(This applies to meat eaters only, at this time)
Two simple tests using 2 dishes:
1) Siu Mai meat
This test measures the quality of ingredients being used by the restaurant.
These come in the small steam baskets and consist of something like a wonton skin wrapped around pork, with a little carrot cube place on top.
What form is the pork in? If it’s a pure ground pork meatball, then the restaurant has cut corners here. You should be able to see and taste individual cubes/chunks of real pork meat, along with real chopped mushrooms, dried shrimp, and maybe some bamboo shoots.
Some restaurants will do a pork blend — a little ground pork with real pork chunks. Again, not the ultimate in dim sum quality, but if you find something cheap AND best quality, you better let Grubgirl know.
2) Har Gow skin
This test measures the dim sum chef’s cooking skills.
Har Gow are little shrimp balls steamed within a thin rice flour wrapping. The shrimp mix inside is covered entirely by the rice skin, like a wonton.
The skin must be steamed just right – so it is not too gummy or sticky. The skin should be cooked enough to hold its contents together without being overdone. It should have a melt-in-your-mouth consistency.
Let me know which restaurants pass these tests!
Thanks to V. Chan for these tips.