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A Foreigner's Guide To Hong Kong's Dim Sum

Friday, October 9, 2015
Welcome to Hong Kong, the homeland of DIM SIM, as all traditional dim sum restaurant menus are sadly in Cantonese (even Sophia can't read most of it) we thought that making a quick and easy guide to some popular choices would make life easier for you the next time you make an order!

To begin, Dim Sum (點心) is a mixture of steamed dishes cooked in bamboo crates. Bite sized pieces are made so you get to try a mixture of things, best enjoyed with some Chinese tea too. Chinese teas can range from Pu Erh Tea (普洱 pou nei), Jasmine Tea (香片 heong pin), to Oolong Tea (烏龍 wu long). 

Here are the top hits and our personal favourites:

Congee- aka 粥 (pronounced- juk) is made from rice, and the equivalent of porridge. It has many different flavours too, the most popular and one of my favourites is century old egg with pork. Aside from this, you can also have it with fish, shredded chicken and or even plain! 

Steamed rice rolls aka  腸粉 (pronounced- cheung fun) are rice steamed rolls that are a classic in Hong Kong, you can get them on the side stalls too. But personally for me, they taste the silkiest at restaurants. With Cheung Fun you can choose fillings from plain all the way to king prawn. They taste best dipped with soya sauce, seafood sauce or peanut sauce.

Steamed Prawn dumping aka 蝦餃 (pronounced- ha gao) these prawns are smooth and wrapped in a translucent parcel, filled with prawns. It tastes fresh and crunchy, and to know that you have a well made ha gao is when you should be able to pick it up with your chopsticks, and they shouldn't fall apart. I always order a portion of these whenever I have dim sum. If you like a bit of spice, they taste great with some chilli sauce. 

Pork dumpling aka 燒賣 (pronounced- siu mai) filled with ground pork and mushrooms, they are held together with a yellow wonton pastry skin. These are so popular that street vendors will sell these as snacks. You will even see them in the snacks sections of cinemas! Perfect with soya sauce and some chilli sauce too.

Steamed pork bun aka 叉燒包 (pronounced- cha siew bao) this is sweet roasted shredded pork, wrapped inside the steamed bun. The bun tastes like the traditional mantou too, soft and creamy when added with the pork. You can just eat these on their own, but don't have too many as they can fill you up.

Spring rolls aka 春卷 (pronounced- chun guen) usually filled with shredded meats, carrots, beansprouts and wrapped in a delicate pastry that is lightly deep fried. Nothing beats these as they are crispy and leaves you wanting more. They are served with a vinegar dipping sauce. 

Cantonese steamed sponge cake aka 馬來糕 (pronounced- ma lai go) a fluffy steamed cake with brown colouring that tastes light and gently of caramel. Best eaten hot and slowly rip into it so you can feel how bouncy it is!

Glutinous steamed chicken rice aka 糯米雞 (pronounced- lor mai gai) is a savoury item of rice, chicken, mushrooms and chinese sausages, wrapped in a lotus leaf and steamed. This is so filling and perfect for the colder weather when you want something hot. 

Chicken feet in black bean sauce aka 豉汁蒸鳯爪 (pronounced- si jup jing fung jao, or just 'fung jao') - this is not for everyone, so we talk about the famous but scary 'chicken feet' it is flavoured with a delicious black bean sauce and steamed to perfection. The meat should fall apart on the bones and even though it looks strange, you should try one piece. 

Flowing custard buns aka 流沙包 (pronounced- lao sha bao) these are a different take on the original custard buns, now in Hong Kong these are the popular ones that people order instead. Filled with a custard filling, it is flowing compared to the previous firm filling. The custard is usually very sweet and creamy as some of it is made with coconut and evaporated milk. A sweeter choice to balance out the other savory dishes. 

Beef balls with vegetables aka 時菜牛肉球 (pronounced- si choi ngao yuk kao) these are ground beef steamed with vegetables, taste very fresh especially if you like eating beef! Great dipped with some soya sauce too. 

Pork ribs in black bean sauce aka. 豉汁蒸排骨 (pronounced- si jup jing pai guat) these are steamed pork ribs with a black bean sauce, paired with rice it's a great mixture. This dish is full of flavour as the steaming makes the meat very appetizing.

Steamed beef tripe aka 薑蒽牛栢葉 (pronounced- giong chong ngao pak yip) another food item that might not be for everyone, tenderised beef tripe in oyster sauce. This dish has been described as a dim sum favourite in Hong Kong restaurants, with it's unique texture and taste. If you can stomach it, give it a try!

Turnip cake aka 蘿蔔糕 (pronounced- lo baak go) is made with shredded radish and dried shrimps. As it is lightly fried, the outside is crispy then the middle is fluffy. As there are different variations of this, I personally prefer to the spicy version. 

Steamed fish balls with vegetables aka 時菜鯪魚球 (pronounced- si choi ling yu kao)
these is made with a special type of fish- as it has no bones in it, dipped with soya sauce too. It is delicious to eat as it is with some steamed vegetables.

Chiu Chow steamed dumplings aka 潮州蒸粉果 (pronounced- chiu jao jing fun guo) these are filled with vegetables and pork meat in a translucent pastry, the fresh vegetables and meat are the perfect combination.

Some of our favourite Dim Sum restaurants that you should visit as per our recommendations are:

1. Tim Ho Wan

Known as the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant chain in the world, this is a must-try for locals and tourists alike.
G/F, 9-11 Fuk Wing St., Sham Shui Po, 2788-1226.

2. Lung King Heen

The first Chinese restaurant in the world to be awarded 3 Michelin stars. Pricier and posher than the humble Tim Ho Wan. If you're looking for a more comfortable and grand dim sum experience, then this is a better choice.
Lung King Heen, Level 4, Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong, 8 Finance Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 3196 8880

3. One Dim Sum

The no-reservations no-frills all-day dim sum restaurant. A great overall dimsum experience, especially if you're on a budget.
Address: One Dim Sum, Shop 1 & 2, G/F, Kenwood Mansion, 15 Playing Field Road, Prince Edward, Hong Kong, +852 2789 2280

There are some other items that we might have missed off, so what might be some of your favourites? I hope this guide gives you some idea of what to order when you're next at a Dim Sum restaurant.

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