One of China’s great contributions to world cuisine has its roots in the 18th century.
Small restaurants along the legendary Silk Road trade route between China and Europe would serve tea and snacks to travelers, businessmen and workers. To compete for customers, restaurants improved the variety and quality of their food. Today we know those snacks as dim sum, which means “touch your heart.”
How Hong Kong Dim Sum Has Evolved
Today’s dim sum assortment would dazzle the patrons of those Silk Road teahouses. Some restaurants can serve up to 150 different dishes. The patrons have changed – family and friends frequently enjoy dim sum together at home or on vacation. But the meal is still washed down with tea. In fact, going for dim sum is known as yum cha, which means ‘drinking tea.’
If you’re planning to visit Hong Kong, the epicenter of dim sum, eating it there is a bucket-list experience you can’t miss. To help in that quest, here are 20 classic Hong Kong dim sum items to try.
Dumplings, Rolls and Buns
Steamed shrimp dumpling (har gow)
Shrimp wrapped in translucent dough, often with water chestnuts or bamboo shoots for texture. Some consider these to be the best test of quality at a dim sum restaurant.
Pork dumpling (siu mai)
Ground pork, possibly mixed with shrimp and mushrooms, wrapped in thin wheat dough.
Baked barbecue pork bun (guk cha siu bao)
A sweet, savory and saucy chopped pork filling is enveloped in a round yellow bun with a shiny, sticky glaze.
Barbecue pork pastry (cha siu sou)
Barbecue pork is stuffed in a flaky pastry and baked.
Steamed barbecue pork bun (cha siu bao)
Fluffy white buns surround the same delicious pork filling.
Tofu skin roll (pei guen)
Chicken and vegetables are wrapped inside a thin layer of tofu and steamed or fried.
Rice noodle rolls (cheung fun)
A thin rice noodle is rolled around either shrimp, ground beef, barbecued pork or other ingredients, then steamed.
Spring rolls (chun guen)
Vegetables such as cabbage and carrots are mixed with mushrooms and sometimes meat, wrapped in a thin sheet of dough, and deep fried.
Shanghai soup dumpling (xiao long bao)
Bite into these steamed morsels with care, because the hot and flavorful juices from the minced pork filling will easily squirt out.
Other Savory Treats
Spare ribs (pai gu)
Steamed pork ribs with black bean sauce.
Meat balls (ngau yuk kau)
Finely ground beef is shaped into balls, then steamed.
Taro cake (wu tao go)
A pan-fried cake made from rice flour, taro root, and various combinations of chicken, pork, Chinese sausages, shrimp and mushrooms. Closely related to the radish cake (lo bak gou).
Chicken feet (fung zao)
Also known as Phoenix talons or claws, deep-fried chicken feet are stewed in a sauce with black beans.
Sticky rice (lo mai gai)
Steamed glutinous rice is mixed with chicken, mushrooms, pork and Chinese sausage, then packaged in a lotus or banana leaf.
Almond tofu (xingren doufu)
Like an almond-flavored jello, this cold dessert is served with a sugar and almond syrup.
Egg custard tart (daan taat)
The classic dim sum dessert: bright yellow custard is enveloped by a flaky tart shell.
Sweet cream bun (nai wong bau)
Steamed buns with milk custard filling.
Mango pudding (mang guo bo din)
Creamy and rich pudding, often with small chunks of mango.
Sponge cake (ma lai gao)
Steamed cake that’s yellow, soft, and sweet.
Planning Your Hong Kong Dim Sum Experience
The Hong Kong Tourism Board, a Virtuoso partner, offers this helpful dim sum reference guide. In it you’ll find restaurant recommendations and tips for having a true Hong Kong dim sum experience.
What are your favorite dim sum dishes, tips or restaurants? Share your advice with us below.