What’s in a Dim Sim? The Ultimate FAQ

Dim Sim article banner

The humble dim sim is an Australian staple and national treasure. They can be found in almost every school canteen, service station or corner store around the country. But surprisingly, not many people know what exactly are in these treats and where they originate.

This blog post will give you the most comprehensive overview of the famous snack, including some background and common questions. Whether you’re a connoisseur of the dim sim or just curious about the cuisine, you’re bound to learn something new.

What Are Dim Sims

Dim sims are a Chinese-influenced meat and vegetable dumpling-style snack food. They are a beloved Australian delicacy believed to have come from the Chinese community of Melbourne. While developed around the 1940s they have since remained a mainstay across the country and are enjoyed by people of all backgrounds.

Are Dim Sims Australian?

While many might assume that Dim Sims are Chinese cuisine, they are strictly unique to Australia and New Zealand and are not sold anywhere else in the world. This means that the humble Dim Sim is an Australian creation, being great evidence of the multiculturalism in this country.

Where did Dim Sims originate?

The exact origin of the Dim Sim is still a matter of debate. While some believe it was a traditional Chinese recipe adapted for an Australian palate, others hypothesise it could have been a recipe developed by the Chinese-Australian community of Melbourne. The answer lies somewhere in the middle.

Dim Sims are only an adaptation of Chinese dumplings and not Chinese at all. The name is based on Dim Sum, which isn’t, in fact, a dumpling but a culinary experience consisting of many small portions of food; dumplings being one of them.

The Dim Sim is more closely related to the Cantonese Siu Mai dumpling, but because Australians would have difficulty pronouncing this word, they were called Dim Sims. This is how the legend began.

What Is In a Dim Sim?

It takes lots of work to make a perfect Dim Sim, with the recipe calling for just the right combination of ingredients. They consist of pork, beef, green vegetables, mushrooms and other seasonings encased in a lightly fried wheat wrapper, making them both delicious and satisfying.

The dough mix is typically made up of wheat flour, baking powder and salt. Inside, there are classic fillings such as pork mince, carrots, cabbage and green onion. All these components combine to create the toothsome Dim Sim that stays succulent when steamed or fried.

What makes this pocket-sized snack so unique is its distinct umami flavour and pleasing textures, from its crunchy outer layer to its pleasantly chewy interior, ensuring it remains one of the most irresistible street food snacks.

South Melbourne Market Dim Sims

Given that dim sims originated in Australia in the 1940s, it’s no wonder that we have quite a bit of history with them. South Melbourne Market Dim Sims is a mainstay in the area’s foodie landscape, with decades of history serving their unique style of the dim sim. The South Melbourne Market Dim Sim is unique compared to the staple Dim Sim recipes around Australia. It has a larger, more circular shape and despite originating from a single store, it is popularly sold and resold in markets around the South Melbourne area. It tastes slightly different and distinct, with greater umami flavours and more meatiness. If you’re ever in South Melbourne, make sure you try this variation right from the source; you won’t be disappointed.

How Do You Cook a Dim Sim to Perfection?

There are multiple ways to cook the perfect Dim Sim, depending on personal preference. The most popular and traditional is deep frying, but you can also steam, bake or even air-fry the popular Australian Dim Sim.

How to Cook Dim Sims on the Deep Fryer

Frying the Dim Sim to perfection requires both the right temperature and timing. To ensure that the outside is crispy and the inside is juicy, it’s essential to fry the dumpling in plenty of oil at moderate heat. Keep an eye on it, so it doesn’t burn, flipping it as necessary until both sides have reached a nice golden brown.

How to Steam Dim Sims

If you’re looking for a slightly healthier option, steaming is the way. This method preserves all the juiciness and flavour of the dumpling while creating an even softer texture. Fill up a steamer with water and bring it to the boiling point before adding in your Dim Sims. Cover them with a lid and let them steam for about 10 minutes until they are cooked through.

How to Cook Dim Sims in the Oven

Baking is another great way to cook Dim Sims without compromising flavour or texture. Preheat the oven to 200C, line a baking tray with baking paper and arrange your Dim Sims. Brush them with oil and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool before serving, and enjoy.

How to Cook Dim Sims in Airfryer

Cooking your Dim Sims with an air-fryer is one of the quickest and easiest ways to get that crispiness without the effort of deep frying. Preheat the air-fryer to 190C and lightly spritz your Dim Sims with oil before placing them in the basket. You should leave them in for about 12 minutes and flip halfway until golden brown.

How to Cook Dim Sims on the BBQ

The final way to cook Dim Sims is on the barbecue grill. Grease the grill with oil and heat until hot before laying your Dim Sims on it. Grill them for about 5 minutes, turning once or twice until both sides are golden brown and crispy. Serve immediately while they’re still warm.

How to Cook South Melbourne Dim Sims

The South Melbourne Dim Sims follow the same cooking techniques as the traditional ones. Deep fry, steam, bake or grill them, depending on preference. However, if you want all of the unique flavours and textures that this style of Dim Sim offers, we recommend deep frying for a few minutes until crispy, as this works best.

Why are Dim Sims So Popular in Australia, and What Does This Say About our National Identity?

