With their shared seating, communal food, and insistence that tea should be served in an eggcup from an iron thing that weighs about as much as a kettle bell, the dim sum restaurant is a social minefield. Fortunately, I am here to clear that minefield, guiding you to safe passage and stress-free, steamy dumplings. Which, let’s face it, are the only kind of dumplings worth hearing about.
#1: Sit with your companions for at least forty minutes at the start of the meal while you all awkwardly try to bring up the fact that you don’t want to share. Fail miserably. End up sharing and secretly despising each other.
#2: Pretend to read the menu even though you know you’re getting the same thing you get every time.
#3: Join in enthusiastically with a conversation about how great all the steamed options are, even though you know you’re getting the fried stuff.
#4: Talk to the people you came with for 10 minutes and then spend the next three hours ignoring them in favour of eavesdropping on all of the other people at your table. That’s what shared tables are for. It’s to save the restaurant having to provide entertainment.
#5: Make such a mess of the order sheet that even you don’t know what you asked for. When the waiters try to help decipher it, nod along with whatever they say. And then enjoy your prawns. You hate prawns.
#6: If you drop food down yourself because you’re bad at using chopsticks it is perfectly acceptable to have a subtle feel around in your lap. When you find a big, sticky lump, sneak it into your mouth when people aren’t looking. Then hope to god that it is, indeed, food.
#7: Snatch the order sheet away from the waiter as they offer to take it away because your food’s arrived. You know you’ll want seconds. And by ‘seconds’, I mean ‘fourths’.
#8: Try not too talk too much about how badly you’d like to have a nap inside a char sui bun one day.
#9: Hold your head up high when your individual stack of baskets is three times taller than that of the family of four sitting on the next table. That is just because you are cultured, and a culinary adventurer.
#10: Steal the tiny pencils they give you to mark off your order. Because if it weren’t for dim sum restaurants and Argos, nobody would ever own stationery.
So now you know. I hope that you can go forth and dim sum with ‘sum’ more confidence. How many times can I talk about steamy dumplings before it becomes inappropriate?