#28ChineseMemories Day 19: Dim Sum & the Two-Finger Tap

Getting ready for dim sum at Koi Palace in San Mateo. May 2010.
Getting ready for dim sum at Koi Palace in San Mateo. May 2010.

Since we lived in rural southwestern Virginia, we kids (especially the American-born)  weren’t exposed to many Chinese things outside of our home and family. I don’t remember when I first went to dim sum, but I know that once I experienced dim sum, I was hooked.

There’s something about the frenzy that occurs at dim sum that exhilarates me: the rushing around of the servers with the food carts in the dining hall, shouting out the different dishes they had in each cart; how my mom and dad would flag down each passing cart and inquire what was in each; the hustle bustle of the other patrons sipping tea and eating their dim sum with family and friends; and last but not least, the beautiful and delicious food! I have so many favorites from dim sum that it’s hard to list them all, but I can say that I love chicken feet, steamed buns with pork or sweet egg inside, and egg tarts.

In my twenties, I learned about the two-finger tap from my parents as I watched them and our relatives tap three times with their index and middle fingers on the table. My parents told me that it was a silent way of saying “Thank You” to the person serving the tea. This gesture originated from a time when one of China’s kings was traveling incognito with his men across the country; because the king was incognito, his men could not be too showy about their appreciation of him, so when they went out to dim sum and their king served each of them tea, they did the two-finger tap as an incognito way of bowing to him for his kindness.

Since learning about the two-finger tap, I’ve used the gesture many times while at dim sum; sometimes, not even at dim sum, but just because we’re at a Chinese restaurant and drinking tea! I have to stop myself when I do this, especially around non-Chinese who don’t know what the gesture means.

I don’t go to dim sum as much as I used to when I lived in San Francisco (there aren’t too many good Chinese restaurants around Denver), but my parents will visit me soon in Denver again. Can’t wait to get my hands on more dim sum when they visit!