Food & Drink

Dim Sum Guide: Be Ready When The Carts Roll By (PHOTOS)

No more guessing when the carts roll by.

When it comes to Chinese food, Dim Sum is about as good as it gets -- you get to try a variety of different dishes, get to know a different culinary culture, and even make some new friends at the communal tables. Often referred to as "Chinese brunch," Dim Sum meals are generally conducted with multiple parties sharing large tables, with diners choosing dishes off carts that travel through the restaurant.

But while Dim Sum can be a delicious (and abundant) experience, it can also be a confusing one. Besides figuring out proper Dim Sum etiquette, it can also be difficult to determine what exactly you are being offered from each of the wheeled carts; with no obvious labels and many foods that you may not be familiar with, choosing dishes can be a bit of a trial-and-error experience. To help decrease the odds of picking at random and increase the odds of getting something you will actually want to eat, we've put together a guide explaining 10 of the most common Dim Sum foods -- next time, you won't be completely in the dark when the Dim Sum carts come around.

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Pork Buns
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These doughy buns -- 'Char Siu Bao' in Chinese -- are usually filled with barbecue pork.
Siu Mai
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Pronounced (and often spelled) 'shumai' or 'shu mai,' these small dumplings are most commonly filled with shrimp, chicken or pork.
Egg Custard Tart
Flickr: stu_spivack
This pastry is filled with egg custard, and is one of the most popular Dim Sum desserts.
Lo Mai Gai
Flickr: jasonlam
The lotus leaves make this dish especially mysterious -- they're usually filled with a combination of sticky rice, chicken, sausage, mushrooms and scallions.
Chicken Feet
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Dim sum chicken feet are often referred to as 'Phoenix Talons' and are commonly prepared in a black bean sauce. If you're squeamish about your food, you might want to pass on this one.
Spare Ribs
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Pork spare ribs are just another way that Dim Sum embraces finger foods.
Jin Deui
Flickr: Shockingly Tasty
These sesame seed pastries are made of fried dough, and often filled with red bean paste. Along with egg custard tarts, they are a popular dessert item.
Rice Noodle Rolls
Flickr: avlxyz
These steamed rice noodle rolls are most often filled with either shrimp or beef, finished with a soy sauce. They're similar to dumplings in many ways, but can be a bit more difficult to eat.
Potstickers
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Potstickers generally come in two varieties, pan-fried or steamed, and are usually filled with vegetables and pork, shrimp, or chicken.
Har Gow
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These translucent shrimp dumplings are soft, steamed, and go especially well dipped in the many sauces that hang out in the center of the table.
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