If you’re looking for the best introduction to dim sum and the cuisine of many Chinese teahouses and specialty restaurants, then look no further than Carolyn Phillips‘ The Dim Sum Field Guide. This educational tool and potential travel companion (roughly 6″x6″x3/4″ and easily stowed in a purse or bag) has been carefully thought out and formatted to provide anyone (I’d even include Chinese natives in this boat) with a solid foundation for an excellent dim sum experience! Of course, much of the cuisine is focused on what one may find in a Cantonese establishment, but that doesn’t mean all originated in the southeast region of mainland China.
Phillips begins with a little bit on categories of tea and etiquette for selection, ordering, serving, drinking, and paying in a traditional Chinese culture. She follows with the same for dim sum, but goes well beyond categories and into a plethora of specific savory and sweet types, noting further variations on each when applicable. Every item takes up two pages: the left page contain the English name and hand drawn sketch of the food, including estimated dimensions—helpful when determining how much to order given one’s appetite; and the right page includes the food’s name in Chinese characters, pinyin, and Cantonese, how to identify it, basic fillings and default sauces/dips when applicable, plating and arrangements, its origin (contestation acknowledged when applicable), and then some applicable varieties, each labeled in English, Chinese characters, pinyin, and Cantonese. Stylistically, I enjoy the sketches provided in this book over photographs, harking back to culinary texts of old—it also speaks to the time and care taken in the book’s planning, development, and execution.
Not only informative and useful as a point-and-order volume, this is sure to whet one’s appetite and encourage readers to experiment and try new things.
For the myriad of readers disappointed after having picked this up expecting a cookbook, which it certainly is not (Nor is it disappointing in the slightest when properly used), I highly recommend Carolyn Phillips’ All Under Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cuisines of China, the best and most comprehensive Chinese cookbook I’ve ever seen, as well as Andrea Nguyen’s Asian Dumplings: Mastering Gyōza, Spring Rolls, Samosas, and More.
*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.