Everyone loves a surprise — if it’s a happy one, that is. That’s why, as a kid, a box of chocolates was more than a sweet treat, it was a bona fide adventure. Your fingers tiptoed across the enticingly sculpted landscape, weighing each and every option as if your eternal happiness depended on choosing the single best piece of candy. Munching became a giddy thrill.

Dim sum is the adult version of a box of chocolates. You can’t help but savor each and every option, pondering if it will be the best little dumpling you’ve ever had in your life. Here are five places to take a Dim Sum food adventure because, let’s face it, eating is just better when it’s fun.

Dim Sum Garden
1020 Race St.
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 873-0258
www.dimsumgardenphilly.com

The family recipes at Dim Sum Garden feature fresh ingredients and are reasonably priced. From the Napa & Pork Dumplings to the Pan Fried Beef Potato Cake and Chicken Dumplings of this Chinatown favorite, there’s something for everyone. Head Chef Shizhou Da is the fifth generation of the original four chefs who created Xiao Long Bao, so a visit to Dim Sum Garden is not complete without trying either the Shanghai Steamed Pork Soup Dumplings, the Shanghai Crabmeat & Pork Soup Dumplings, or the Shanghai Pan Fried Pork Soup Dumplings.

Joy Tsin Lau
1026-1028 Race St.
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 592-7227
www.joytsinlaurestaurant.com

Mabel Chi Chan moved to Philadelphia in 1982 with her family in order to open the Joy Tsin Lau Restaurant. Ranked one of the Top 100 Chinese Restaurants in the United States, this business has been thriving at its Philadelphia location for over 30 years. The extensive dim sum portion of the menu features items such as Shiu Mei, Chicken Feet, Beef Ball, Steamed Fun Kor, Steamed Chicken Bun, and much, much more. The prices range from $2.50 to $3.95 with most coming in at an easily affordable $2.95.

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Bing Bing Dim Sum
1648 E. Passyunk Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19148
(215) 279-7702
www.bingbingdimsum.com

Bing Bing Dim Sum may not be the traditional experience you are expecting when it comes to your Dim Sum meal, but then again, what made you think it would be typical? First of all, it’s not in the Chinatown section of Philadelphia. And second, it’s owned by “two dudes from Philly” who are proud to admit they know “nothing” about authentic Asian cuisine. But that doesn’t stop these rebels from delivering some wonderful “Doughy Things.” With food that is informed by tradition, but not, as they say, “defined by it;” you get menu items such as Pac-Man Buns (scrapple and quail egg), Cumin Lamb Rolls (sesame chimichurri), and Scarlet Dumplings (red beet, tofu, crispy garlic). Sound intriguing? Venture out of the traditional and take a stroll into the exotic.

Ocean City Restaurant
234 N. 9th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 829-0688
www.phillyocr.com

Ocean City Restaurant is an unassuming establishment located across from a parking lot on 9th Street. This eatery offers far more than traditional dumpling fare, but they do have those fun Dim Sum food carts and a wonderful spread of authentic items that are sure to please even the most discerning palates. The spacious, open environment creates a pleasant dining atmosphere while the remarkably extensive menu has enough options to ensure everyone in your party will discover their perfect dish.

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Allen Foster, a lifelong Greater Philadelphia resident, has been writing about all those wonderful things that make us feel so alive for over 20 years. He approaches each day as an adventure, eager to discover what new and vibrant surprises await just around life’s corner. You can see his work on Examiner.com.