How do you dim sum?

Everything You Need to Know About Dim Sum, by Shirley Fong-Torres

What is dim sum?
Dim sum is a way of life -- it is the original "tapas," small plates of delectable steamed and otherwise.

How do we order?
The most traditional way is to point to what you want when the server swings by your table with a cartful of little steamers and plates full of tempting food.

Why is it part of the culture? Eating together is important in most cultures, but in the Chinese culture we have always 'shared,' whether it is dim sum or lunch/dinner. Food is placed in the center and we eat together. We do not have a slab of steak or our own complete meal on one plate.

Why is it good for families and kids?
It's great to spend time together, enjoy a lot of different dishes, good for bonding.

What are the "must-have" dishes to order?
I suggest the pork dumplings, shrimp dumplings, bean curd rolls, char siu (BBQ pork) buns and how much time do you have?

Best time to go?
Probably on the early side, and sit by the kitchen so the carts stop your table first.

Dim sum etiquette and dos & don'ts:

  • Take one item at a time
  • Share nicely
  • If you are using chopsticks, turn them over when you help yourself again so you do not spread germs; or use serving spoons
Shirley's favorite places to get Dim Sum:

Yank Sing in San Francisco:
Rincon Center
101 Spear St.
San Francisco, CA
Phone: (415) 957-9300

Koi Palace in Daly City:
Koi Palace
365 Gellert Blvd
Daly City, CA 94015
Phone: (650) 992-9000

Diamond Harbor in Foster City:
949 Edgewater Boulevard
Foster City, CA 94404-3760
Phone: (650) 573-9176

Asian Pearl in Millbrae:
1671 El Camino Real
Millbrae, CA 94030-1214
Phone: (650) 616-8288

About Shirley Fong-Torres:

Shirley Fong-Torres is founder and owner of Wok Wiz Chinatown Tours in San Francisco, California. She is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley. Before opening Wok Wiz, she was an operations manager with Levi Strauss & Co. and a middle school and high school Language Arts teacher, starting her teaching career in Texas.

Fong-Torres is an active member of the Les Dames d'Éscoffier, Chinese Culture Center and the Chinese Historical Society, and was one of the California delegates to the White House Conference on Travel & Tourism. She often serves on the board of directors of the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Fong-Torres has written four books, In The Chinese Kitchen, San Francisco Chinatown: A Walking Tour, Wok Wiz Chinese Cookbook, and her latest is titled The Woman Who Ate Chinatown.

Sharing her love and enthusiasm for cooking and travel, Shirley pens a column at, and is a freelance writer for many publications.

She can be seen on The Food Channel, History and Discovery Channels, as well as in the air, as she is a personality on inflight videos for Hawaiian Airlines, Qantas Airlines, and JetBlue.

>> Buy this book on Amazon: The Woman Who Ate CHINATOWN: A San Francisco Odyssey

For more information on Shirley's Wok Wiz walking tours, visit

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