The Dim Sum Field Guide: Not For the Novice Dim Sum Eater


I love dim sum so I jumped at the chance to review Carolyn Phillips’ “The Dim Sum Field Guide”.  My first impression of the book was, quite honestly, underwhelming.  “There aren’t any photographs,” I lamented to my hubby.  “Only line drawings of each tasty morsel and in black and white no less.  How is this going to help the dim sum newbie navigate the chaotic, intimidating hustle and bustle of a Chinese Tea House?  In this day and age a field guide should have photos of each entry, not line drawings.”  Disappointed, I put the book aside.
A few days later I picked up the book again this time spending a bit more time perusing it.  There is an introduction to and history of dim sum, dim sum etiquette and a funny, all too true, bit on fighting over the bill.  The book is divided by savory and sweet and then further divided by wrapped or not wrapped, method of cooking, and hot or cold.  Frankly, it was confusing, but then again, dim sum is comprised of hundreds of different dishes and virtually impossible to neatly categorize.
Each dish has two pages.  One is the line drawing and the other is best described as a taxonomy of each item with origins (history), nesting habits (how many in an order) and species (variations).  Also listed was a pronunciation guide in Mandarin and Cantonese with the name of each dish in Chinese characters.  The line drawings are very nice but one would be hard pressed to identify or differentiate many of the dishes from the drawings.  I did like the origins section which presented little factoids about each dim sum that I never even thought about.  Basic fillings are listed for each. Whether a dish contains pork, seafood or beef or if it is vegetarian or vegan is also noted.
This is my first review for Blogging for Books.  I am a bit bummed that it isn’t a glowing review where I finish with the tag line-You need to get this book NOW!.  However, it is a cute coffee table worthy book with interesting tidbits about dim sum.  Fortunately, I am not new to dim sum so I know what I am ordering, but I am going to sound pretty smart the next time I take my friends to a Chinese teahouse.

Thanks for reading, comments welcomed!