Nowadays, the term “dim sum” (點心 in written Chinese, and pronounced dian xin in Mandarin) is a meal—usually taken on a weekend morning—that encompasses a vast roster of small dishes selected from carts.
In the beginning, dim sum was a verb that merely meant “to eat a little something.” Cantonese dim sum culture began in tearooms in the latter half of the nineteenth century in the city of Guangzhou, possibly because of the recent ban of opium dens. It spread and gained popularity—especially in nearby Hong Kong.
The sort of dim sum restaurant we’re familiar with today in the West originated in Hong Kong in the mid-1950s. These Hong Kong parlors had areas for banquets and even mah-jongg games and carts pushed by “aunties” (a’sam).