What is Yum Cha?

The country of Malaysia, located in Southeast Asia, is an incredible mixing pot of cultures.  The first Chinese settlers arrived in Malaysia in the early 15th century bringing with them their various exotic cuisines which were slowly adopted alongside other local cultural cuisines. And so, Yum Cha evolved to be included with other Malaysian local street foods, snacks, appetizers and small plates.

Yum Cha, literally means "drink tea". The phrase Dim Sum is sometimes used in place of Yum Cha. In the Chinese language, Dim Sum refers to a meal made up of a large selection of bite-sized Chinese dishes eaten for brunch and served with tea. Yum Cha dishes can be sweet or savory and includes buns, rolls, wraps, dumplings, veggies, meat and even the humble spring roll. Dim Sum refers to the small-dish appetizers and desserts whereas yum cha refers to the act of having a meal typically involving such dishes.

Traditionally, Yum Cha is practiced in the morning or early afternoon. The history of the tradition can be traced back to the period of the Xianfeng Emperor, who first referred to establishments serving tea as yi li guan (一厘馆, "1 cent house"). These establishments offered a place for people to gather and gossip, which became known as cha waa (茶话, "tea talk"). These tea houses grew to become their own type of restaurant, and the action of going there was called Yum Cha.

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