Directly translated, dim sum means "touch your heart"--an apt reference to these little dishes that both delight the palate and capture the imagination. (Foo, Susanna: Chinese Cuisine. Shelburne, VT: Chapters Publishing Ltd., 1995, p 25.)
Dim sum is a meal, often served Saturdays at lunch time, consisting of many tasty items, of which you may partake at your leisure. No, my friend, dim sum is a brunch fit for emperors and dragon ladies. While you can get really good dim sum in America, Hong Kong is world famous for its many, many great restaurants serving delectable dim sum. I've never been to Hong Kong but when I go you can bet my first stop will be the Luk Yu Tea House with its many offerings of both sweet and regular dim sum. The proper Dim Sum Restaurant should be well lit with large aisles for the dim sum carts. Plenty of soy sauce really completes the table. Tea is the perfect accompaniment to dim sum. It should be served very hot and refilled whenever needed.
The custom of tea drinking in China dates back to the legendary Shen Nung, who is said to have personally tried hundreds of grasses and herbs to test their medicinal effects and toxicity. Tea was a popular drink by the Sung Dynasty (960-1280 A.D.), and gradually, innovations in the tea drinking custom were introduced. In addition to a high level of connoisseurship of the various types of teas and improvements in the quality of tea leaves, a broad variety of accompaniments to tea drinking began to appear - dim sum. In China's ancient agricultural society, people would often head for a tea house after an exhausting day in the fields. Here they would mix warm conversation with fine tea and a tantalizing selection of dim sum. The quantity of each was kept small-the delicacies were served in tiers of bamboo steamers or small to medium-sized plates-so that many different varieties could be sampled. This custom has continued up through present day. (http://www.dimsum.com/ds3.html
To the neophyte, dim sum may seem like a daunting culinary experience. With practice even kids can get the hang of it! A typical menu consists of various kinds of delectations brought to your table in carts. If you don't know Chinese point to what looks good. Don't be afraid to try new things. Steamed pork dumplings are the prototypical dumplings served for dim sum. These are called Sui Mei (pronounced "SHOE-MY") and spelled many different ways. We have often thought that each pilgrimage for dim sum (or "dim summing" as we call it) has its own rhythm, its own personality. It depends, of course, on the order in which the dim sum ladies wheel their steaming carts around. Sometimes you start with old favorites and other times these do not appear until you are well into the meal. Sometimes pork buns or sticky rice tempt us, though we try not to eat them too early in the game for fear of getting too full too fast. (http://www.concentric.net/~lkarper/dim_sum.html