No visit to Hong Kong would be complete without trying this city state’s most popular cuisine, Dim Sum. Dim Sum refers to a specific style of Chinese food that’s prepared as small bite-sized or individual portions of food (similar to the concept of Spanish Tapas) traditionally served in small steaming bamboo baskets. Dim Sum is commonly eaten with pots of Chinese tea for breakfast or lunch.
This practice is known as ‘yum cha‘ (Cantonese for drink tea). Some of the local favorites and popular dishes include steamed pork buns, shrimp dumplings, beef balls and pan-fried squid with spicy salt. Dim sum is also well known for the unique way it is served in the traditional restaurants, where fresh hot off-the-stove dim sum dishes would be pushed around on steam carts by servers who go around the restaurant offering the dishes to customers and marking orders on a card on each customer’s table.
Having dim sum in Hong Kong is a unique experience not to be missed. Some of the famous Hong Kong Dim Sum dishes are as follows… The names of the dishes are in Cantonese but don’t worry, we’ve included the English interpretation as well!
- Cheung Fan (Steam rice flour roll)
- Gum Si So Wu Gok (Pan-fried taro cake)
- Haw Heung Tsun Chu Gai (Steamed sticky rice with shredded chicken in lotus leaf)
- Si Jap Jing Pai Gwat (Steamed pork ribs with preserved soya bean)
- Jiu Yim Yau Yu So (Fried squid with spicy salt)
- So Fan Gwo (Steamed Vegatarian Dumpling)
- Bak Gu Min Fa Gai (Steamed chicken with fish maw and black mushroom)
- Lin Yung Bau (Lotus paste bun)
- Yiu Chu Law Bak Go (Steam turnip cake)
– Cakes are made from mashed daikon radish mixed with bits of dried shrimp and pork sausage that are steamed and then cut into slices and pan-fried
- Char Siu So (Barbecued pork pastry)
- Siu Mai (Steam pork/prawns dumplings)
– Small steamed dumplings with either pork, prawns or both inside a thin wheat flour wrapper. Usually topped off with crab roe and mushroom.
- Har Gau (Steamed shrimp dumplings)
– A delicate steamed dumpling with whole or minced shrimp filling and thin wheat starch skin.
- Chu Guen (Fried spring roll)
- Char Siu Bau (Steamed barbecued pork bun)
– It can be either steamed to be fluffy and white or baked with a light sugar glaze to produce a smooth golden-brown crust.
The unique culinary art of dim sum originated with the Cantonese in southern China, who over the centuries transformed yum cha from a region practice to a dining experience enjoyed by many all over the world. In Hong Kong, many restaurants start serving dim sum as early as five in the morning..and they can get crowded, so its best to go a little early.
The quality of the tea is as important to the experience of eating dim sum. The most popular teas that are drank are as follows:
Chrysanthemum tea – Chrysanthemum tea does not actually contain any tea leaves. Instead it is a flower-based tisane made from chrysanthemum flowers of the species Chrysanthemum morifolium or Chrysanthemum indicum. The preparation of the tea includes steeping the chrysanthemum flowers (usually dried) in hot water (usually 90 to 95 °C after cooling from a boil) in either a teapot, cup, or glass.
Green tea – An increasing favorite among diners, the freshly picked green leaves only go through heating and drying processes, but do not undergo fermentation.Thus the leaves get to keep their original color and retain most of their natural substances like polyphenols and chlorophyll contained within the leaves.
Oolong tea – Partially fermented, Oolong tea has both the characteristics of both green and black teas. However the tea’s taste is more similar to green tea than black tea, but has less a “grassy” flavor than green tea.
Pu-erh or Puer tea – Having undergone years of fermentation, the tea has a unique earthy flavor and is usually a crowd favorite.
Scented teas – Flowers such as jasmine, gardenia, magnolia, grapefruit flower, rose and sweet-scented osmanthus are mixed in with green tea, black tea or oolong tea. It isn’t just throwing in flowers with tea, there are strict rules about the proportion of flowers to tea. Jasmine tea is the most popular type of scented tea, and is often one of the most popular type of tea served at dim sum establishments.