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If you're lucky enough to have experienced a dim sum meal, you're probably familiar with the flavorful dumplings, steamed buns, braised bite-sized meat dishes, and other tantalizing goods that make up this traditional Cantonese feast. Depending on where you're from, you may hear it called dim sum or yum cha. Either way, it's a spread of small bites accompanied by tea, usually enjoyed as a family or other large group, around brunch time.
If heading to a dim sum restaurant isn't an option or you're simply interested in making the meal at home, you can certainly learn to make many of these dishes right in your own kitchen. While there is an overwhelming number of dim sum dishes, you can easily narrow down your menu to your favorites and recreate the communal dining experience whenever you want. Many recipes are surprisingly simple, though they may take a little practice to achieve that professional restaurant presentation.
From traditional to contemporary and everything between, read on for the best dim sum cookbooks.
Best Overall: Dim Sum: The Art of Chinese Tea Lunch: A Cookbook
Generous number of recipes
Menu planning and tea selection tips
Beautiful watercolor illustrations
Might not have enough variety for some
Could use real photos of finished dishes
If you’d like to plan an entire Chinese-style tea lunch at home, this book by Eleanor Leong Blonder features not just recipes, but also advice on menu planning and making dim sum ahead of time. There are over 60 recipes, including traditional dishes like pork and shrimp siu mai, shrimp har gow, and cha siu bao, each with clear, step-by-step instructions and comprehensive ingredient lists. Some reviewers found that the accompanying watercolor illustrations were easier to follow than typical photographs, giving you a clearer view of how to fold and fill dumplings.
Aside from fried and steamed options, this book includes easy-to-follow recipes from dim sum sweets, such as almond pudding and egg custard tarts, that can be used to round out a restaurant-style yum cha experience at home. You’ll find a resource guide, some interesting information about tea, and ingredient notes, as well. It’s a wonderfully comprehensive guide for those who already know their favorite dim sum dishes, but are new to making these beloved Chinese bites at home.
Pages: 110 | Recipes: 60 | Date Published: 2002
Best New Release: Dumplings for Beginners: 50 Recipes and Simple Step-by-Step Lessons to Make Your Favorite Dumplings
Nice selection of dumpling recipes
No non-dumpling dim sum dishes
Though this book by Terri Dien is geared toward beginners, it is a fantastic resource for anyone looking to refresh their dumpling fundamentals, from creating and forming three basic dumpling doughs to perfecting your folding technique. While not every single recipe is accompanied by a photo, reviewers noted the clear instructions and illustrations that made it easy for true beginners to follow.
Admittedly, this book isn’t a dim sum book per se. Its focus is strictly on dumplings, so you won’t find braised short ribs, noodle rolls, or fried sesame balls here. Recipes feature a few dim sum classics, including siu mai and cha siu bao (steamed pork buns), but you’ll also find recipes for a variety of other Asian dumplings, like potstickers, Japanese gyoza, and Nepalese momos.
Pages: 120 | Recipes: 50 | Date Published: 2021
Best Traditional: Dim Sum Basics: Irresistible Bite-Sized Snacks Made Easy
Well-curated list of traditional recipes
Includes step-by-step photographs
Not as many recipes as other books
Author and chef Ng Lip Kah has worked in some of Singapore’s top restaurants for over 30 years and used his wealth of experience to create "Dim Sum Basics," a guide to perfecting the foundational techniques of dim sum cookery. This book gives an overview of the four basic cooking techniques of steaming, boiling, pan-frying, and deep-frying, and contains a handful of recipes for each category.
While the number of recipes isn’t as many as some other books, this is one of the few books that include typical favorites, like siu mai and har gow, as well as dishes that aren’t always featured, like feng zhao (steamed chicken feet), he ye fan (lotus leaf-wrapped sticky rice), and liu sha bao (salted egg yolk bun). If you're missing traditional dim sum, you can easily recreate a typical menu at home with this book.
