Gallery: The Serious Eats Guide to Dim Sum

  • Har gau (steamed shrimp dumplings)

    Translucent shrimp dumplings with a wheat starch skin that's cut with tapioca to give it extra stretchiness and translucency. Pork, scallions, and bamboo shoots are often used to flavor it. These are one of the most difficult dumplings to make properly: the skin should be translucent yet sturdy, slightly chewy but not tough, with perfectly cooked, crisp shrimp inside.

    Chiu-chao fan guo (steamed dumpling with pork, shrimp, and peanuts)

    A crunchy, fresh-tasting mix of shrimp, pork, and peanuts, often flavored with cilantro and crisp chunks of jicama. These are awesome if you're looking for a unique textural experience in your dumplings.

    Siu mai (open-topped steamed pork or shrimp dumplings)

    Open-topped steamed pork and/or shrimp dumplings made with a wheat flour wrapper, they often come topped with fish roe or grated carrot, or occasionally a single pea.

    Haam sui gau (fried glutinous rice dumplings)

    Deep-fried glutinous rice dumpling stuffed with pork. Crunchy and chewy.

    Jiu cai bau (steamed then fried chive dumplings)

    Wheat starch skin dumplings stuffed with chives that are subsequently pan-fried to give them a crisp crust.

    Wu gok (taro dumplings)

    Crispy, wispy, slightly sweet fried purple taro surrounding a center of savory pork filling, wu gok are a study in contrasts.

    Cha siu bao (steamed barbecue pork-stuffed buns)

    The classic steamed yeasted buns stuffed with Chinese-style barbecue pork (cha siu). The dough has a soft, dense crumb similar to American sandwich bread, while the filling is savory and sweet.

    Cha siu bao (baked barbecue pork-stuffed buns)

    The same as the steamed version, these ones are rounded, baked, and painted with a shiny glaze.

    Cha siu sou (flaky barbecue pork-stuffed pastry)

    Sou is Chinese puff pastry with a flaky, slightly sweet flavor. They come stuffed with all kinds of things, but we like the pork-flavored ones.

    Cheong fan (rolled rice noodles)

    One of our favorite dishes, fresh steamed rice noodles are rolled around a variety of fillings, most commonly beef, shrimp, or pork. They come drizzled with a sweet soy sauce.

    Zhaliang (fried noodle-wrapped crullers)

    An interesting variant on cheong fan, in this version, the slippery steamed rice noodles are wrapped around crispy, savory fried crullers flavored with soy, sesame, or hoisin sauce. Get'em fresh and eat'em fast to maximize that crisp/slippery/tender contrast.

    Pei guen (fried tofu skin roll)

    Tofu skin—the thin layer of coagulated soy proteins that forms on top of the vats used for heating soy milk in tofu production—is used to wrap various ingredients, such as shrimp or chicken before being deep-fried.

    Pei guen (steamed)

    The same as the fried version, but steamed instead of fried, and the ones you're more likely to see on dim sum carts. These often come flavored with bamboo shoot.

    Lo baak gou (turnip cake)

    Shredded daikon radish is mixed with rice flour and flavored with ham, sausage, shrimp, or other vegetables before being pressed into cakes and fried. They're called turnip cakes, but are technically made with radish.

    Taro cake

    Like the Lo baak gou, but made with starchy taro. Soft and somewhat chewy on the inside, it gets a crisp crust from frying.

    Lo mai gai (steamed glutinous rice)

    One of the more filling dishes on a dim sum menu, it's made by steaming sticky rice flavored with chicken, mushrooms, Chinese sausage, and/or scallions in a lotus leaf, though you'll often find it wrapped in a banana leaf instead.

    Fung zao (fried steamed chicken feet)

    Also known as "phoenix talons," these are made by deep frying chicken feet until they become puffy and inflated, then stewing them in a sweet and savory sauce flavored with fermented soy beans. They have a unique, spongy, tender texture.

    Ngao yuk kau (meatballs)

    Steamed beef meatballs served with simmered tofu skin, they're often flavored with Worcestershire sauce.

    Pai gwut (steamed ribs)

    Small sections of pork rib—usually no larger than 1/2-inch—that are coated in starch then steamed with fermented soy beans until they get a moist, slippery texture. They've got bones, so careful when you bite down!

    Daan taat (egg custard tart)

    Classic Hong Kong style egg tarts, they're similar to Portuguese egg custard tarts, but with a stronger egg flavor. The crust can be flaky or shortbread-like.

    Jin deui (fried glutinous rice balls)

    Made from glutinous rice powder, these balls have the stretchy, chewy texture of Japanese mochi (which is essentially identical). They get coated with sesame seeds and deep-fried until they puff, and are then piped with a sweet filling like lotus paste or red bean paste.

    Do fu fa (tofu pudding)

    Soft, silken tofu served with either a ginger or plain sugar syrup.

    Ma lai go (Malaysian sponge cake)

    A soft, eggy, steamed sponge cake that comes from Malaysia.

    Lai wong bau (custard-filled buns)

    Standard bau dough stuffed with an eggy milk custard and steamed.