How To Host A Dim Sum Party

How to host a Dim Sum party (3)

My friend Georgina first introduced me to ‘dim sum’ a few years ago and I was immediately hooked. If you’re not familiar with it, dim sum is a traditional Chinese meal which consists of a wide array of small dishes served in bamboo steamers and small plates. Dim sum is always served alongside tea which is why the process of eating dim sum whilst drinking tea is called ‘yum cha’ (which literally translates to ‘to drink tea’). However most people use both words interchangeably these days.

Since Yum Cha usually involves a lot of food, I’d never really thought to recreate the experience at home before. That is until I went into my local Asian supermarket the other day and saw that you could buy every kind of delicious dumpling imaginable – all pre-made and ready to be steamed at home!

So on Sunday, my friend Jo and I decided to celebrate the upcoming Chinese New Year by throwing a small dim sum party at her house. The party turned out to be super easy to organize and a lot of fun so if you’d like to host your own Chinese dim sum party at home here are a few pointers below.

Setting the scene

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The focus of Yum Cha is very much on food so no need to turn your house into an Asian wonderland for the occasion. Here are a few simple items that will already make your party feel like an authentic yum cha experience:

– Chopsticks
– Bowls
– Bamboo steamers (which besides from looking great will also help keep the food warm)
– Chinese spoons (especially if serving congee)
– Small dipping bowls
– A teapot and small tea cups

All of these things can usually be found at Asian supermarkets (or even bargain stores) for a very reasonable price.

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Red is often associated with Chinese-themed parties so if you have red items on hand such as red paper lanterns, red plates, napkins or a tablecloth then this could make for an easy oriental tablescape. However, don’t feel like you need to limit yourself to that color. For example Jo and I decided to go for a green and orange color scheme instead and brought in an Asian touch through the use of bamboo and servingware.

The Food

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Because we were feeling lazy short on time, Jo and I decided to buy all of the food already made from her local Asian supermarket and prepared it just before the guests arrived. We made sure to buy high quality products of course and everybody seemed very content with our choice as the all the food was gone in less than an hour.

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If you’re feeling particularly industrious then you could make all of your dim sum dishes from scratch. You could even invite your friends to help you and turn it into a DIY dim sum party. If you’re looking for recipe ideas here are a few links below to help you create a winning Yum Cha menu:

Traditionally, dim sum is either eaten in the morning or in the afternoon. Dumplings are served first, followed by other steamed dishes, vegetables, fried food and desserts. Because dumplings are so quick to steam you can definitely wait until your guests arrive to cook them. If you’d prefer to do it before hand, just make sure you leave the bamboo steamers sealed and over hot water until ready to serve (and for no longer than 15min after the food is cooked).

Finally, regardless of whether you choose to make the dishes yourself or not, make sure to offer a few dipping sauces to your guests such as soy sauce, chili sauce, chili oil, or even hoisin. Dipping is half the fun!

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The Drinks

pouring tea

Tea is the traditional accompaniment to Yum Cha. Most Chinese restaurants serve green, jasmine or oblong tea but you can choose any type of tea you like (we served mint tea and it worked really well). It’s customary to serve other people before yourself.

Besides tea, you could also offer other beverages to your guests such as Chinese beer, fresh juice or soft drinks. If you’re really in the mood to party than a tea-based or lychee cocktail could also fit the bill perfectly!

Happy Partying xx

I hope you found these tips useful! Have you ever tried dim sum?

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  • I love yum cha, it is one of my favourite meals! And this looks adorable and tasty. One question, how did you manage to keep all the food warm? I’m not sure how long dumplings stay warm in the steamers? :)

    • Hi Jess, good question – I started cooking the dumplings in the bamboo steamers just a couple of minutes before the guests were due to arrive. Once they were done, I turned off the heat and left the bamboo steamers over the hot water so the food would keep warm until we sat down (about 5min). However next time I would probably just cook the dumplings once the guests arrive as it took less than 10 minutes anyway. I’ll make a note of it in the post now :)

  • Wow! I’m seriously impressed with your dedication to using bamboo steamers! Looks so authentic (and I go eat dim sum regularly!). I love all the dumplings and other dishes you ended up getting for this. What a unique and smart idea for a party!

    • Thank you so much Anna! I was a bit nervous about using bamboo steamers at first but they (thankfully) turned out to be super easy to use. Plus they look super cute which is always a plus in my books :)

  • This looks amazing, and now I REALLY have a hankering for dumplings! I have a question though, and it’s probably a stupid one- how did you know how to cook the food? I’m assuming all the packaging is written in Chinese- did you have to look up a tutorial on how to cook everything first?

    • Hi MJ, actually I think the instructions were written in English as well as Chinese (if I remember correctly). Cooking dim sum is actually easier than it looks, you simply put the bamboo steamer over a little bit of simmering water in a wok or a shallow frying pan, put the lid on and wait for about 6-8 min depending on the type of dumplings you’re cooking. :)

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