Dim sum calories might not be something you want to count when you tuck into your favourite dishes. This is probably the case for many who count this as a favourite morning breakfast staple. After all, It signals the start of a weekend for those who like to gather around with good company whilst sharing plates of delicious dim sum goodies.
It's a time to happily catch up with the latest gossip. While daintily scooping bits of food on their plates, people conveniently forget the number of calories hidden within each menu item. We blame the deceiving appearance of small plates and the fact that it's shared! But once we are aware of healthier options amongst our favourite dishes, we can continue to indulge with better choices.
For this article, we refer to a study conducted by researchers from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department in Hong Kong.
This study examines dishes cooked in the Southern Chinese style. These are commonly found in Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong. While the figures for the dim sum calories count might differ depending on the pastry chef and the restaurant, the figures provided here are to be taken as an approximation for comparative purposes.
The research that we use as reference in this article indicates that fried dishes are generally high in sodium, saturated fat and low in calcium fibre.
Therefore, apart from a lower calorie count, healthier options are deemed low in sodium, have less saturated fat, and provide some calcium. Unless otherwise stated, the dishes listed are individual portions, serving one pax.
How many calories are in dim sum?
First of all, a meal for two adult people will contain an estimated total of 1300 calories. Each individual consumes an estimated 630 calories. Here is a brief dim sum calories chart that factors in the healthier steamed options on the menu. Each item's calories are listed in kcal, and for one serving(kcal/unit):
- Steamed lotus seed paste with egg yolk bun, three-piece (310 kcal)
- Steamed rice roll with beef, three rolls (110 kcal)
- Steamed vegetarian dumpling, three pieces (120 kcal)
- Steamed pork dumpling, Shanghai-style (230 kcal)
- Three pieces of Boiled Chinese flowering cabbage, one plate (28 kcal)
On this menu, the rice and the bun are excellent to reduce overall calorie count since it keeps them full and lessens the tendency to overeat.
If it's a menu for four people, assuming two adults and two teenage children, the total amount of dim sum calories is approximately 2200, and each individual consumes about 550 calories. This number is based on the following dishes (kcal/unit)s:
- Steamed glutinous rice roll, two pieces (260 kcal)
- Steamed barbecued pork bun, three pieces (150 kcal)
- Steamed rice roll with shrimps, three rolls (81 kcal)
- Boiled water spinach, one plate (71 kcal)
- Boiled Chinese flowering cabbage, one plate without oyster sauce (72 kcal)
- Steamed stuffed dumpling with shrimp/ Siu Mai, four pieces (61 kcal)
- Sesame dessert/sweet soup, two bowls (290 kcal)
The menu above has healthier options, such as vegetables, so this calorie intake is a safe estimate.
However, some might eat less when sharing plates, and some take more. Therefore, each calorie consumption might be higher even when opting for mostly steamed dishes.
High-calorie dim sum dishes
High-calorie dishes are dishes such as your favourite baked and fried goodies. Egg tarts and fried taro balls are examples. You might want to refer to this dim sum calories list (with the number of calories listed beside them in kcal/unit) which includes:
- Baked barbecued pork puff (200 kcal)
- Egg tart (small) (86 kcal)
- Deep-fried taro dumpling (170 kcal)
- Spring roll (150 kcal)
- Deep-fried meat dumpling(170 kcal)
- Deep-fried Chinese bun (280 kcal)
These dishes are high in calories, and you should order fewer of these plates.
Low-calorie dim sum dishes
The dishes lowest in dim sum calories count are steamed and are high in protein or calcium. It's a good idea to order more of such dishes. The number of calories is listed beside them in kcal/per unit. These include:
- Boiled headed lettuce (87 kcal)
- Boiled Chinese flowering cabbage (72 kcal)
- Boiled water spinach (71 kcal)
- Steamed dumpling, Chiu Chow-style (92 kcal)
- Steamed pork ribs with black bean sauce (260 kcal)
- Steamed chicken feet with black bean sauce (200 kcal)
- Steamed fish head with black bean sauce (190 kcal)
Generally, steamed chicken, prawn, or pork dim sum calories are lower than fried dishes. When you choose dishes cooked in soup, they are also lower in calories, but it is advisable not to drink the soup due to the high sodium content.
Healthiest dim sum plates to order
You might be wondering if you've read the entire article or jumped straight to this section. For your Sunday yum cha (Cantonese for 'drinking tea', which is the dialect way of terming high tea) dishes, what should you order?
