Dim sum can be found everywhere from humble Chinatown takeaway storefronts to glittering restaurant palaces serving hundreds of diners at a time. Though dim sum is typically a mid-day meal, some restaurants open as early as 5AM for an older clientele who may quietly eat while dwelling over the morning paper with a cup of tea. Once the crowds swell later in the day, the pace and volume heighten as patrons order from checklist menus or from steam carts pushed by attendants around the restaurant floor.
Dim sum meals begin by selecting a tea for the table. Jasmine, Oolong, Chrysanthemum, Sau Mei (a white tea) and Bo Lei (a black tea) are most common and refills are obtained by propping the lid on top of an empty teapot. As the meal begins, survey the scene and observe what is available on the push carts and what other tables are having. Plates of dim sum are typically classified as small, medium or large with most costing no more than a few dollars apiece.