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Dim Sum cheat sheet: Insider’s guide to dishes and etiquette

So you’ve read our thorough guide to the best dim sum restaurants in Singapore and you’re off to sample some of the delicious dishes on offer. Here’s a handy cheat sheet to earn you some brownie points when you’re volunteered to do the ordering.

Guide to dishes

Har gau: Steamed prawn dumplings encased in a pale, translucent, thin and chewy skin.

Siew mai: Pleated steamed yellow wrapper holding minced pork, sometimes mixed with prawn and topped with fish roe.

Cheong fun: Steamed rice roll holding a variety of fillings, mostly pork but sometimes beef, prawn or scallop. Sweet soy sauce balances the flavours.

Char siu bao: Classic steamed, soft, white, doughy buns stuffed with sweet barbecue pork.

Carrot cake: It’s not what you’re thinking! These fried squares are actually made from turnip or daikon (not carrot), rice flour and other variable ingredients.

Char siu sou: Baked puff pastry encasing sweet barbecued pork.

Chiken feet: These gelatinous claws are a sight to behold. Go on, we dare you!


Mind your Ps and Qs: dim sum etiquette

1. There is no set order to the meal, meaning you can start and end with dessert and nobody will bat an eyelid. Hurrah!

2. Use only the chopsticks to pick up food, even if your chopstick skills are akin to a toddler gripping crayons. Ask for a fork, if absolutely necessary. Use your fingers only for the steamed buns.

3. Just like sashimi, dim sum are made to be consumed in one mouthful but given that sizes can vary from large to miniscule, it’s acceptable to take two or three mouthfuls when necessary.

4. If you order a portion of rice, remember to never stick your chopsticks upright in the rice, as this resembles incense at Chinese funerals. Rest them across the bowl instead.

5. Earn brownie points by pouring tea for others, especially the elderly, before helping yourself.

6. If someone pours tea for you, tap the table with your index and middle finger as a way of saying thanks; it is said to symbolise bowing to them.

7. Need a tea refill? Flip the cap of the teapot over to let your server know.