This unique and delicious food reflects the multiculturalism of Australian society, as it is a fusion of flavours from Chinese cuisine combined with an Australian twist. It is said that Dim Sims encapsulate some of the national values that Australians hold dear, namely the drive to embrace different cultures and ideas.

The popularity of Dim Sims in Australia speaks volumes about our shared cultural identity, one who is open-minded, diverse, and eager to explore all that the world offers.

Dim Sim FAQ

What Meat Is in Dim Sims?

Typically, most places will only contain pork in their Dim Sims, but there are variations with beef and chicken. If you want to experiment, you can also try cooking with different meats at home.

Are Dim Sims Healthy?

It depends on the cooking method. Deep frying is not the healthiest option but steaming, and baking can lower the fat content while still preserving the flavour of the dumpling.

Are Dim Sims Made Out of Cats?

There have been myths circulating that Dim Sims contain dog or cat meat, but fortunately, this is not true. While some parts of Asia are known for consuming these animals, it doesn’t happen in Australia due to strict laws and regulations.

Where to Buy Marathon Dim Sims?

Marathon Dim Sims can be found in most major supermarkets such as Coles and Woolworths, independent stores and Chinese restaurants. They are also available online from some retailers. Look for the Marathon brand logo to ensure you get the original recipe.

Are Frozen Dim Sims Precooked?

Yes, most frozen Dim Sims are pre-cooked and need heating up before consumption. Make sure to follow the instructions on the packet, as different types may require different cooking times.

Can You Air Fry Dim Sims?

Yes, Dim Sims can be cooked in an air fryer, although you may need to adjust the cooking time compared to deep frying.

How Long to Cook Frozen Dim Sims in an Air Fryer?

To cook frozen Dim Sims in the air fryer, you will need to leave them in for about 12 minutes and cook them at 190c, don’t forget to coat the dim sims with oil lightly so they don’t go dry.

How Long to Steam Dim Sims?

Usually, it takes about 10 minutes to steam Dim Sims. It also depends on your preference, you can leave them longer if you want them softer or take them out sooner for more firmness.

How to Steam Dim Sims in Microwave?

To steam Dim Sims in a microwave, you can use a microwave-proof dish and add some water which will steam. You then place the Dim Sims in the dish and cover it with the lid. Then cook for roughly 8 minutes, just check to make sure they don’t overcook and are cooked thoroughly.

How Many Calories in a Fried Dim Sim?

A fried Dim Sim contains approximately 220 calories. This can vary slightly depending on the size and type of Dim Sim and the cooking method used.

How Many Calories in a Steamed Dim Sim?

A steamed Dim Sim contains roughly 80 calories, considerably lower than the fried version. This is because oil has more calories than other macronutrients, making steamed the preferred option for health-conscious individuals.

Are Steamed Dim Sims Healthy?

Yes, steamed Dim Sims are considered a healthy snack option. They contain fewer calories than their fried counterparts and are also low in fat and high in protein.

Are Steamed Dim Sims Fattening?

No, steamed Dim Sims are not considered particularly fattening; their calorie content is low, and their fat content isn’t as high as fried Dim Sims. However, if you are watching your weight, keeping an eye on portion sizes is essential, as large portions will naturally lead to higher calorie consumption.

Are Steamed Dim Sims Bad for Cholesterol?

No, steamed Dim Sims aren’t bad for cholesterol. They contain very little fat, so their cholesterol content is low. The only issue arises if you consume too much of them in one sitting, which can lead to an unhealthy spike in your calorie and fat intake.

Are Dim Sims Gluten-Free?

Most varieties of Dim Sim contain wheat flour so they are not gluten-free. However, if you look carefully, there are some gluten-free varieties that can be found in health food stores or online. These may contain other ingredients, such as rice flour and potato starch instead of wheat.

Are Dim Sims Vegetarian?

Most Dim Sims contain pork or beef, so they would not be suitable for vegetarians. However, some supermarkets and Chinese restaurants offer vegetarian varieties of dim sims which are made with a mixture of vegetables or tofu instead of meat.

Are Dim Sims Keto-Friendly?

No, most Dim Sims are not considered keto-friendly due to the carbohydrate content in the pastry. If you are looking for alternatives, there are keto pastry or flour options that you can use if you want to recreate the recipe for keto dieters.

Can You Eat Dim Sims When Pregnant?

You can eat Dim Sims when pregnant as long as they are cooked thoroughly. As with all foods, check the temperature of the Dim Sim before eating it so that it is cooked through properly and there are no risks of food poisoning.

Can Dogs Eat Dim Sims?

Generally, Dim Sims are not recommended for dogs. This is because they contain too many ingredients dogs are not used to eating and may upset their stomachs. It is best to avoid giving them any Dim Sims as a treat.


With dim sims being such a big part of Australia’s snacking history, there’s always going to be a lot to talk about when discussing them. However, at the end of the day, talking about them is definitely not going to be as exciting as going out and trying them for yourself. So, why wait? Head down to South Melbourne market, or maybe even your local milk bar, and see what you can find.

Photo by Tara B on Unsplash

Leave Your Comment