The Rituals of Dim Sum

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Where does one begin when one talks about dim sum? Dim sum is more than just delicious bites. It's the kind of dish that you’ll crave when you’re living abroad. It’s also a way of life for the locals, a ritual that brings families together during the weekend and holidays, and a daily habit for the grandpas and grannies in Hong Kong.

The word, dim sum, literally means touch upon the heart in Cantonese. As the dishes are often served in small bites and meant to share between the group, I often refer them as Cantonese tapas to my guests. Some of my fondest childhood memories was ordering from the dim sum aunties who pushed their steamy carts around in the restaurant. The majority of Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong have replaced the symbol of dim sum with an a-la-carte menu, which is definitely a lot less exciting. Who wants to order with a piece of paper and pen when you can take your pick at the bamboo baskets in the trolley?

Whether you’re a dim sum amateur or about to lose your dim sum virginity, these tips will guide you through the basics and how to enjoy dim sum the best way.

1. Order a different type of Chinese tea other than jasmine

The server will ask you what kind of tea you’d like to have as soon as you get seated. While jasmine is a popular choice among Westerners, I’d suggest trying other varieties. If you’re a coffee drinker, go for iron buddha/Tik Kwun Yum (Cantonese) / Tie Guan Yin (Mandarin), a roasted oolong with a sweet finish. Feeling a little adventurous? The locals, especially the grannies and grandpas, love pu’reh. Pu’reh is a Chinese black tea that’s known for its rich, earthy taste and helps reduce blood cholesterol. Also order a pot of hot water beside the tea. Locals often use it to dilute the drink a little when the tea has been steeped in the teapot for too long.

2. Wash your utensils like a local

Your server will start off your meal by dropping off a bunch of chopsticks, bowls, as well as a medium-sized bowl. Most tourists can’t wrap their heads around what the bigger bowl for, and it’s used to rinse everything in it with either hot water or tea! The older generation believes that washing utensils in hot water can help kill germs. While that’s not very valid, doing so gives them a peace of mind and locals still do clean everything before they eat as part of the ritual.

3. Don’t go crazy with the soy sauce

Many of my American guests love adding soy sauce to everything they eat, but I urge you to give the food a go first without adding more seasonings. Most kitchens already have their dim sum well-seasoned, so there’s no need for extra (except one occasion. see next tip).

4. Ask for chilli oil

Instead of pairing food with Sriracha, the Cantonese loves dipping their har gow (shrimp dumplings) in spicy, fiery chilli oil. Ask the server to bring you some and give your food an extra kick. However, the spiciness of the chilli oil varies depending on the restaurant. My advice is to give it a try first, take a lick with your chopsticks to test the spiciness before dipping your food in it. If you forget to do it and end up setting your tongue on fire, there's nothing much I can do to help!

 Photo taken by Uncle Siu

Photo taken by Uncle Siu

5. Double dip is a no-no

It’s just simply impolite to double dip, especially in our culture. If you find it inconvenient, ask the server to bring you an extra serving of sauces and light your tongue on fire until your belly and heart are content.

6. Don't forget to give a thank you "code" when someone pours you tea  

In our culture, the younger ones at the table often serve tea to their seniors out of manners and respect. Locals also like to knock on the table with their knuckles twice whenever someone pours tea for them and there’s a story behind that! They say that a Chinese Emperor went in disguise to see how his people were living back in the days and when he was dining with his servants, he poured a cup of tea for one of them. In order not to blow the Emperor’s cover, the servant used his knuckles to represent the customary bow (as they had to be on their knees when they bow to the emperor) to show his gratefulness.

7. Open the lid of teapot if you want a refill  

There’s no need to ask the waiter to come over for a refill. Simply leave your teapot open, and the waiter will spot it and bring a kettle over for a second brew.

8. There's no rush when it comes to dim sum

While most Hong Kongers are always on the go and everyone walks in a quick pace, dim sum is one of the few occasions that it's perfectly fine to relax, lay back a little and enjoy a meal. Sometimes people can take up to 2 hours having dim sum, just because they love taking their time. 

9. Eating alone is totally chill

Chinese uncles, grandpas and grannies love going out for dim sum early in the morning by themselves and you’ll often find them reading newspapers or chatting with other regulars at the same table. Besides, it's common to share the table with strangers and dim sum restaurant is probably the best place for you to practise the art of dining alone in Hong Kong. Some restaurants also open as early as around 6am. If you find yourself hungry and jet-lagged, why not join the uncles and grannies for some treats?

