Dim sum is classic Cantonese cuisine at its best, and it’s a bit of an institution here. Traditionally, it’s eaten at lunchtimes but I think a lot of dim sum restaurants will offer it all day now, so you can indulge any time you like! My husband is a particular fan, and if for whatever reason he’s feeling a bit down, going for dim sum usually perks him up again :)
And did I mention that it’s really cheap too?!
For those who are as clueless about dim sum as I was before we moved to Hong Kong, it’s basically a meal made up of small pieces of food. If you’ve ever had tapas then it’s the same concept but with Chinese food! So when you go into a dim sum restaurant, you order a range of plates of food and each will have usually 2-4 identical items on for you to share.
Traditionally, dim sum restaurants used to have ladies with a trolley each who would walk around the restaurant. Each trolley has a few different dishes on, and when you see one coming that has something on that you want, you call the lady over and she will give you some food! There aren’t many restaurants which are like this now, but Maxim’s Palace in City Hall does (address: 3/F, City Hall, 5-7 Edinburgh Place, Central/中環愛丁堡廣場5-7號大會堂低座3樓). This where we usually take visitors to Hong Kong as it’s such a fun experience, set in a large ballroom. It gets pretty busy so be prepared to wait up to an hour for a table.
Alternatively, for a normal restaurant experience but better, cheaper food I’d recommend Tim Ho Wan. I think the Mongkok branch of this restaurant has a Michelin star! We usually go to the North Point branch (address: Shop B, C, & D, G/F, 2-8 Wharf Road, Seaview Building, North Point/北角和富道2-8號嘉洋大廈地下B,C及D鋪) instead as it’s much less busy and both times we’ve been we haven’t had to queue at all.
Anyway, onto the good stuff now – what to order when you get there! Here are some of our favourites:
There are several types of dumplings on most dim sum menus. Hargow (or ha-gaau) have prawns (shrimp) inside:
Siu-mai (which I don’t have a picture of) usually have pork inside with a crown of shrimp on top, I also like these :) Some dim sum restaurants will also offer xiao long bao, which have pork and soup in (as I mentioned here), although these are Shanghainese and not traditionally part of dim sum.
BBQ pork buns
These are known locally as char siu bao and comprise a fluffy white sweet bun with Hong Kong style BBQ pork in (very different from BBQ sauce!). Very yummy :)
Glutinous rice dumplings
These are essentially a large ball of sticky rice with other things mixed in such as chicken, prawns, egg and mushrooms. This will be delivered to your table wrapped in a banana leaf, which is what they steam the whole thing in. It tastes much better than it looks here, honest!
These are usually halves of long thin non-spicy peppers (although I have had a spicy one once!) which have been filled with pork. I guess they are then grilled or fried before serving. These ones are upside down so you can’t see the pork which is underneath!
These are long rolls containing meat or seafood wrapped in an outer layer made from rice. The outer layer is a bit like a pasta sheet but has a slightly different taste and texture. Our favourite type is BBQ pork rice rolls.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of this but egg tarts make a great end to a dim sum feast. They actually originate from Macau but you can find them all over Hong Kong. They look like jam tarts but with egg instead of jam! They also have a caramelised topping which makes the egg sweet.
This is another sweet dish, and is actually just a large cube of sponge cake (I think it’s called egg cake as a literal translation of the Cantonese for cake – daan-gaau). It’s usually pretty moist and fluffy.
So, if you come to Hong Kong you must try some dim sum! Let me know if you have any favourites that I have missed. I have to admit that I have excluded some of the local favourites, such as chicken feet and turnip cake as we’ve tried them and didn’t really like them, so this is very much a Westerner’s opinion on dim sum!
Thanks for reading!