When it comes to eating Chinese food, there are quite a few stereotypical myths and perceptions surrounding this dining experience.
Living in Singapore, Malaysia and Australia, I’ve had my fair share of Chinese cuisine. At least once a week I eat Chinese food, be it in a restaurant or having it as takeaway or cooking it at home. What I’ve noticed is that Chinese dishes aren’t the same everywhere.
When it comes to yum cha, there’s lots to choose from on the menu. From dumplings to steamed rice to buns to deep fried seafood, the choice of dim sum is endless – and there are some dishes we’ll always insist on ordering because they are our favourites.
Over the years across Asia and Australia, I’ve eaten yum cha countless of times with the folks and friends and we always order the same dishes. We love them, we order them, it feels right eating the same dishes over and over. Only occasionally we’d order something we don’t usually eat.
There’s always much dim sum to eat at yum cha.
Yum cha is traditionally a Cantonese brunch that involves Chinese tea and dim sum. Yum cha ( 飲茶) literally means ‘drink tea’. The meal originated in the Cantonese-speaking regions of China, and the meal can be traced back to the time when travellers on the ancient Silk Road stopped at teahouses for tea and snacks. On the other hand, dim sum (飲茶) are small serving dishes. These dishes are commonly carted around on trollies in restaurants and served in bamboo steamers or on small plates. Here are some typical, classic Cantonese-style dim sum dishes that are popular at yum cha:
It’s a fact that many Chinese like to eat dumplings. Chinese people eat dumplings during the Lunar New Year. They eat dumplings for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And countless others around the world regardless of background like eating dumplings too.
Growing up, when my Chinese-Malaysian family went to out to yum cha, that was when I got to eat Chinese dumplings. These days, whenever I catch up with my Asian and non-Asian friends here in Melbourne, Chinese dumplings are usually on the menu.
There are so many reasons why we like eating dumplings.
Defining ‘dumpling’ can be tricky. All over the world, there are dumplings of all shapes, sizes and fillings. Dumplings can be loosely thought of as ‘small pieces of dough…often wrapped around a filling’, either sweet or savoury, steamed, fried or boiled. They are often thought of as an easy, simple meal. But different dumplings have different origins, and each of us has our own reasons for eating dumplings.
Though we can find street food in restaurants, most of the time we think of it as cuisine cooked at a market. A bazaar. Chinatown. Pasar malams. Mamak stalls. In short, street food is food cooked and served outdoors.
These days it seems many people of Asian ethnicity all around the world have impeccably strong palates for Western foods.
McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut and various other Western restaurants are frequently packed during meal times in Asian countries. “Potato parties” have recently become a fad in Japan and South Korea, so-called parties where groups of young people order obscene amounts of fries and eat them all in one sitting at fast-food joints. Much love for fries.
Asian girl (me) extremely happy she gets to eat McDonalds. Photo: Sue C.
Many Asian international students and Asian-Australians here in Australia also seem to possess Westernised palates. It is not uncommon to see them ordering fancy smoked salmon and poached eggs on multigrain toast or bircher muesli along with their coffee at upmarket cafes for Saturday brunch and kebabs for dinner later. What happened to having yum cha or sitting at round tables dining at Asian restaurants?