If you're looking to experience Hong Kong in the most authentic way and get whisked away to hidden gems that only locals know about, book one of our tours with Ashley!

What To Do During Your 24-Hour Layover in Hong Kong

You’ve just arrived in one of the busiest cities in the world and you cannot help but feel exhilarated. You’re tired from a little jet lag but so what? You’re in Hong Kong and there’s only 24 hours before you hop back onto the plane. This 24-hour itinerary will guide you through your brief stay to make sure you take in as much as this metropolis has to offer.

Morning

Take A Stroll At The Morning Trail

 Photo by Ashley Yue

Photo by Ashley Yue

Escape the crowd and spend a tranquil morning at the Peak. The Morning Trail offers a much more serene experience compared to the touristy viewing spot at The Victoria Peak and be ready to have your breath taken away while watching the spectacular skyline. You can take a taxi to Hatton Road and walk up the hill from there until it turns into the trail.

Join A Local Tour

 Photo by Ashley Yue

Photo by Ashley Yue

Since you’re on a limited schedule, taking a walking tour is a great idea for you to experience the city more in-depth. You’ll see the city through the eyes of a local and learn more about the history and stories behind Hong Kong within the span of a few hours. If you’re a food enthusiast like us, we offer private and group food tours at Hong Kong Food Crawlers that combines history and local food together. All the spots we take our guests to are places that we’ve been going since childhood and we only take the path less travelled!

Enjoy A Ferry Ride

 Photo from Hong Kong Tourism Board

Photo from Hong Kong Tourism Board

A trip to Hong Kong isn’t complete without a ferry ride across the Harbour. Hop on the Star ferry and go to Kowloon from Hong Kong Island for HK$2, which is probably one of the cheapest rides you can take in the world. There’s nothing quite like watching the Hong Kong skyline with an abundance of skyscrapers while being in the sea. Let the breeze gently brush your face and enjoy the view!

Afternoon Tea At A Local Cafe

 Photo by Ashley Yue

Photo by Ashley Yue

Grab a small bite at a cha chaan teng (a local’s term for Cantonese diner), which is known for comfort food such as egg tarts, pineapple buns and a cup of hot Hong Kong milk tea. You can’t go wrong with the traditional pastries at Kam Fung Cafe in Wan Chai on Hong Kong Island and Kam Wah Cafe in Mong Kok, Kowloon. If you find yourself at Kam Fung, make sure you order their killer chicken pie there.

Explore The Markets

 Photo from  @lau_writes

Photo from @lau_writes

While the Ladies Market is known for being the best spot to bargain at and its wide range of souvenirs, accessories and clothes, the Goldfish Market nearby is also a popular destination for photographers. Stroll through Tung Choi Street and get mesmerized by the colorful display of fish and turtles there. The Flower Market on Flower Market Road and Bird Market on Yuen Po Street are also close by, in case you want to find more subjects to snap away.

Dim Sum Feast

 Photo by Eva Wang from  Eat With Eva

Photo by Eva Wang from Eat With Eva

Once you’re on the Kowloon side, go to Tim Ho Wan or One Dim Sum for an affordable Michelin-star meal. Dim sum is a ritual among locals and the small bites are shared among the group, along with Chinese tea on the side. While the wait at Tim Ho Wan and One Dim Sum can be a little intimidating, the food is definitely worth the wait. You’ll get to experience what it’s like to dine like a true local (hint: do not expect good service), where restaurants are known for their efficiency and food is brought to you in a lightning speed.

Evening

Savour Street Food

 Photo by Ashley Yue

Photo by Ashley Yue

The city is known for its abundance of street food and you can find little stalls selling savoury treats all around the city. Head to Dundas Street in Mong Kok and you’ll find a hub of street food vendors selling goods such as the infamous fish balls, deep fried Three Treasures (an assortment of eggplants, green peppers, red sausages and tofu stuffed with fish paste), bubble tea and stinky tofu. You can get pretty full from hopping between stalls so if you’re planning to grab dinner somewhere else later in the evening, make sure you get only one or two nibbles.

Cocktails Hour With A View

 Photo by  @tinaleung

Photo by @tinaleung

Skip the highest bar in the world (unless you want to pay for overpriced cocktails and squeeze in for a seat with a bunch of tourists) and head to Cafe Grey Deluxe at The Upper House Hotel for a few cocktails in early evening. Situated on the 49th floor, Cafe Grey Deluxe never fails to dazzle its guests with a breathtaking view of the Victoria Harbour. The ceiling to floor window inside the washroom also always makes us in awe when we look down on skyscrapers in town and how close we are to these beautiful buildings.