Here is a recommended dim sum calories list of dishes that can be considered healthy. Perhaps you might like to refer to this the next time you yum cha with your friends!
Sweetened water chestnut cake (pan-fried)
This sweetened water chestnut cake is low in saturated fat and comes to around 110 kcal per portion. Saturated fat is heart clogging and increases the risk of chronic diseases. So choosing dishes with low saturated fat reduces your risk of heart disease.
Additionally, water chestnuts contain several antioxidants that reduce your risk of chronic diseases and conditions. The potassium may reduce your risk of stroke and high blood pressure, which are both linked to heart disease.
Turnip cake (steamed)
Another heart-healthy dish that is low in saturated fat is steamed turnip cake which is roughly 120kcal. Turnips also have multiple health benefits. They contain compounds that support blood sugar control and protect against harmful bacteria. There is also some proof that turnip provides anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects.
Boiled headed lettuce (without sauce)
Most yumcha dishes are high in sodium, which makes them oh so tasty. But excessive sodium intake leads to high blood pressure, which is a primary reason for heart diseases. You definitely want to include low sodium options like boiled lettuce to your dim sum calorie count. This dish comes up to only 87kcal.
Besides, this vegetable dish adds some fibre to your diet, which is essential for keeping a regular digestive system. Apart from that, lettuce is a source of Vitamin K, which helps to strengthen your bones. It also has Vitamin A, which improves your eye health. Studies have also shown that eating more pieces of lettuce can help one to get a good night's rest!
Steamed lotus seed paste and egg yolk bun
Here is another dish you can order when tallying your list of steamed dim sum calories. The buns are not only a low sodium option, but they will also help you feel fuller faster, so you do not overeat.
Steamed lotus seed paste and egg yolk bun are around 170 kcal per portion.
Lotus seed is also an all-rounder in terms of health benefits. Not only does it enhance digestion, but it also helps to improve heart health. The paste has a high content of protein, carbohydrates, and vitamins, including vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E, and essential minerals like potassium and sodium. These are essential nutrients needed for our bodies.
Steamed chicken feet with black bean sauce
Chicken dim sum calories are not only low, but this dish is also high in calcium. Scientists have proven that enough calcium and vitamin D can help to reduce osteoporosis among older adults. Chicken feet are a wonderful ingredient on their own. This dish has 66 mg of calcium in every 100 grams and is just 200 kcal!
They consist of skin, cartilage, tendons, and bones. Even without much meat, they're high in collagen, the most abundant protein in your body. The high collagen content may help relieve joint pain, aid skin health, and prevent bone loss.
Steamed rice with pork rib, chicken leg and black bean sauce
Apart from lowering your overall dim sum calories count, this pork dish with chicken combines the best of both worlds if you cannot choose between the two. While its calorie level is not as low as other dishes provided above, it has relatively low saturated fat of 1.5g per 100grams.
Steamed rice with pork rib, chicken leg and black bean sauce have 180kcal per portion. More importantly, the rice dish works as a main staple order, so you will not overeat after loading up on carbohydrates.
Rice vermicelli in soup with sliced freshwater fish
Another excellent staple dish option to avoid exceeding your dim sum calories count is to reap the nutritional benefits of eating fish. Fish meat is low in fat and high in protein. It is also rich in calcium and phosphorous and other minerals such as iron, zinc, iodine, magnesium, and potassium.
There are also omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins such as Vitamin D and Vitamin B2 in fish. All of these are nutrients needed by our body to function well. Try not to drink the leftover soup, though, as it is high in sodium and not heart-healthy. Rice vermicelli in soup with sliced freshwater fish has around 67 kcal.
When ordering your favourite dishes, it might feel exhausting to have a dim sum calories calculator. Here's a nifty quick tip the researchers recommend. It would help if you tried to choose items that are low in fat and rich in complex carbohydrates. These dishes, such as steamed buns and steamed rice rolls, will help you feel satiated and less likely to want sweeter or savoury foods!
What does the internet think?
A quick check on dim sum calories on Reddit reveals that people are aware certain fried dishes, while small in size, can be deceivingly high in calories. Therefore, choosing thoughtfully what menu items to order can help you enjoy your favourite morning option without causing harm to your health.
We hope that you found this article informative. Save this to share amongst your breakfast buddies for a healthier yumcha option, and follow us on Instagram @honestfoodtalks for more tips!