You can’t live in Hong Kong and not dim sum! Literally meaning “to touch your heart”, these two little words amount to a delicious assortment of deep fried treats, steamed dishes and other goodies that we just can’t get enough of!
Dim sum first sprang up as snacks for weary travellers at roadside teahouses in China hundreds of years ago, and was typically associated with drinking Chinese tea – which is how the term “yum cha” (literally meaning “to drink tea”!) became synonymous with the meal of dim sum itself. In case you are still a dim sum virgin (where have you been?!), here’s the Sassy Dim Sum Guide – our top five places in Hong Kong for dim sum, plus a handy-dandy cheat-sheet of our top ten dim sum items that you’ll fall in love with at first bite!
SASSY’S TOP 5 DIM SUM SPOTS IN HONG KONG
Best value…. Tim Ho Wan
These self-labelled “dim sum specialists” are one of the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurants in the world – you can easily walk out bursting at the seams for less than $100! But for this reason, be sure to bring a whole lotta patience (or a friend to pass time with) because you will definitely have to wait in line a while for your dim sum feast! We love love love their char siu bao (shown above!), with a crunchy yet light topping and a warm addictive mix of barbeque sauce and pork filled in the bun itself. They don’t take reservations here so don’t forget to take a number from the counter when you arrive – it’s your ticket to mealtime here at Tim Ho Wan!
Read our full review of Tim Ho Wan here
Tim Ho Wan locations in Hong Kong:
Tim Ho Wan, the Dim-Sum Specialists Shop 72, G/F, Olympian City 2, 18 Hoi Ting Road, Tai Kok Tsui
Tim Ho Wan, the Dim-Sum Specialists Shop 12A, Hong Kong Station (Podium Level 1, IFC Mall) , Central
Tim Ho Wan, the Dim-Sum Specialists G/F, 9-11 Fuk Wing Street, Sham Shui Po
Tim Ho Wan Shop B, C, & D, G/F, 2-8 Wharf Road, Seaview Building, North Point
Best late-night… San Hing
A favourite of HKU students, this is the place to go if you’ve got late-late night dim sum cravings! San Hing opens at 3am, but don’t think that just because it’s open in the wee-early (or late…?) hours that no one will be here – we assure you, it’ll be packed! Expect a mix of hungry students, neighbourhood customers and probably a few after-party LKF-ers here all enjoying delicious dim sum; they’re especially famous for their lao sa bao, a salted egg yolk bun that is incredibly runny and yummy! The dim sum here is a total bargain, and is replenished every few minutes to ensure you have freshly steamed goodies to fill your tummy!
San Hing Shop C, G/F, 8 Smithfield Road, Kennedy Town, Western District
Best splurge…. Lung King Heen
For five-star service and three-Michelin star food, head to the Four Seasons Hong Kong’s Lung King Heen. It’s pricey, but worth every single cent – the harbour view here is amazing, the service attentive and the food top-notch. Aside from the normal dim sum orders, come with an open mind and order their fabulous lobster and scallop dumpling (shown above) or their baked whole abalone puff with diced chicken. Overall, a great option for Canto fine dining and wowing any friends from out of town!
Read our full review of Lung King Heen here
Lung King Heen Podium 4, Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong, 8 Finance Street, Central
Best traditional… Lin Heung Teahouse
Care for some time-travelling alongside your dim sum? Nope, we’ve not invented the Flux Capacitor just yet, but you can instead step back in time at Lin Heung Tea House – where you’ll find that just about nothing’s changed in the past eighty years… just the way Cantonese dim sum is supposed to be! Expect a wonderfully rowdy atmosphere with crowds of people, lots of food being pushed around in carts and the traditional experience of dim sum at its best. Be sure to snag the lotus paste buns as soon as they come out on the carts, fresh from the kitchen – this is not the place to shy away from hoarding your food!
Lin Heung Tea House 160-164 Wellington Street, Central
Best chain… Lei Garden
Arrive at Lei Garden to be spoiled by impeccable service and mouthwatering dim sum at surprisingly affordable prices – we especially love their crispy taro and prawn dumplings, their famous char siu and their amazingly rich sesame seed paste dumpling for dessert! Even though there are plenty of Lei Gardens around town (ten at last count!) meaning you’re never too far from your next dim sum fix, the quality here is the consistency – you know you’ll be getting delicious dim sum wherever you go!
See all Lei Garden locations in Hong Kong here
SASSY’S TOP 10 DIM SUM ITEMS
1. Pork dumplings
燒賣 “siu mai”
An open-topped yellow dumpling filled with pork, shrimp, mushrooms and chestnuts. If you ever get a desperate craving for one, 7-Eleven is always well-stocked with siu mai, as it’s a popular after-school snack among youngsters!
2. Shrimp dumplings
蝦餃 “har gao”
Diced up shrimp seasoned and wrapped in light, translucent rice wrappers, this steamed delicacy is a perennial dim sum favourite. Be sure to eat it right when it comes to your table – it’ll get sticky as it cools!
3. Barbeque pork bun
叉燒包 “char siu bao”
These steamed, fluffy buns are filled with tender barbeque pork in a sticky, sweet and ridiculously moreish sauce. Look out for different variations of this Hong Kong favourite, whether there’s a pineapple bun topping (like Tim Ho Wan’s), or they come baked in a flaky pastry (“char siu so”) – they’re absolutely to-die-for!
4. Sticky rice with chicken in lotus leaf
糯米雞 “lor mai kai”
Don’t get scared of this huge lotus leaf wrapped parcel – once opened up, you’ll find delicious sticky rice with a mix of dried scallops, mushroom, chestnuts, egg, chicken and pork steamed up into one amazing rice dumpling! These dumplings are pretty heavy, so they’re great for sharing!
5. Steamed beef balls
牛肉球 “ngau yuk kau”
Thought meatballs were best served up alongside spaghetti and a hearty tomato sauce? Think again! These dim sum versions come steamed, tender, juicy and well-seasoned – often on a bed of bean-curd skin. Great for satisfying major beef cravings!
6. Rice noodle rolls
腸粉 “cheung fun”
Different types of meat, seafood or veggies wrapped in thin, large rice noodle sheets, then topped in pools of soy sauce. These slippery noodles will test your chopstick skills – so expect a lot of slip and sliding with this dish!
7. Chicken feet
鳳爪 “fung zau”
Daunting, I know (I’ll admit, I’ve never been able to finish a whole one!), but you can’t have a top ten dim sum list without some chicken feet! These are a cult Canto fave for those who love sucking on their talons – if you’re adventurous enough, make sure you pick the right sauce to go with them to see if you can mask the rubbery texture of these bad boys!
8. Turnip cake
蘿蔔糕 “lo bak go”
A Chinese New Year must-have, this tasty cake is steamed and cut into blocks, then fried until they’re crispy all over. For an extra kick, be sure to ask for some XO sauce or chilli oil on the side for dipping!
9. Steamed sponge cake
馬拉糕 “ma lai go”
A simple, slighty sweet cake made with brown sugar – it’s yellow, bouncy to touch, and a total crowd pleaser. Think of it as being like an Asian angel cake!
10. Egg tart
蛋撻 “dan taat”
This perennial Hongkie dessert was my childhood after-school snack! You can either opt for a flaky outer crust or a crunchy cookie crust – but either way, you’ll have a smooth, lightly sweet egg custard filling in the middle for that sugar rush at the end of your meal!