A Chinese breakfast/lunch tradition that dates back almost 200 years. Dim Sum (Yum Cha) is a must for Hong Kong tourists, foodies and locals alike…
Served right from the bamboo steamer baskets they were cooked in. Dim sum is mostly made up of bite-sized portions, served in groups of three or four.
There are many high-end dim sum restaurants in Hong Kong, but for me, much like enjoying a slice of pizza in New York, hot dogs (street meat) in Toronto or a bowl of pho in Hanoi, a traditional dim sum lunch should be quick and dirty. The service (if any) should be brisk, hectic and impersonal…so don’t take offence.
One of my favourite places for dim sum and soaking in the local atmosphere in Hong Kong is the Lin Heung Tea House (160-164 Wellington Street). During peak lunch hours, you’ll often be seated at a round table with guests you don’t know.
This is to make as much space for other diners as possible. Once seated, the waiter will slap down a bowl, a spoon, a pair of chopsticks, a cup, a pot of tea and a sheet of paper written mostly in Chinese. It will probably be in that order…they have been doing it for years. They will then leave you to your business.
This sheet is your menu/bill…the holy grail of your dim sum adventure. Don’t lose it. As you get to know the new faces of the people seated next to you, keep a close eye on the metal carts being wheeled throughout the restaurant. They’ll be yelling what you have in Cantonese as they pass by. It’s alright to stop them and ask to take a look inside.
Once you find something you like, they’ll drop it on the table for you and stamp your piece of paper. The color, or placing of the stamp dictates how much the plate costs.
During busy times, it’s a good idea to forego waiting for the carts to come to you. Since the good stuff will usually be gone by the time the cart reaches your table. Take your menu/bill with you and go hunting for what you want.
After you are done you meal, take the sheet up to the counter and they will tally up what you owe. That little sheet of paper is your life’s blood.
So now that you are up to speed on how dim sum is done. Let’s get to the real reason you’re here. The food options…
Steamed Shrimp Dumplings (Har Gow)
Pork Dumplings (Siu Mai)
Pork and Shrimp Dumplings (Chiu Chao Phan Guo)
Sticky Rice In Lotus Leaf (No Mai Gai)
Steamed BBQ Pork Buns (Char Siu Bao)
Steamed Beef Tripe (Ngau Pak Yip)
Steamed Chicken Feet (Fong Zhao)
Fried Rice Dumplings (Hom Sui Gok)
Chive Dumplings (Jiu Cai Bau)
Chinese Meatballs (Ngao Yuk Kau)
Fried or Steamed Tofu Skin Rolls (Fu Pei Guen)
Pan Fried Turnip Cake (Lo Bak Go)
Stuffed Eggplant With Tofu (Yeung Kei Ji Dau Foo)
Stuffed Crab Claw (Yeung Hai Kim)
Steamed Pork Ribs (Pai Gwut)
Shrimp Noodle Rolls (Har Cheng)
Fried Wontons (Jian Jiao)
Fried Calamari (Hern Ja Yau Yoo Sow)
Fried Taro Root Dumplings (Wu Gok)
Stuffed Bell Peppers (Jian Niang Qing Jiao)
Along with the dishes mentioned above are still many plates that I have have not listed. It seems that every restaurant also has their own variations and recipes, making any new dim sum spot worth trying. Not just in Hong Kong, but all over the world.
There are also a decadent amount of dim sum desserts and pastries as well, but those will have to wait for another article…