We've never been a big fan of typical American breakfast fare -- we love eggs but prefer them in the afternoon, pancakes are heavy, and cereal leaves us cold. We much prefer savory dishes and variety, which is why we have found our happy place in dim sum.
In Cantonese, yum cha means literally to "drink tea" and is used to convey the entire dining experience of eating dim sum. Dim sum refers to the range of small dishes available to be eaten.
It is customary to pour tea for your tablemates before you pour for yourself, and if you need more tea signal your waiter by leaving your teapot lid ajar or open.
What we like is there is no clear beginning and end to dim sum. Dim sum carts are wheeled among the tables, with servers calling out what is in the steamers and pots. You eat, you sample, you may fumble with your chopsticks. It's casual and informal, everything breakfast and visiting should be.
You come in somewhere in the middle and just get started. You can choose a medley of dishes swiftly or let the cart pass you by and catch it on the next go-round as you sit and chat. There is no wrong order in which to eat the small dishes, except that you may want to save room for sweets at the end.
It's up to you to ask for what you would like -- don't be afraid to ask the server to open up the steamers and pots to show you what is inside. And try something new, it's how we discovered our love of turnip cake. Ah, turnip cake. We would rather eat turnip cake than Cheerios anytime. And apparently we're not alone.
Once chosen the server will place your selections on the table. They are usually in tiny dishes or bamboo steam trays and come in small portions of threes and fours -- three barbecue pork buns, four shrimp dumplings.
So essentially it boils down to this: small plates meant to be shared, served with tea. There's nothing we don't like about it. Locally, you can test your dim sum skills at the Golden Buddha Restaurant located in the Chinese Cultural Center. (668 N. 44th Street, Phoenix)
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SHOW ME HOW
Dim sum is served 7 days a week for lunch from 11:00-3:00 or on the weekends from 10:00-3:00.
On our visit we had rice noodle roll, barbecue pork buns, turnip cake, siu mai dumplings, and bean curd with shrimp. For dessert we had Jin deui, a Chinese pastry filled with sweet bean paste and coated with sesame seeds and our favorite, coconut jello cubes.