Pages: 112 | Recipes: 42 | Date Published: 2019
Best Contemporary: Dumplings All Day Wong: A Cookbook of Asian Delights From a Top Chef
Lots of detailed photos
Pantry lists and tools/techniques section
Innovative recipes alongside traditional favorites
Traditionalists may find too many novelty recipes
"Top Chef" alum Lee Anne Wong is the author of this colorful and entertaining cookbook with a foreword by Marcus Samuelsson. Wong’s book is written from the perspective of an Asian-American who grew up in the suburbs of Upstate New York, where, aside from the occasional visit from her culinarily-inclined grandmother, the Chinese food she was exposed to was fairly watered down. Seeking more “authentic” experiences, Wong explored Chinese cuisine near (Flushing, New York) and far (Asia proper), and thus created a cookbook that fuses old-school techniques with more contemporary flavor combinations—a direct reflection of her own heritage. Wong provides a list of tools and gadgets, a detailed ingredient glossary, and covers a variety of different dishes according to cooking technique and fold style, accompanied by detailed photographs and easy-to-follow instructions.
This book isn’t strictly dim sum classics. You’ll find recipes for Scotch egg dumplings, Korean fried chicken potstickers, and chocolate wontons alongside standards such as har gow, siu mai, and sesame jin dui. As far as technique goes, Wong’s book gives clear and concise instructions and tips that, with practice, can help just about anyone master the art of the dumpling.
Pages: 256 | Recipes: More than 50 | Date Published: 2014
Best Vegan: Vegan Dim Sum
Excellent vegan recipes using traditional techniques
Offers a nice variety from dumplings to dessert
Includes a helpful pantry list
Some meat substitute ingredients may be hard to find
For vegans, dim sum can be challenging. Many dishes center around meat, seafood, or eggs, and most traditional dim sum restaurants don’t typically have a broad selection for non-meat eaters. If you’re plant-based and looking for a way to enjoy the yum cha experience at home, check out "Vegan Dim Sum," a self-published release by recipe developer, food stylist, and YouTuber Christina Ng of East Meets Kitchen.
Ng created her book after realizing that former meat-eaters like herself hold a deep nostalgia for dim sum and the social aspect surrounding it. Using traditional techniques, she swaps out animal protein for other ingredients, such as seitan and vegan shrimp, each recipe modeled after restaurant-style dishes. Typical favorites, like cheung fun noodle rolls, har gow, and siu mai, are included, along with non-dumpling dishes, like “pork” spare ribs, daikon radish puffs, and “egg” custard tarts. She also includes a few pages on choosing tea, dim sum etiquette, and the vegan Chinese pantry, listing out must-have ingredients.
Pages: 156 | Recipes: 50 | Date Published: 2020
Best Historical: The Nom Wah Cookbook
Large selection of recipes
Includes beautiful photos and anecdotes
A love letter to NYC Chinatown
Some recipes need to be adjusted
As one of the oldest dim sum restaurants in the U.S., the famous Nom Wah Tea Parlor has over 100 years of history to reflect upon in this love letter to the restaurant and its surrounding community. Written by owner Wilson Tang and former restaurant critic Joshua David Stein, this book contains 75 dim sum recipes (har gow, siu mai, and all sorts of bao, to name a few) accompanied by beautiful photography of the dishes, the restaurant, and the people who make up the neighborhood in which the tea parlor sits.
You’ll find basic recipes for doughs, dumplings, noodles, pancakes, and more alongside anecdotes that are shared with great reverence for the past, and to give it a modern twist, some recipes that are more fusion-inspired. It’s a great book for those who are interested in learning how to make dim sum while learning a bit more about the story behind the restaurant and NYC Chinatown.
Pages: 272 | Recipes: 75 | Date Published: 2020
Best For Beginners: This Is a Book About Dumplings
Wide selection of dumpling recipes
Includes some non-dumpling dishes
Beautiful, full-color photos
Not as many traditional dim sum recipes
If you are searching for a book that gives very clear instructions—written and visual—about how to make some of your dim sum favorites, this book is a winner. Written by "MasterChef Australia" alum and founder of Bumplings restaurant Brendan Pang, it includes nine chapters that cover dumplings of all sorts (steamed, boiled, and fried), noodles and bao, other small bites, and recipes for sauces and homemade wrappers. Aside from har gow and siu mai, this book has recipes for scallion pancakes, lotus leaf-wrapped sticky rice, crispy taro dumplings, and a few other Chinese regional favorites, like dan dan noodles and Shanghai soup dumplings (xiao long bao).
Particularly useful are the step-by-step photo instructions on how to master seven different dumpling folding styles, notes on some recipes about ingredients and tips on preparation. The format of this book is beautiful with inspiring, full-color photos of each dish alongside every recipe.
