Dim sum, a distinctly active and fun style of Chinese dining, is a Cantonese tradition. It began in small roadside teahouses, which served simple snacks and hot tea to travelers making their way along the legendary Silk Road. Over centuries, dim sum transformed into the loud, boisterous and internationally popular style of eating that it is today. This is the perfect meal for large groups, since it's built around small, shareable dishes that diners choose from carts that rove around the dining room. There’s a wide selection of both sweet and savory foods, typically ranging from thin-skinned har gow (shrimp dumplings) to braised chicken feet to fried, glutinous sesame balls filled with sweetened red bean paste. Traditional dim sum restaurants exist all across the country. And a few forward-thinking restaurateurs, most notably State Bird Provisions in San Francisco, have introduced nontraditional dim sum, offering non-Chinese dishes in the same format.
While most diners eat dim sum in restaurants (typically at brunch), you don’t have to leave the house to experience these dishes. It takes a bit of effort to make your own shumai (steamed dumplings) and char sou bao (barbecue pork buns) at home, but the results can be extremely rewarding. You might think the dumplings at your local dim sum restaurant are fresh, but they’re nothing compared to a steamer basketful straight off your stove. Here, we present our best, most delicious recipes for do-it-yourself dim sum. The dishes include classics like cozy congee (Chinese rice porridge) and soup dumplings stuffed with pork, crab and rich broth, along with some new takes on old-school recipes, like crispy fried squid dusted with Chinese five-spice powder and gluten-free pork potstickers. So make a big pot of tea, break out the chopsticks and enjoy a homemade brunch of delicious dim sum dishes.