube vid and rinsed the hell out of the rinse and it was almost like basmati.
              I made a beef and broccoli stir fry also and it was limp and the sweet and sour sauce was disgusting!

            2. Let me make a stab at providing a reference.

              飲茶 ー Yam Cha (drink tea)
              点心 ー Dim Sum (literally, "touch of the heart")

              From my understanding, Yam Cha is the act of having a meal in this way, while the food itself is called Dim Sum.

              Please, somebody correct me if I am wrong.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Tripeler

                Spot on.

                I will say that Dim Sum in many ways refer to dessert or snack in most of China (outside of Canton).

                Dim Sum often refers to things like these:



              2. I agree with the other explanations of "yum cha" and "dim sum". "Yum cha" is an action that refers the experience at a restaurant. "Dim sum" is a noun that refers only the food. You can order "dim sum" for take-out but not "yum cha". A rather contrived analogy would like this:

                yum cha -- dining by candlelight at a restaurant with appetizers, entree, dessert, and wine
                dim sum -- appetizers, entree, and dessert dishes

                I've never heard of the different type of flour used in Hong Kong versus traditional Cantonese cooking. I doubt the ingredients would differ very much.

                1. AFAIK, Hong Kong style and Cantonese dim sum are pretty much the same thing, and if there is a perceived difference, I am guessing that Hong Kong style is referring to the kind that is evolved to include more varieties and fancier items, while the Cantonese style (presumably the kind that is found in Canton and its vicinity) offers only the more traditional, old-school items.

                  About the flour, the only regional differences I can think of is that Cantonese dim sum uses rice flour, wheat flour and tapioca flour, while Northern Chinese "dim sum" (using the term loosely) uses only wheat flour.

                  1. My fam is also Cantonese and we've always used the phrase yum cha. (preceded by the Cantonese word for "go," which I'm not even going to try to render phonetically). We don't distinguish yum cha and dim sum--it's all yum cha.

                    1. According to my SIL, yum cha is the event (like brunch) and dim sum is the style/type of food (like tapas).

                      1. <He then went on to say that 'Kong Kong' dim sum is WAY different than Cantonese Yum cha b/c different types of flour etc are used.>

                        It can mean so many things. Unless he be more specific, it is difficult to know exactly what he means. It can mean the ratio of the various flour is different, but it can also mean the actual flour is different: like using cake flour vs all purpose flour, tapico starch vs corn starch.

                        If your friend lives in central China, then I am not sure if he knows much about Cantonese dim sum or Hong Kong dim sum. Hong Kong Dim Sum is rooted in Cantonese Dim Sum anyway. It is just that Hong Kong Dim Sum often push a little more creative.