Guide to eating dim sum in Hong Kong (Gourmet Chick in Hong Kong)

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Just before the traditional season of overeating known as Christmas I thought I would post my guide to eating dim sum in Hong Kong.  A week in Hong Kong was my last stop on my way back to Australia and it was a week of glorious gluttony particularly in the dim sum department.  As the world’s yum cha capital I discovered I could indulge in dim sum anyway I wanted in Hong Kong.  During my visit we dug into the bamboo steamer baskets everywhere from sleek bars to huge ballrooms to tiny canteens.  It’s best to avoid going for yum cha on a Sunday if possible as that is traditionally a day that Hong Kong families will share yum cha together so yum cha venues are even more packed than usual.  Of the place we tried these were my three favourites, all good for different reasons:

Dim sum arrives by trolley at Maxim’s City Hall

1. Maxim’s City Hall
For the true Hong Kong yum cha experience I think it is hard to beat Maxim’s at City Hall.  Dim sum is served up daily in this huge ballroom with sticky carpets, dripping chandeliers and panoramic views of the Hong Kong waterfront.  Waitresses wheel trollies stacked with towering baskets of dim sum and you need to wave down the ones you want as the best trolleys rarely stop at a table of gwelios (Westerners).

Delicious steamer baskets of goodness

It may not be the absolute best dim sum in town but the whole experience is so much fun that it was my favourite.  The best things to wave down are the fried glutinous rice wrapped in banana leaves and flecked with chunks of pork, the har jiao (prawn dumplings), prawn cheong fun and the pan fried turnip cake.  Be warned, there are big queues but we got there just before 12 and were fine.

Essentials
Details: City Hall Maxim’s Palace,  2/F, Low Block, City Hall, Central, Hong Kong (Ph +852 2521 1303)
Damage:  Reasonable our bill came to HKD$200 each ($25/£16)
9/10

The queues to get in to Tim Ho Wan

2. Tim Ho Wan
Tim Ho Wan is the world’s cheapest Michelin star restaurant, our meal here came to a grand total of HKD$121 ($15/£10).  It is a scruffy and unassuming place out in Mong Kwok and it is also tiny so we had to wait two hours to get a table.  The good news is that there is an organised queuing system so you turn up, take a number and are told what time to come back at.  We got there at 11.30 and were given number 66 (the restaurant opens at 10am each day).  We then went shopping in the nearby Ladies Market and checked out the Mong Kwok flower and bird markets before returning just before our designated slot.

Tim Ho Wan’s famous pork buns (times two)

There are no white table cloths and service is perfunctory at Tim Ho Wan but the Michelin star recognises the quality of the dim sum which is excellent.  The speciality here is the deep fried pork buns with their crisp, light casing and filling of sticky, sweet roasted pork which are just ridiculously delicious.  Ha jiao (prawn dumplings HKD$22) were delicately pleated and filled with fresh, meaty whole prawns and the filling of the chiu chow dumplings (HKD$10) was a great textural mix of crunchy nuts with soft vegetables.  Look how transulcent the skin of the dumplings is in the photograph so the contents are almost jewel like.  The chef at Tim Ho Wan, Mak Pui Gor, was the former dim sum master at Hong Kong’s Four Seasons Hotel before he went out on his own so it is a big treat to be able to sample his dim sum at such bargain basement prices.  However I do think Michelin should have probably rated Tim Ho Wan as a bib Michelin (its rating for cheaper restaurants where service and surroundings might be lacking) rather than giving it a star.

Essentials
Details: Flat 8, Tsui Yuen Mansion, 2-20 Kwong Wa Street, MongKok, Kowloon, Hong Kong (Ph +852 2332 2896)
Damage: Such a bargain my mother would approve. HKD$121 for two.
9/10

3. Dragon-I
Dragon-I is where the beautiful people of Hong Kong go to eat their dim sum with its sleek black surfaces, low lighting and extensive cocktail list.  The restaurant does actually turn into a bar at night time but at lunch time there is a good all you can eat dim sum deal ($188).  Dragon-I is beloved by Hong Kong residents as you can actually book there so it is good for big groups or those who don’t want to stand around for ages.  It reminded me of Ping Pong in London although the dim sum is of a better standard.

As you can see there is night club style lighting at Dragon-I even during the day with the food spotlit and then darkness all around.

Light and fluffy char xiao bao (barbeque pork buns) (HKD$38) with their sweet and sticky filling were well made while the xiao mei (pork dumplings) (HKD$39), a Hong Kong specialty were meaty and bursting with flavour.  The disappointment on the dim sum front were the XLBs (HKD$39) which had messy pleats and were dry with some of them having lost their soupy filling.

