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-- 05 December, 2004 --

Yum cha experiences

Yum cha is the most confusing, bewildering, fantastic way to eat a meal. At the very best Chinese yum cha restaurants, there are queues of people, mostly Asian, waiting for hours to get a table. Table space is at a premium. It is a very good idea that you don't push your chair back too vigorously or too widely because you will end up sitting in the lap of a diner at the next table or crashing into one of the many trollies laden with mysterious Chinese niblettes.

Before you have barely settled in your chair, the trolley pushers zero in on your table and begin hounding you into accepting a plate of whatever is on their cart. Most of the morsels come wrapped in sheets of rice noodle so that it is impossible to distinguish between vegetarian and flesh, chicken or prawn, boc choy or rice.

The meal is accompanied by copious amounts of green tea poured into little cups with no handles. In the beginning, the tea is so hot that the ends of your fingers become all red and tingley. The waiters, alerted by the upturned lids of the pots, continually refill the tea pots with more hot water over the top of the tea leaves that you started out with. The tea changes from a pale green colour to more recognisable tea colour and then back again to a washed out green as it is watered down. The idea of yum cha is that the tea is the centre of the experience and the food is secondary but it seems that someone forgot to tell both the diners or the trolley-pushers.

The best accompaniment for a yum cha meal is a Chinese or, at the very least, Chinese speaking friend who can take control of interacting with the trolley pushers. This will ensure that you don't end up with dumplings hiding mushrooms or shellfish. Your friend should also take responsibility for the mysterious gridded card that is stamped with dark and dangerous rhunic symbols every time another plateful of food lands in the middle of your table. It is also very nice if your generous Chinese friend offers to take responsibility for the bill when it arrives.

Yum cha is the exception to the rule that that says that you always feel hungry an hour after eating a Chinese meal. If you feel hungry any time within a week following a Sunday yum cha then you haven't really been trying hard enough. Yum cha should make you feel deliciously blotted with food and waterlogged with tea and completely ready to spend the rest of the afternoon dazing in a comfy armchair in front of the television.

Posted by robynls at December 5, 2004 8:00 PM


Yum Cha to you, too, Robyn! Sounds interesting, but not knowing what's going down the gullet is disconcerting to put it mildly! And without a Chinese interpreter/guide, I would think could be essentially disastrous..but nevertheless, your explanation of Yum Cha was delightful! Thank you!

Posted by: Bex at December 5, 2004 11:06 PM

I've only had it once, I found the experience interesting....I agree you need an experienced yum cha-er with you to get the full benefit of it. I found the deep-fried chicken feet a bit fiddly though!

Posted by: Detlef at December 8, 2004 10:36 AM

I wonder about the origin of the word(s) yum cha because this is a perfect description of what we would call a dim sum meal. There is a restaurant is Vancouver that is GIGANTIC--bigger than a football field--that is jammed with people having dim sum.

Posted by: Julianna at December 9, 2004 12:07 PM

I have been to yum cha many times, and each time is as exciting as the first time I went. I disagree that you need a friend who speaks the language. Most of the staff are able to explain to you the ingredients, and if they can't, just ask to speak to someone who can. They're friendly people after all. I have sooo many favourite yum cha dishes, but the dish I really look forward to every time is the blanched spinach in that great sauce they soak it in! YUM! The focus of yum cha is meant to be the tea you are served, but unless you're from that culture, I believe the food is as much the focus as is the tea. You just have to be careful not to drink your tea so eagerly after it is set down, because it's so hot. All in all, yum cha is the best dining experience anyone could ask for.

Posted by: Lisa at May 30, 2006 3:56 PM

Yum Cha is very yummy! Nice website!

Posted by: Elle at August 21, 2006 10:46 AM

'Yum Cha' is Cantonese, when described literally means 'drinking tea', but Juliana, you are correct in saying that this is a dim sum meal!

I laughed at your comment about the mysterious symbols :) I grew up with Yum Cha so I've never really thought about the possibility of yum cha being a bewildering experience, but now that you've said so, I have to agree.

In fact, I'll be at Yum Cha in two hours!

Posted by: Renee at August 25, 2007 10:30 AM

Extract taken from Wikipedia.
Yum cha is a term in Cantonese which literally means "drinking tea". It refers to the custom of eating small servings of different foods while sipping Chinese tea in Cantonese speaking areas of southern China. It is an integral part of the culinary culture of Guangdong Province, Hong Kong and Macau. In any city with a sizeable population of Cantonese people, to yum cha is a tradition on weekend mornings, and whole families gather to chat and eat dim sum and drink Chinese tea. Yum cha is also a morning ritual for the elderly to spend a good part of the morning after early morning exercise of tai chi or a walk. The tea is important, for it is said to help digest the rich foods. In the past, people went to a teahouse to yum cha, but Dim sum restaurants have been gaining overwhelming popularity of late.

Posted by: hell22raiser at November 27, 2007 12:44 PM

yum cha is awesome

Posted by: bob at April 7, 2011 2:54 PM

yo its kirby from a place u dont know and yum cha is the best in the world u try it and it is also the best in the riverina

Posted by: bob at April 7, 2011 2:55 PM

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