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.

A typically hectic lunch at the crowded Lin Heung Tea House.

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.

Can’t wait? Take the menu in hand and find what you’re looking for…

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)

Arguably the most famous of dim sum dishes, these smooth dumplings are filled with minced shrimp and steamed. They are the first thing I look for at any dim sum restaurant.

Pork Dumplings (Siu Mai)

Equally as sought after are these ground pork and shrimp dumplings. Sometimes they are topped with either wolfberry or fish roe.

Pork and Shrimp Dumplings (Chiu Chao Phan Guo)

A dumpling with a slight variation, they are filled with Pork, shrimp as well as cilantro and yam beans.

Sticky Rice In Lotus Leaf (No Mai Gai)

Sticky rice wrapped and steamed in a lotus leaf. The leaf gives an added flavour. There is often a quail/duck egg, mushroom and Chinese sausage wrapped inside as well. Just unwrap and eat off the leaf itself.

Steamed BBQ Pork Buns (Char Siu Bao)

A light and  fluffy steamed dumpling filled with sweet and savory bbq pork.

Steamed Beef Tripe (Ngau Pak Yip)

The chewy beef tripe is steamed with garlic and black beans.

Steamed Chicken Feet (Fong Zhao)

Most Asian countries have their own rendition of a chicken feet dish. China’s variation is steamed so tender that the meat falls off the bone at the slightest touch.

Fried Rice Dumplings (Hom Sui Gok)

Gluten-free foodies beware. These fried pork and shrimp dumpling are the devil. For others…they are OH SO GOOD!

Chive Dumplings (Jiu Cai Bau)

Filled with various chives, this dumpling is steamed and then fried to add a crispy texture.

Chinese Meatballs (Ngao Yuk Kau)

Beef meatballs rolled in a thin tofu skin. The distinct aftertaste is from the Worcestershire based sauce.

Fried or Steamed Tofu Skin Rolls (Fu Pei Guen)

Filled with either shrimp or chicken, the tofu skin is then deep fried or steamed. The fried version is shown above.

Pan Fried Turnip Cake (Lo Bak Go)

A tenderly fried cake made with grated turnip, dried shrimp and Chinese sausage.

Stuffed Eggplant With Tofu (Yeung Kei Ji Dau Foo)

Chinese eggplant filled with tofu and shrimp.

Stuffed Crab Claw (Yeung Hai Kim)

A full crab claw stuffed with crab meat and then deep-fried. It is dipped in a sour vinegar sauce.

Steamed Pork Ribs (Pai Gwut)

Savory spare ribs steamed with garlic and black beans.

Shrimp Noodle Rolls (Har Cheng)

A shrimp filling wrapped in a sheet of rice noodle. It is then doused in a generous amount of soy sauce. Similar to “Ngau Cheng”, which is made with beef instead of shrimp.

Fried Wontons (Jian Jiao)

Much like Japanese Gyoza, these pan-fried wontons are filled with either ground beef or pork and vegetables.

Fried Calamari (Hern Ja Yau Yoo Sow)

Deep fried squid tentacles should have a fine balance of being both chewy and crispy.

Fried Taro Root Dumplings (Wu Gok)

A crispy fried dumpling. Both savory and sweet they are fried with a taro root, pork and shrimp filling.

Stuffed Bell Peppers (Jian Niang Qing Jiao)

Green peppers stuffed with minced shrimp and pork. They are then fried until golden brown.

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…

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