How to yum cha like a local
Chicken feet, radish cake, and tofu skin rolls? Give these dim sums a taste and start ordering like a true Hong Kong local.
There’s a reason why the word ‘yum’ is in ‘yum cha’. Yes, the boisterous chatter and clanking of b-grade china sets an infectious convivial atmosphere. And yes, the unlimited refills of Chinese tea – for a small cost per person – makes digestion (or eating more) a whole lot easier.
But, of course, we must give credit to where credit’s due: the dim sums – perfectly portioned, skillfully crafted, and vicious in variety.
There’s nothing wrong with playing safe and ordering to your palate. But it also doesn’t hurt to step out of your culinary comfort zone once in a while. Go beyond the spring rolls, salt and pepper squid, or Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce.
Go on, give these dim sums a fair go and start ordering like a true Hong Kong local.
1. Ha gaau (prawn dumpling)
The legendary steamed prawn dumpling – an opaque and glossy glutinous shell guarding a perfect portion of sweet prawns. Pair with a dollop of chilli sauce for a kick of heat.
2. Fung zaau (chicken feet)
Don’t judge a book by its cover. Saturated in a sweet marinade of fermented beans, bean paste and sugar, this dish gives a mean flavour punch.
3. Siu mai (pork and prawn dumpling)
Wrapped in a delicate yellow film, these petite cylindrical dumplings are filled with pork, prawns and vegetables. Goes hand in hand with ha gaau.
4. Lo bak go (radish cake)
A savoury cake made of shredded radish, rice flour, Chinese sausage, mushrooms, and shallots. They come pan-fried or steamed, but you’ll find the former more readily available.
5. Lo mai gai (lotus leaf rice)
Steamed parcels of sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf. The mixture of Chinese salami, pork, mushrooms, salted egg and dried shrimp gives the carbs its poignant flavour and aromatic edge.
6. Saan juk ngao yuk (beef balls)
Meatballs with a Cantonese twist. Made of minced beef and spring onions, and then steamed on a bed of tofu sheets. A generous douse of Worcestershire sauce when served to bind it all together.
7. Cha siu baau (BBQ pork bun)
Served two ways – steamed or baked. Both stuffed with honeyed BBQ pork but differ in bun type. Steamed = soft, fluffy, white. Baked = crispy, glazed, golden.
8. Cheong fun (rice noodle rolls)
A pancake roll of steamed rice noodles. Order it as is, sprinkled with shallots and sesame seeds; or with the option of a prawn, BBQ pork or beef filling and a shiny coat of warm sweetened soy sauce.
9. Za leong (rice noodle rolls with fried dough)
A variation of the cheong fun. Also a pancake roll of steam rice noodles but stuffed with yoa zaa gwai, or Chinese crullers (fried dough). Vegetarian friendly. Soy sauce dressing also comes warm and sweet.
10. Sin juk gyun (tofu skin rolls)
Fried first, then steamed. A thin sheet of silky tofu stuffed with ground pork, bamboo shoots, carrots, mushrooms and ginger. Finished with a touch of oyster sauce.
11. Pai gwut (pork spareribs)
Pork spareribs with black bean sauce. Bite-sized cuts of pork steamed to tender and soft perfection – good for the meat lovers and a flavour party for the taste buds.
12. Joeng ke zi (eggplant with shrimp)
Think eggplant taco baos with a shrimp or fish paste filling. The eggplant is deep-fried in a black bean paste before braising. A good drenching of sauce leaves an effortless sheen.
13. Liu sha baau (molten custard bun)
The hero resides inside. A velvety stream of egg yolk custard oozing from a freshly steamed soft bun. A playful juxtaposition of tastes and textures: sweet and salty, creamy and fluffy.
14. Juk (congee)
A bowl of thick rice porridge for the savoury lovers. Try the century egg and pork congee for the perfect combination of salt, tender meats and healthy carbs.