There are many shapes of dim sum. They each have specific fillings; it is not appropriate for a chef to substitute the chopped shrimp of a har gow with, say, chopped pork in the interests of ‘creativity’.
Har Gow: It is a crescent-shaped dim sum that is best left to experts to prepare. The filling is slightly chunky, but the wrapper has to be thin and translucent, yet not tear or come apart while serving.
Turnip Cake: First of all, it is not a cake: it is a dim sum. Secondly, it may contain tiny shreds of pork in the Chinese-speaking world, but in India it is usually made as a vegetarian option. It is made of rice flour that has been steamed with the seasonings, then cut into slices, sautéed lightly and served.
Sui mai is an open top dim sum filled with minced shrimp and pork and usually topped with red coloured crab roe because of the auspicious colour of the roe. As a result, it is always served at Chinese New Year and other celebrations.
Cheung fan: Floppy, slippery, soft, firm, ever so slightly chewy: aficionados of this type of dim sum wax eloquent over the texture. They don’t praise the flavour of these pancake-like crepes quite as much simply because cheung fun don’t have any: they’re made with rice flour, tapioca flour and corn flour. The flavour comes from the filling.
Whether you call them Char Siu Bao or Smiling Bao, this is the quintessential baked bun: a specialty of Hong Kong. The defining feature is that the filling of diced roast pork and the bun are both sweet and savoury. Made of very low gluten flour that has been bleached, when you bake the buns, the tops crack open to reveal a ‘smile’.