Dim Sum Uncovered: What you should know before dim sum Mother’s Day brunch

A happy mama’s day to all the hard working ladies out there making it work for everyone in the family.  It is, indeed, hands down, the toughest shanghai job in town, but one that is incredibly satisfying.  So, for all the mamas heading out for dim sum brunch today, here is some information I have been wanting to post for a while.  Hats off to Dr. Richard Saint Cyr from the International Medical Center in Beijing for the tip on the HK Centre for Food and Safety.  You can check out his information at www.myhealthbeijing.com – a great blog and newsletter.

I love dim sum.  I just do.  I’ve loved it since the first time I saw the steam carts trot past me in New York’s Chinatown in my early 20s.  But looking around at all the steamed and fried bits of deliciousness makes me wonder just how healthy (or unhealthy) dim sum is.  Yes, dim sum tends to come in small portions and forces you to really evaluate how full you are before more dishes show up on your table.  But it looks to me like lots of white flour, fried dough and salty sauces.  I turned to the experts, the Hong Kong Centre for Food and Safety, who did a comprehensive look at 74 dim sum dishes, analyzing them for calories, fat, fiber, protein, etc.  Overall, they found, “the total fat, saturated fat and sodium contents of some Chinese dim sum were quite high, whilst the calcium and dietary fibre contents were generally low.”  No surprise there.  Congee does have few calories but not much fiber.  Noodle soup dishes are high in sodium and fried rice is higher in fat.  Sauteed is better than fried, steamed is better than everything and be sure to include some of those tasty Chinese greens.

The report did go on to offer some good choices among the dumplings, and I am throwing in my thoughts for bad ones.  The entire report is offered here: http://www.cfs.gov.hk/english/programme/programme_rafs/programme_rafs_n_01_01.html

The Good:

Steamed vegetarian dumpling

Boiled Chinese flowering cabbage

Steamed rice-roll with beef

Starch dumpling stuffed with shrimp (xia jiao)


The (Not Too) Bad:

Steamed bun with vegetables (xiang gu shu cai bao)

Dumpling stuffed with chive and ground pork (jui cai jiao zi)

Shao Mai

Daikon Cake (luo bu gao)


The Ugly:

Deep fried glutinous rice ball with sesame (ma qiu)

Fried little dried fish with peanut (xiao yu chao hua sheng)

Egg custard tart (mei wei dan ta)

Crisp powder (yi kou su)


Also remember that its just one meal out of the day and balance is the key.  Happy mamas day and most importantly, enjoy your family!