Get Noms At A Dai Pai Dong

 Photo by Carlo Acenas

Photo by Carlo Acenas

Dai Pai Dong is one of the staples in Hong Kong culinary culture and it’s an experience on its own to dine in a casual and communal setting. Head to Tung Po Kitchen and feast on classic Cantonese dishes and fresh seafood. We can never get enough of their stir fry razor clams with black beans and deep fried drunken prawns. If you’re on the Kowloon side, our favourite is Oi Man Sang, a Dai Pai Dong that’s been running since the 1950s. You can also watch the chefs working up their woks in flames in their kitchen on the street.

 

A Last Minute Guide To Dining Out On Christmas In Hong Kong 2017

If you’re travelling to Hong Kong this holiday season and want to feast with family and friends on Christmas Day, our city has much more to offer than turkey and Christmas pudding. There are plenty of Chinese and Asian restaurants that offer delicious classic dishes with gorgeous dining interiors. So why not try something new and different this year? If you’re a diehard fan of traditional feasts, however, we’ve also picked a few restaurants to keep up with your holiday spirits. Here are our top picks for dining out in Hong Kong this Christmas:

An Asian Style Christmas

Fish School

 Photo from Fish School Facebook

Photo from Fish School Facebook

The seafood speciality restaurant offers some of the most top-notch fruit de mer in town and emphasizes on fresh and seasonal ingredients that are sourced locally. Need a fresh alternative to traditional Christmas fares? Fish School is all about paying tributes to the old fishing culture in Hong Kong. Kick off your Christmas night with a glass of prosecco, followed by eight courses, from oysters with horseradish, smoked cobia terrine, the signature raw crab with sea urchin rice (who doesn’t like some edible flowers on their seafood?) to grilled lobster with garlic chive butter. Finish off the meal with sticky date pudding with goji berries. It’s going to be a jolly Christmas indeed! 

When: December 25, 2017, from 6 pm.
Where: 100 Third Street, Sai Ying Pun.
Cost: $850 per person.
Booking: Call 2361-2966.

Second Draft

 Photo from Second Draft Facebook 

Photo from Second Draft Facebook 

For a more casual dining experience, the sister restaurant of the infamous Little Bao is the perfect fit. Second Draft will be serving a 5-course menu with a Chinese twist just in time for the festivities. We spy some serious duck actions going on, including the duck breast salad for starter, then complete with beer-braised duck legs (with beer from local brewery HEROES), grilled eels, stir-fry Chinese flat rice noodles with ribeye steak with a hint of rum and desserts? Finish off your meal with a round of Christmas beers for 6 for 400 HKD extra. 

When: Today until December 26th
Where: G/F, Little Tai Hang, 98 Tung Lo Wan Road, Tai Hang, Hong Kong
Pricing: HK$2650 for 5-6 people, 400 HKD for 6 Christmas beers
Booking: +852 2656 0232. Pre-order required.

Yin Yang Coastal

 Photo from Yin Yang Facebook

Photo from Yin Yang Facebook

Opened in 2008, Yin Yang is a private kitchen that offers farm-to-table Chinese cuisine with a creative flair. Chef Margaret Xu Yuan decided to move from Wan Chai to the more secluded part of town, Tsuen Wan and re-opened her restaurant at a garden beach house in Ting Kau Village. Her cooking pays homage to the influence of Hong Kong’s fishing village culture with contemporary notes. Dishes are made with seasonal ingredients from local farms, as well as the restaurant’s organic farm. This Christmas, Yin Yang’s festive menu include the signature Yellow Earth Chicken (served with sticky rice and chestnut stuffing) which is roasted in a terracotta urn designed by the chef, or red hot baby pig garnished with homemade marmalade, organic harvest and wild seafood, crab flamenco, drunken oysters hotpot (available on splash - chef’s festive menu only) and more. For the regular festive menu, it’s priced at HK$1080 each, starting with a minimum of 2 guests. If you want to go all out and splurge, the splash menu is at 1500 HKD per head. 

Where: Ting Kau Beach, House 117, Ting Kau Village, Tsuen Wan, New Territories, Hong Kong
When: December 24-25th, 31st, 2017
Booking: Call + 852 28660 868  
Details: Drinks start at 6:30pm, Dinner starts at 7:00 / 7:30 / 8:00 pm

Man Wah

 Photo from Man Wah

Photo from Man Wah

There’s no doubt that Man Wah is one of the finest Chinese restaurants in town and it’s much more than its classy interiors and a stunning view of the harbour. The Michelin-starred restaurant is tucked away on the 25/F at Mandarin Oriental and offers a menu of traditional Cantonese dishes with a touch of modern flair. 

