Dim sum has existed for thousands of years, ever since Chinese travelers along the Silk Road stopped at teahouses for rest and sustenance. Along with their tea, they were served bite-sized morsels that slowly morphed into an art form. Literally translated, dim sum means “to touch the heart.” When expertly prepared, these ethereal dumplings do exactly that.
Usually presented in batches of three or four and served from rolling carts, dim sum accommodates groups and allows each diner to consume as much as he or she wants. Although dim sum is technically part of the Cantonese culinary tradition, it is popular throughout modern China. While the elderly tend to indulge after morning tai chi, restaurants are packed with businessmen and workers come lunchtime.
Finding dim sum outside the major metropolitan areas of America, however, can be a challenge. The most popular variation on a Japanese or Thai menu is shu mai (dumplings filled with ground shrimp, pork, or both), but these are usually not prepared on the premises. In Naples, O’mei China Bistro serves a dozen dim sum plates as appetizers. Choices include Peking duck rolls, scallion pancakes, and pork fried dumplings. But while dim sum is often a morning or lunch experience in China, O’mei China Bistro is only open in the evenings.
Local dumpling lovers received another option last September when Fort Myers’ Ginger Bistro opened a second location in Cape Coral. Every day between 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m., the restaurant presents classic dim sum in the Hong Kong style. The 40 dishes on offer range from vegetarian (crispy taro turnovers and pan-fried turnip cakes) to exotic (beef tripe with ginger or braised chicken feet).