Essentials
Details: Dragon-i, 60 Wyndham Street, Hong Kong (Ph +852 3110 1223).
Damage: Pricey.  Our bill for two came to HKD$392 for two.
7/10

My map of Hong Kong

 
 
View Gourmet Chick Hong Kong in a larger map



Gourmet Travel Tips

  • For my other tips for eating in Hong Kong (non dim sum) here’s my guide to Hong Kong
  • Cathay Pacific flies to Hong Kong from Australia from $1150 return and from London British Airways flies there from London from £569 return.
  • We stayed at Hotel LFK which is bang in the middle of Hong Kong’s party hub, the Lang Kwai Fong area.  Our deluxe suite was huge and stocked with everything you could ever want from a bath and rain shower stocked with Molton Brown goodies to free wifi and an in room coffee maker.  The room rate also includes cocktails each night in LFK’s glamorous “Restaurant slash bar” Azure and the views over the city skyline are stupendous.  Details: Hotel LFK, 33 Wyndham Street, Lang Kwai Fong, Hong Kong (Ph +852 3518 9688 ) Rooms start from HKD$2,998/£245/$379) a night.  
Our room at Hotel LFK
  • The must do activities in Hong Kong are to catch a tram up to the top of the Peak to check out the skyline, a night out at the Happy Valley races on Wednesdays and of course shopping, shopping and more shopping.
  • For something different catch a ferry over to Lantau and do a hike, we hiked the Lantau peak and then caught the cable car back.  We also did a day trip to Macau which I would avoid as it is a pretty soulless place and the immigration queues on the weekends are horrendous.
  • For researching a trip to Hong Kong I found E-Ting, Tom Eats, Jen Cooks, Hollow Legs and Mr Noodles very helpful thanks also to our Hong Kong friends, hosts and tour guides Jac, Mossy, Nick and Fabian.

19 comments

  1. I wanted to go to THW (There’s a new branch at Hong Kong station, central) but my itinerary was jam packed!!!

  2. ahhhh DELICIOUS! I’ve been to HK so many times and never braved the Tim Ho Wan queues – good on you! I am going back again in a couple of weeks, albeit only for 4 days for a cousin’s wedding, but am very much looking forward to the eating already 🙂 Happy Christmas and hope to see you in Sydney or Melbourne soon!

  3. wow….Thanks for this..my favourite is Maxim’s but I’ve never been to THW. will have to next time.

  4. That’s great that they have the names on the sides of the trolleys-sometimes they assume that you won’t want something but you actually do!

  5. You are making me miss all the dim sum. I might have to do a crystal jade trip this weekend just to feel better (it is a HK chain doing Shanghainese dim sum which has a branch here but is seriously expensive so I blame you for the wallet pain 🙂

  6. A great guide with something for everyone. Given the choice, I’d probably plump for Maxim’s City Hall for its trollies (these are so rare now even in HK).

    PS: Thanks for the mention.

  7. I am jealous as hell – I’ve only spent 2 nights in Hong Kong and was dying (or so it felt) so I haven’t eaten nearly enough dim sum there!

  8. I think we did go to Maxims (not so good) and then we went to Fu Shing? Fu Xing #failsian 😛 And that was amazing!

  9. Michelle Chin- Yes I heard about the new branch but thought I may as well go to the original

    Catty – Oh enjoy your visit and I think THW is worth the queue (esp because you can shop in the meantime). Happy Christmas to you too…

    PigsPigsCorner – Agreed

    Kay – Yes you must put it on your list…

    Lorraine – Always good to know what you are getting

    Tom – My apologies! Thanks for the tips. Never did make it to that hidden bar sadly.

    Mr Noodles – Yes I loved the atmosphere there – nothing beats a trolley!

    Foodycat – I could have stayed for 2 weeks I think – so much to eat. A return visit may be in order…

    Shu Han – Yes it was great

    MsIhua – There are so many great options in HK – what didn’t you like about Maxims?

  10. I’m sorry to say that my dim sum education so far has consisted solely of Ping Pong which I have come to see as quite shameful considering I seem to regard myself as a bit of a foodie. This has inspired me to seek out better dumplings in 2012 – even though I can’t quite afford the plane fare to HK. Great post Cara, hope you’re having fun back in Oz. I will miss your London posts!

  11. Amy – Yes Ping Pong is not real dim sum I am sorry to say – good luck exploring Amy!

  12. Went to Maxim City Hall today for lunch. We turned up around 1 so had to wait but even with 17 numbers in front of us it went very quickly and we were seated before we knew it. The calamari and the pork buns were top notch. the service was very good and we didn;t have much trouble flagging waitresses down. The only disappointment was the lack of any scrimp or other seafood dumplings. But the rest of it made up for that. Thanks for another great review, this and the under the bridge spicy crab really helped make our trip to hong kong that much better. Unfortunately we could;t get in Tim’s Kitchen or Cafe grey but next time!

    1. Dex I am so glad to hear that my tips came in handy. There is so much great food in Hong Kong that like you I am thinking “next time” as well.

  13. thanks for your great advice food nut chick about to try most of them!

    1. Monkey – hope you enjoy!

  14. We found ourselves back in HK again this year, two years after our last visit, so we had the chance to check out a few more of the places you mentioned.

    We made it to Tim Ho Wans this time. Its a bit confusing finding the place now as the old place which i think you visited has closed down now. They are in a new premises in the Olympic Shopping Mall. trip advisor helpfully lists the correct address but the their Map points to the old location!

    Anyways, glad we made the trip over. food was fantastic. the BBQ pork buns were really a step above anything we had before. and the bill was just as good, 10 AUS a head.

    We made it back to Spicey Crab under the Bridge which didnt disappoint and also to Aqua Hutong which has an amazing view as well as 188 deg at the Grand Harbour Hotel.

    Thanks again for your tips

    Cheers

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