The Dim Sum Field Guide Review | Illustrated Book or Comic Book | Language Reading Challenge Language Resources

Welcome to the eighth official Language Reading Challenge Update and Linkup! As a quick recap of what we’ve read so far this year, you can check out the previous months’ challenges here:

January // Book about the culture of the area you’re studying
February // Book in your target language
March // Travel book or travelogue related to region that uses the language you’re studying
April // Book about the language that you’re learning
May // A language course book
June // A book written by a language blogger
July // A book about the history of a country or region that speaks your target language
August // A book about the history of a language that you are studying
September // Read a book originally written in your target language
October // A book on learning strategies
November // A book set in the country of your target language

The guidelines to participate are available here and you can find out what we’ll be reading over the next few months, as well.

This month the challenge was to read a comic book or illustrated guide in your target language and I have to admit that I cheated a bit. I am not a huge, huge fan of either, so I opted for an illustrated guide with words in my target language rather than it being something written entirely in my target language.

A Review of The Dim Sum Field Guide: A Taxonomy of Dumplings, Buns, Meats, Sweets, and Other Specialties of the Chinese Teahouse by Caroline Phillips

I’ve always enjoyed Chinese cuisine, but since learning the language and seeking to further immerse myself in the culture, I’ve further explored some of the culinary options available. It’s not all 宫保鸡丁 Gōng bǎo jī dīng and 咕咾肉 Gū lǎo ròu.

Aside from 北京烤鸭 Běijīng kǎoyā and 火锅 Huǒguō, one of my favorite discoveries has been 点心 Diǎnxīn, or dim sum (dim2sam1) as its known in Cantonese.

In an effort to learn more about the diverse bite-sized portions of food (or snacks, if you will) that are defined as dim sum, because there are as many dishes as there are variations, I picked up a copy of The Dim Sum Field Guide by Carolyn Phillips.

Dim sum in Cantonese – or dianxin in Mandarin – means “to eat a little something”, and I really feel that this embodies this particular style of food. These snacks have a 700 year history in China, beginning in the north before making their war down south until nearly every area of China had developed its own take on these delicious snacks.

There are just so many takes on dim sum, so The Dim Sum Field Guide, in total, describes around 70 variations – everything from sweet to savory, steamed to fried, meaty to meatless. For each dish you’re given an illustration, the most common English name, the Chinese characters (traditional only), the pinyin pronunciation for Mandarin, the Cantonese transliteration, information on how the dish is served, what the ingredients are, a history of how the dish came to be and notable variations. You’re also given information on teas and dining etiquette.

It definitely goes without saying, but:

Warning – don’t read this book when hungry!

A Review of The Dim Sum Field Guide by Carolyn Phillips | The Language Reading Challenge | Eurolinguiste

The descriptions of the foods had my mouth watering and the array of options just had me falling in love with Chinese cuisine all over again. After just a few pages I was ready to jump in the car and drive out to our nearest dim sum restaurant, armed with the knowledge of several new dishes that I just knew I’d love.

Carolyn’s summaries of each dish left no question as to what you could expect when ordering various dim sum and I could almost taste several of the plates as I moved from page to page.

The guide is short, but packed with useful information. It’s also quite compact, so it can easily be slipped into your bag to take along with you to your local dim sum restaurant for reference. Even though most restaurants have images of their dishes, Carolyn’s descriptions go a long way to helping you determine what suits your palate.

My only complaint is that only the traditional characters were included within the text. I understand, in part, why this was done. She focuses on Cantonese form of dim sum, but for Mandarin language learners, like me, this book could have been so much more enjoyable with that little bit extra. The simplified characters wouldn’t even need to be included within the body of the book. A simple index with the traditional characters, simplified characters, and rough English translations would have been an excellent addition to the book and an incredible resource for language learning foodies.

Conclusion

This is a fantastic guide for foodies and language learners alike. While the former may be obvious, the latter has just as much to gain from this book if not more. The descriptions are vivid, the illustrations fun, and the histories fascinating. It’s certainly an entertaining way to give your food vocabulary a boost in either Mandarin or Cantonese and I definitely recommend it. Especially if you like food. And, well, who doesn’t like food?

Title: The Dim Sum Field Guide: A Taxonomy of Dumplings, Buns, Meats, Sweets, and Other Specialties of the Chinese Teahouse
Author: Carolyn Phillips
Pages: 176 pages
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Publication Date: August 30, 2016

Language Reading Challenge Linkup

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I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.



I’m a language lover, traveler and musician sharing my adventures and language learning tips over at Eurolinguiste.

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