Dim sum literally means "heart's delight." You essentially have dozens of tiny dishes to choose from, ranging from steamed dumplings to tiny fried shrimp rolls. It originated in the tea houses of China, and the ancient tradition is still carried on with pride at one of Chinatown's largest restaurants.
It's neither breakfast nor lunch -- although fans of dim sum could certainly substitute the vast array of bite-sized dishes for either of those meals. Most dim sum houses in Chinatown, such as the soaring Triple Crown, beneath the pagoda on Wentworth Avenue, offer dim sum from early morning through mid-afternoon.
"We have items that are steamed, that are baked, that are fried, and if they want to order stuff from the kitchen, we also have chefs ready to cook anything that you would like," said Morgan Ng, owner of Triple Crown.
The most popular items tend to be steamed. Har gao for instance, a steamed shrimp dumpling surrounded by a translucent rice flour wrapping, or char siu bao, giant, puffy steamed barbequed pork buns. Shui mai contains ground pork, topped with tiny fish eggs. Even rice is steamed, albeit inside aromatic banana leaves, and then embedded with Chinese sausage. A heartier choice might include tiny chunks of spare ribs with black bean sauce.
"On weekdays, it's a little less volume, so we do kind of like a picture menu, people order off that and they can see what they're ordering. Whereas on weekends, because it's a little higher traffic, we have steamer carts that go out, and they have the large variety of items that we have," Ng said.
Once you make a selection, and it's placed on your table, a card is filled out by the servers, letting them know how much you've ordered. Plates range from about $2 to $4 each, but they usually include three or four small items, like wide veggie or narrower fried shrimp rolls.
Desserts are unique: everything from tea-infused jelly to custard tarts and sweet cake rolls. Best part of the experience is that not only do you get to see what you're ordering, but you can also take a chance on something new, for a relatively inexpensive risk.
"You're only spending a couple of dollars on something that you can try once and who knows, it might be your next favorite dish," said Ng.
Dim sum usually starts in Chinatown around 9 a.m. and runs until the early afternoon. Weekends tend to be busy.
Other great options in Chinatown include Phoenix and across the street in the Chinatown square mall, Shui Wah.
2217 S. Wentworth Ave.
2131 S Archer Ave
2162 South Archer Avenue