Best known for its delicate dim sum, the portions can be adjusted to the number of guests in your party. We find this practice really thoughtful and wish more restaurants would adopt it. For their festive menu, lunch and dinner are both available for booking from December 24-26th. The 6-course lunch menu a dim sum trio of tiger prawn and bamboo shoot dumpling, Siu Mai with tobiko and beef tenderloin puff, deep fried sole with black truffle sauce, wok fried scallop, prawn and asparagus with X.O sauce, and more at 988 HKD per person (a glass of Ruinart Blanc de Blancs Champagne is also included). If you feel like splurging, the 7-course dinner menu includes decadent dishes such as deep fried chicken with foie gras terrine, steamed spotted grouper with Kam Wah ham, shiitake mushroom and lotus leaf, and Cantonese style pan fried Australian wagyu tenderloin. 
 
When: Dec 24th-26th, 2017
Where: 25/F, Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, 5 Connaught Road Central, Central,
Pricing: Lunch - HK$988 per person, Dinner - HK$2,488 per person
Booking: +852 2825 4003 

T’ang Court

 Photo from T'ang Court

Photo from T'ang Court

While T’ang Court isn’t offering a special festive menu on Christmas Day, you can still treat yourself to a 7-course dinner this Christmas Eve, including dishes such as baked stuffed crab shell with crab meat and onion, and the braised dried abalone with Bêche-de-Mer. Executive Chef Kwong Wai Keung and his team are known for executing exquisite, traditional Cantonese classics with contemporary twists. The much-acclaimed restaurant is also three Michelin-starred and occupies two storeys, and the refined dining room is spacious enough for those who appreciate a private dining experience. 

When December 31, 2017
Where: The Langham, 8 Peking Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Pricing: HK$1,480 per person
Booking: +852 2361 2966

Traditional Christmas Feasts

Foxglove

 Photo from NC Design & Architecture Ltd

Photo from NC Design & Architecture Ltd

What’s Christmas without classic holiday films? Our favourite jazz lounge is hosting A Cinematic Christmas night on December 25th and will be showing The Holiday (6:30 pm) and Home Alone 2 (8:45 pm). The extravagant Christmas party includes a movie viewing, a three-course meal, plenty of mulled wine and Christmas cocktails. Book your tickets here for HK$650 for standard tickets. 

When: December 25th, 2017
Where: 6 Duddell St, Central, Hong Kong
Pricing: HK$650 per person
Booking: Reserve your tickets online here

Rhoda

 Photo from Rhoda Facebook

Photo from Rhoda Facebook


Look no further if you want a proper hearty meal this Christmas Day. Rhoda is throwing a British dinner party with cured Scottish salmon for starter (and more), a beautiful main of roasted pig from Wicks Manor Farm, served along with gravy and burnt apple sauce, and accompanied with roast potatoes and sprouts with bacon and chestnuts. The meal is rounded up with their iconic cheesecake. What’s even better is the 2.5-hour lunch/dinner package includes free-flow drinks that would keep your festive spirits up all day. 

When: December 25th, 2017 - Lunch at 12 pm, Dinner at 6pm
Where: 345 Des Voeux Road West, Shek Tong Tsui, Hong Kong
Pricing: HK$748 per person, including a 2 and a half hour free-flow wine (sparkling, red and white) and HK Yau beer. 
Booking: +852 2177 5050

Test Kitchen

 Photo from Test Kitchen Facebook

Photo from Test Kitchen Facebook


Celebrate this Christmas the Danish way with the private pop-up kitchen from December 20th -22nd! Test Kitchen is collaborating with Danish chef Filip Søndergaard and hosting an eight-course Danish Christmas banquet for an unforgettable night. Chef Søndergaard has worked for Michelin-starred restaurant Pauly Saal in Berlin, and he has been working most recently as head chef at Dottir, a highly acclaimed Nordic restaurant in Berlin. Savour traditional Scandinavian dishes, including crumbled flatfish with a Danish remoulade sauce, roasted duck stuffed with apples and prunes, Danish meatballs and roast pork belly. 
We also love the intimate space at Test Kitchen and see the chef working in action in their open kitchen upstairs. Book your last minute ticket here before they run out! 

When: December 20-22nd, 2017
Where: Shop 3 Kwan Yick Building Phase 3, 158A Connaught Rd W, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong
Pricing: HK$1080 per person, HK$300 for drinking pairings. Free corkage
Booking: Get your tickets online here