There is absolutely no shame in loving the food you do now. It's in your wheel house, you know what it all is, you know the rules of eating it, etc., but every once in a while, it is good to go out into the world and have an eating experience that is completely foreign to you. Why? Because food is yet another way in which we can learn more about the world we live in and the people that inhabit it. Food is not only a record of our history, but one that even in modern times, you can experience first hand. By trying new foods, you may learn that you like something that you were previously too afraid to try or didn't think you'd like, but you've got to take the first step and actually go out and have these experiences or you'll never know.
Depending on the language, dim sum or yum cha, means drink tea in Cantonese, or dian xin in Mandarin which means touch the heart.
Get there early! Dim sum is usually only served between the hours of 10am-4pm. As such, dim sum hours are ALWAYS BUSY. In most Dim Sum restaurants you will notice waiters rolling around carts with metal or bamboo baskets on them. Unlike a traditional American Restaurant where you would order from a menu and wait for food to be brought to you, your waiter will greet you, and ask you for your beverage, and hand you a stamp card. The stamp card will be how you obtain goodies from the carts and pay for your final bill. There may not be an actual menu you can see depending on the place, but I would advise doing a little internet research so you can learn what dishes sound appealing to you, and at the very least learn what they look like even if you can't remember their Cantonese/Mandarin names.
You want to order tea which is more traditional. You can try pu'er which is a strong fermented black tea, jasmine tea, or chrysanthemum flower (further into your meal, if you want more tea, simply take the lid off the top of your teapot). When your tea arrives, traditionally the oldest serves the younger persons at the table first, or never serve yourself first, but pour for others, especially guests, first at the table, before you serve yourself. To show respect to the pourer, tap the table after they've served you.
When you are ready to eat, it's time to become the hunter, and the carts your prey. The carts will roll around throughout the tables in the restaurant. You can get whatever you want on the carts as they arrive at your table or pass through, just be sure to present your card to the waiter so s/he can stamp it. If you don't see what you want, you can either wait for another cart, or you can literally get up and go after the cart with the goodies you want (it's not rude, it's expected), but again, make sure you bring your card with you. The same goes for the buffet style--bring your card with you.
Some Popular dishes
Sui Mai=pork dumplings sometimes made with/without shrimp
har gow=shrimp dumplings
Char Sui Bao=pork bun---BBQ pork served in a steamed/baked sweet dough
Daan Taat=egg tarts--flaky pastry crust filled with creamy egg custard.
Lohr Bahk Go=pan fried turnip cake--grated turnip with dried shrimp and Chinese sausage.
Tau Zi Fung Zao=chicken feet in bean curd sauce
Djeen Dui=Fried dough covered with sesame seeds and filled with a sweet red bean paste.
If there is a menu you are ordering from, dishes are usually served S, M, L, or XL. Stick with the S and M sizes to cut down on price--you can always go for more later.
This is a SHARED eating experience. Do not go and hog a dish. Keep in mind there are plenty more where that one came from. Eat one or two pieces and pass the basket/plate.
If you don't know what something is, order a small and TRY IT! All the food you love today had to be tried by you at some point in order for you to know you love it. Don't forget that spirit in your eating adventure.
Don't waste prime stomach real estate on eating rice or scarfing down a lot of buns. These will fill you up quickly and won't leave room for you to experiment with much else.
Sitting near the kitchen is actually desirable because you get to see the carts fresh from the kitchen and get the best stuff as opposed to sitting in a far off corner.
If you find that waiters don't seem as friendly or to spend much time socializing with your table, don't get in a twist about this. This is beyond fast food. Their job is to get you the freshest most delicious stuff quickly and efficiently. They can't do that if you are trying to bog them down with stories about your cat's great escape from the tree last night. Also keep in mind because dim sum is fast paced and served for limited hours, this isn't the type of place where you go and linger over a bottle of wine for hours. There are hungry people waiting to snatch up your table, so don't be a table hog.
Be sure and tip 15-20%