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Dim Sum

Dim Sum history, about carts vs check sheets, and their future

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Dim Sum history, about carts vs check sheets, and their future

K K | Jul 9, 2010 12:57 PM

I've been checking the net for information regarding the history of dim sum, not necessarily when or where it started, but more so about how a restaurant's waitstaff would deliver the food from the kitchen to the table, as well as the mechanism in doing so. Even Chinese websites don't really say much when I search for "dim sum + history".

In numerous dim sum threads on this board, I see comments like:

-I like my dim sum old school so I can see what's on the push carts

-people preferring a push cart experience over checksheet, despite the fact that depending on what time you arrive at the restaurant, the carts and ladies may be upselling stuff served by the kitchen over an hour ago, being heated via steam, and that checksheet is usually a bit more efficient and has a higher chance of getting something made to order

-the idea that checksheet is new school, vs pushcarts being old school

Well guess what, from the little I've found will refute some of these claims of schools.

If you use Luk Yu in Hong Kong as an example, they've been around 80+ years or more.
Other than Lin Heung, this is as old school as it gets.

If you look at blog photos of these places, I believe they still do it original old school way, where the dim sum ladies wear a belt over both shoulders, which there is a tray hooked onto it, where the dim sum is carried. It is believed that was the norm and original way of delivering.

I'm curious to know when carts were introduced, what they were made of at first, and when the cart became not just a pushcart, but a way to keep the food hot/warm (gas powered steamer gadget). A youtube clip made by a high school student in Hong Kong suggests the latter type of cart was introduced circa early 70s. Anyone remember dim sum in metropolitan USA during the 70s or 60s for that matter and what was it like then?

And as far as checksheets go, it seems to be the norm at most places now, even in Hong Kong, as real estate prices soar and restaurants wanting to do more turnover and volume (and thus tables and chairs becoming more dense in their space). But Luk Yu has been doing checksheet also for a long long time, thus disproving that this is a "new school" way. An epochtimes online Chinese article (lost the link, sorry) suggests that carts at least in Hong Kong are also going the way of the dodo bird, with maybe a handful of places left doing "old school". Everyone wants or seems to prefer (in addition to restaurant business dictating) made to order, ideally "quick" (Tim's Kitchen in HK being the exception, known for their crazy wait from online reports) and in a no nonsense yet comfortable environment. Lobster dumplings and baked pineapple flakey pastry buns with abalone bits inside, or swallow's nest dumplings are but high end gimmicks, yet potentially delicious. Or doing something with foie gras as seen in some west coast dim sum places.

Where do you see dim sum going in the future?

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