Pages: 160 | Recipes: 64 | Date Published: 2020
Best Guide: Dim Sum: A Pocket Guide
Covers 48 dim sum dishes
Includes phonetic pronunciations of Cantonese names
Great for those new to dim sum
Would love to see more dishes included
This isn't a cookbook, but if you're new to dim sum, this could be a valuable tool to help you learn some of the most popular dishes served at traditional dim sum meals. Each of the 48 listings includes detailed descriptions, English and Cantonese names, and photographs to help you identify dumplings and more. It's small enough to slip into a pocket or purse and is suitable for all ages. Also included are some tips on dim sum etiquette, from how to ask for a teapot refill to how to use chopsticks.
Pages: 80 | Dishes: 48 | Date Published: 2004
We chose "Dim Sum: The Art of Chinese Tea Lunch: A Cookbook" (view at Amazon) as our top pick because it has 60 recipes with easy-to-follow instructions, includes menu planning and tea selection tips, and is simply beautiful. Plant-based eaters need not miss out on the Cantonese cuisine with "Vegan Dim Sum" (view at Blurb), which includes everything from dumplings to dessert.
What To Look for in a Dim Sum Cookbook
There are a few standard recipes that should be included in any dim sum cookbook, like har gow, siu mai, and char siu bao. If you're just starting to cook dim sum, find a book that gives you basic dough recipes to master and has easy-to-follow instructions for shaping and folding dumplings (arguably the hardest part of DIY yum cha). If you have the basics down, opt for a book that has recipes with more variation, innovative fillings and doughs, or more "cheffy" classics, like pork spare ribs, chicken feet, and soup dumplings.
Beautiful, clear photography doesn't just help in providing visual inspiration for recipes, but it can also be useful in making sure that your dish matches what the author intends with their instructions. If you're not familiar with how a dish is supposed to look, having accompanying photos is important. For recipes that have specific instructions on folding and shaping, step-by-step photography is highly desirable, especially for visual learners. Here's the bottom line: If photos are important to you, double-check that your cookbook has them.
If you don't already have a well-stocked Asian pantry and kitchen, supplemental lists that name key ingredients and pieces of cookware are important. Check to see if your cookbook has a glossary of ingredients and essential kitchen tools, and in some cases, lists of places to buy them.
Where did dim sum originate?
"Dim sum originated from the Guangdong region in China and is part of Cantonese cuisine," says Perry Cheung, head chef and owner of Dumpling Monster in West Hollywood. Tea houses sprouted along the Silk Road and remain a big part of Cantonese culture today. Dim sum culture is also huge in Hong Kong and has found a foothold in other areas with large ethnically Chinese populations, such as Singapore, Toronto, New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
What are some common dim sum dishes?
According to Cheung, rice noodle rolls (cheung fun) with different meats, variations of dumplings like crystal shrimp dumplings (har gow), and pork and shrimp dumplings (siu mai) are some of the most well-known dim sum dishes.
Other familiar dishes include steamed pork buns (cha siu bao), pan-friend radish cakes (lo bak go), and egg custard tarts (dan tat), chicken feet, and beef tripe.
How do you eat dim sum?
If you're in a restaurant setting, you would choose several dishes at once so you have a variety of bites to choose from, much like one would order from a tapas menu. At home, you would display all your dishes at once (or as they are ready), and everyone would serve themselves on small plates using chopsticks as serving and eating utensils.
Whether you're at a restaurant or at home, sauces are key. "Chili oil, soy sauce, and Chinese mustard are usual condiments to enjoy dim sum, "says Cheung. And of course, tea should be served.
What kitchenware do you need to make dim sum?
For prepping vegetables and other filling components, having a good knife and chopping board is essential. A large bowl (or several) is important for mixing doughs and fillings. A steamer basket is a common kitchen item that can be used in conjunction with a pan to steam dumplings and bao (you can opt for a metal or bamboo version, depending on preference). Other important tools include a rolling pin, food processor/mandoline for chopping and slicing, a spider strainer and cooking chopsticks, and a wok, which can be utilized in a multitude of ways.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
This piece was written by Bernadette Machard de Gramont, a Los Angeles-based writer who specializes in global food and wine content. During the 18 years she lived in San Francisco, she spent many, many weekends enjoying dim sum at various restaurants around the city, from har gao at Yank Sing, xiao long bao at Dragon Beaux, pan-fried noodles in XO sauce from Hong Kong Lounge II, and even take away cha siu bao from Good Luck Dim Sum. After a two-year stint at Williams-Sonoma Headquarters, she now researches and tests a variety of cookware, bakeware, and wine tools, and interviews field experts for their insight.