Wikipedia says “Dim Sum is a Cantonese term, literally translated as dot heart or order heart, meaning order to one’s heart’s content. It is also translated as touch the heart, dotted heart, or snack; or it may be derived from yat dim sum yi, meaning a "little token".” I’m going with the last definition as my father told me “dim sum” meant “little treasures” and I find that best describes the experience of a dim sum lunch – a feast of little treasures.
My father, Chin Bow Chun, arrived on the SS INABA MARU which landed at Victoria on 10 November 1910. He was 10 years old. The General Register records he (more likely, even though he was traveling alone, his family) paid the Head Tax in the amount of $500.00. He lived in various cities in Canada; I’m told he had an uncle in Montreal and that he spent some time their before moving to Ontario. By 1939 he was living and working in Toronto where he met my mother. They were married in 1941 and I was born in 1943. I spent the next twenty six years near the Elizabeth Street Chinatown and returned to the family home with my wife after my father died in 1974. I vaguely remember the famous 22 ½ Chinese restaurant and have eaten in all the “name” restaurants of Chinatown Downtown: Kwong Chow, Sea Hi, Sai Woo, Lichee Garden, and later after I married, Champion House, Pink Pearl, Young Lok and Lee’s. Most of the cooks were from a relatively small area in southern China near Canton City in Guangdong Province and most of the food was Cantonese style. Toronto had and has some of the best Chinese food in Canada!
I am very fond of Chinese food and dim sum. When we moved to Kitchener in 1991 we went looking for good Chinese restaurants and were very pleasantly surprised to find that Kitchener/Waterloo had a few that were almost as good as the ones in Toronto. Okay there is nothing to compare with Lai Wah Heen which the New York Times says has “the best dim sum in Toronto, maybe the best in North America.” But we couldn’t afford Lai Wah Heen at Toronto’s Metropolitan Hotel or Susar Lee’s two world famous restaurants either.
Our favorite Kitchener Chinese restaurant is Cameron Seafood Restaurant 21-19 Cameron Street, Kitchener. It is consistently good and even does North American Chinese dishes well. We (Erin, James, Pat and I) particularly like the Cashew Shrimp, Chicken in Lettuce leaf, Satay Beef and the seafood and mixed meat tofu casserole. We also like Chrystal Palace up in Waterloo – its ginger beef or chicken are excellent and Crystal Special Shrimp is a particular favorite of mine Lai Lai Restaurant in Kitchener has very good Szechuan and Shanghai food including steamed wheat breads you have to ask for and fried onion/ginger pancakes.
We found a number of restaurants that do dim sum well. Classical dim sum includes buns such as dai bao (a large steamed bun stuffed with roasted chicken, barbecued pork, pickled egg, mushrooms, and vegetables I was first introduced to at Kwong Chow in Toronto and is available on street corners in all of Toronto’s Chinatowns), dumplings and rice and tofu skin rolls, which contain a range of ingredient, including beef, chicken, pork, shrimps, and vegetables. Dim sum is usually steamed or deep fried. It is customary to order family style, sharing dishes among all members of the dining party. So gather a group of friends together because with the small portions, the more people the more you can try.
Kitchener Waterloo’s dim sum places include Cameron, Chrystal Place, Lai Lai, King Tin, Kim Seng (weekends only) and the Sweet Dreams Teashop in University Plaza (Sweet Dreams Teashop has bubbletea!). We like turnip cake, char sui bao, pot stickers, sticky rice in lotus leaf, har gow shrimp dumpling, shrimp shu mai, and a weekend treat at Chrystal Place, egg custard tarts. Kim Seng has onion/ginger pancakes on weekends that are every bit as good as the ones we first had at Young Lok in Toronto and Pat thinks their shrimp sui mai is the best in the region. James and I think Chrystal Palace makes the best sticky rice in lotus leaf. Kin Tin on weekends has the carts or trolleys making it easy – you don’t have to order from a menu you simply point to the item you want. The large Chinese grocery store on King Street north of the farmers’ market carries frozen dim sum you can heat up yourself. Sobeys carries Wong Wing Chinese dumplings and Asian Classic dim sum also frozen and ready to be heated. If you are adventurous you can try some of the dim sum recipes found at this url: Dim Sum Recipes.
A special note to Prime Minister Harper: Apology accepted. I only wish my mom and dad had lived to benefit from the reparation. Thank you!