Dim sum birthday brunch

My daughter Rachel turns five today. We’re having a kids’ party for her tomorrow, mostly with girls from her pre-school class, but we had to do something fun for her birthday today. So last night I asked where she’d like to go. She shrugged her shoulders.

“What about dim sum?” I asked.


So we packed ourselves into the car this morning, minus number one son who’s away for the weekend at a youth group retreat, and drove 20 miles up to Chinatown.

There aren’t too many restaurants in Chicago that still use dim sum carts, so we picked one of them, which happens to be the kids’ favorite. We’ve been going there for so long that the dim sum ladies recognized the kids and even asked about Jake. They also know I speak Mandarin, so we conversed in that. For good measure I threw in some of my uber choppy Cantonese.

But the carts don’t go out on the floor until 10am, and since we arrived at 9 we chose dishes from the menu. We all had a say in ordering (about a dozen dishes in total).

Rachel started with shrimp rolls, one of the kids’ dim sum staples.

Martin ate more than any of us.

He also drank several cups of jasmine tea (I usually order oolong, but it has more caffeine than the kids should probably consume).

When the kids were done, and Tom and I were finishing the last of a chicken and rice bowl, Martin announced, “Go home now.”

Mai daan,” I said to a waiter, asking for the bill. We paid, dressed the kids in their winter coats, and headed back out into the snow flurries.

Rachel seemed to enjoy an excellent birthday brunch!


  1. says

    I don’t know why, but I don’t quite like dim sum even though I am Chinese myself. Tim sum never seems like a meal to me even if one eats a lot of it. They look nice and dainty though. However, some of my friends are crazy of dim sum!

    • Susan Blumberg-Kason says

      I know people who can’t get full from dim sum. I usually order a rice bowl with chicken and choi sum. That fills me up and makes it enough for a meal. It’s kind of like afternoon tea. I can definitely eat that as a meal, but only when I make sure I get my fair share of the food!

      • T says

        Yeah, you’re right! Dim sum translates roughly to “desserts” in English and it’s intended to be a light meal or, as you say, afternoon tea. In fact, the other name for it is yum cha, which literally means “drink tea”.

        I think it’s funny that your kids take to dim sum so well; goodness, they even seem to like drinking tea. You must have introduced them to it all quite early. (-:

        • Susan Blumberg-Kason says

          I started eating dim sum about 30 years ago in Chicago, and always knew it as dim sum. So when I moved to Hong Kong 20-some years ago, it took me a while to figure out that yum cha also referred to dim sum. I still tap my first and middle fingers on the table when people serve me tea, even if they have no idea what I’m doing.

          Yeah, I started my kids on dim sum early–and on tea. The younger ones scream when the carts come out and always seem like they haven’t eaten in weeks.

  2. Judy says

    This brings back fond childhood memories of dim sum in New York’s Chinatown. Good times! I wish my kids enjoyed dim sum the way yours do. I’m so glad Rachel had a nice birthday brunch!

    • Susan Blumberg-Kason says

      I love dim sum in New York’s Chinatown! In the 90s, I used to go to The Golden Unicorn. My kids probably like dim sum so much because we eat the same old food at home and they’re just grateful for a change! Thanks for the birthday wishes!

  3. says

    Dim Sum… sigh. When I was 5 (36 years ago), I wouldn’t have known dim sum from a hole in the ground.

    I had a cake which Nan had made a zoo with plastic animals on top of, instead.

    Some people have all the luck.

    • Susan Blumberg-Kason says

      I didn’t know what dim sum was when I was 5 either. I think the first time I had it was when I was 12, which makes this my 30th year of eating dim sum. Your cake sounds great. I seem to remember that I had plastic animals on a cake, too, once upon a time. Must have been a 70s thing.

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