The Cantonese expression for eating dim sum, “yum cha,” actually means “to drink tea.” The practice of dim sum snacking, though, has come a long way from its humble linguistic origins and entered into a dining domain of its own.
Now, the doughy bites common to dim sum have a firm claim on diners and the draw to bite-sized delights is evident in Philly’s new wave of dim sum spots.
Traditionally, dim-sum dining means choosing from an array of steamed, sautéed and sauced mostly dough-based bites. The variety of dim sum dishes ranges pretty widely and can includes buns, veggies, meats and more. Central to a dim-sum diet, though, are dumplings.
These days, dim sum menus are often curated and modern spins abound with dumplings appearing on menus other than those specializing in dim sum small plates. As a rule, digging in to dumplings remains central to dim sum-style dining, so we’ve rounded up eight of the top spots in Philadelphia — from brand-new to tried-and-true — to go dumpling crazy.
Our top picks for where to dine on dumplings, below.
1. Bing Bing Dim Sum
Delicate dumplings bursting with savory ground pork and a steamy slurpable broth? Count us in. The soup dumplings at the recently opened Bing Bing Dim Sum on East Passyunk Avenue are a must-order at this new resto from the folks behind Cheu Noodle Bar, but don’t stop there. The contemporary takes on classic dim sum dishes — think poppy seed dumplings and kimchi pork soup dumplings — are all winners. MORE INFO
2. Dim Sum Garden
The Shanghai crab-and-pork soup dumplings at Dim Sum Garden are locally beloved and arguably the bites that kicked off this city’s recent surge in dim sum dining. Recently, Dim Sum Garden moved into a new, larger space, but the authentic Shanghai-style food remains some of the best in the city. MORE INFO
3. Nom Wah Tea Parlor
A New York legend arrives in Philly’s Chinatown: Nom Wah Tea Parlor is a cartless dim-sum emporium with dishes like delicate egg rolls, sticky rice parcels, pork buns and — yes — delicious dumplings. MORE INFO
More places for dumplings, below.
4. Han Dynasty
Han Chiang seems to always be expanding his ever-bustling Sichuan operation, Han Dynasty, into other cities (New York) and larger digs (Manayunk). Thankfully, the dumplings drenched in chili oil don’t change. MORE INFO
5. Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House
The house-made noodles may be the marquee draw to Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House, but the three different kinds of dumplings on the menu shouldn’t be passed over. Opt for pork and chive, coconut chicken curry or pork and shrimp. MORE INFO
6. Sakura Mandarin
A large menu of sushi, Sichuan and Shanghai-style items shouldn’t distract diners from one of the top soup dumplings in town. Go for the dim sum, with a focus on the five varieties of dumplings, including the crab and pork soup dumpling. MORE INFO
A departure from the traditional spots for dumpling dining, Buddakan nonetheless attracts with its dim sum and dumplings — particularly the edamame dumplings with truffled sauternes-shallot broth, a modern take on the classic. MORE INFO
Chef Michael Schulson of Sampan learned a thing or two about dumplings and dim sum while serving as the chef of the aforementioned Buddakan. Now, Chef Schulson’s modern Midtown Village Asian spot dishes dumplings with the best of ’em — like a General Tso soup dumpling, shrimp dumpling and more. MORE INFO