Yum Cha: A Chinese Legacy

Posted: July 4, 2006 in culture, food

I feel like some dim sums right now… It’s been like half a year since I had myself some decent dim sums (点心) which led me to “yum cha”… for those of you who don’t know… yum cha literally means “drink tea” but can also be used in context referring to the traditional Chinese culture of drinking tea while having dim sums together with friends and family… it’s the Chinese equivalent of tapas… Well there are 4 basic components which makes up the yum cha experience… No. 1: The Tea… Tea is to the Chinese what wine is to the Europeans… it is drank with every meal and is believed to have a cleansing property… mind you that Chinese tea tastes rather different from what I like to refer to as English tea… those drank by westerners… Chinese tea has a richer, deeper taste and is taken without sugar or milk… My personal favourites are Po Li and Tie Guan Yin… No. 2: The Tea House… these days people usually go to restaurants to yum cha but there are still some tea houses around which are basically shops that do yum cha only… It’s all part of the experience because the atmosphere gives the yum cha experience that something extra… it’s crowded and everyone is practically shouting… if you manage to find a very traditional tea house you might even find some people bring their pet birds along with them and all the cages are hung together and the customers yum cha to the sound of birds singing… No. 3: Dim Sums… dim sums mean “touch the heart” which I’m not sure why they atually call it that but probably because dim sums really hit the spot when you are craving something delicious and they warm the soul… dim sums are traditionally little tid-bits usually steamed served in little bamboo baskets but these days it ranges anything from “siew mai” to “har gao” to “char siew pao” to “lo mai gai” to “cheong fun” to congee to egg tarts to mango pudding… there are loads to choose from to suit anyone’s liking… Just thinking about it is making me drool… I’m so hungry now… and last but not least No. 4: The Company… The yum cha experience is, for me, never meant to be had alone… It’s a time for friends and family to get together and enjoy each other’s company… if done right yum cha could take up half a day… Probably that’s why the older generation love it and the younger generation have no time for it… When asked “How would it affect you if yum cha no longer existed”, over 60% of Chinese under 25 years said that it doesn’t matter because there are so many other things to eat… However majority also believe that it would never happen due to the relatively high demand… Personally I L-O-V-E, LOVE, to yum cha!!! A shame it’s so expensive though… I think that’s partly the problem… there are cheap ones but they are no good… the good ones are just too expensive to have a a regular basis in Malaysia and as for Melbourne it’s all expensive… In addition I think the yum cha culture is one of the better Chinese traditions that I really would like to see it live on and for the younger generation to embrace it… It’s an absolute delight… It’s suh a shame that people don’t even appreciate a good cup of tea anymore… It’s just like water to them… but I personally think it’s so much more… a good cup of tea is to be enjoyed and savoured… But then again… it’s a luxury that not everyone can afford and a legacy that we rarely have time for these days…

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