For an authentic Asian dining experience, you must eat at a Hong Kong dim sum restaurant. The best dim sum in Hong Kong is clearly a matter of opinion and you would need to eat a lot of dim sum at a lot of establishments before coming up with a sizable list (before being publicly vilified). These classic Cantonese small dishes can be consumed alone or shared with large groups and is almost a daily ritual for Hong Kongers. The act of eating dim sum is called yum cha, which translates to “drink tea”. You’ll find plenty of locals sipping the hot beverage during the meal as it is believed to aid digestion – so make sure to jump on board because you will be doing plenty of eating! It’s time to sharpen your chopsticks skills and follow us one dumpling at a time.
WHERE TO FIND THE BEST DIM SUM IN HONG KONG
Most Famous | Tim Ho Wan
You would think that four years after receiving a Michelin star that the hype would have died down but it certainly wasn’t the case at the Sham Shui Po branch on a weekday morning shortly after opening time. Instead of an orderly queue around the block, the restaurant has a rather disorderly yet functional ticketing system. A woman stands at a podium lectern and dispenses numbers to customers along with a tick-box menu in Chinese or English. She then records your number on her paper list and the size of your group. When your table is ready, this woman calls out your number over the crackly microphone – but in Chinese only. If your number is called and you don’t appear, you will lose your slot so make sure to stand close to the podium. You can always take a peek at the makeshift list as diners are seated mostly in numerical order depending on party size. Our wait was approximately 30 – 40 minutes and your order is snapped up even before you sit down, meaning that your food arrives within minutes.
Tables inside are manoeuvered to maximise occupancy. We sat next to other parties of two and fortunately, we had enough room to use our chopsticks without having to pin our elbows to our sides during the entire meal. We selected steamed shrimp dumplings, steamed beef balls with bean curd, wonton and chilli sauce, poached fresh seasonal vegetables and of course, the signature baked BBQ pork buns. The seasonal vegetables were a disappointment; a plate of limp lettuce arriving on our table with a drizzle of bland soy sauce. Perhaps my epicurean taste buds aren’t as developed as fellow critics, but it is not what I expected from a Michelin star restaurant. Thankfully the baked BBQ pork buns improved my mood. It seems somewhat bizarre to admit that until I sat down to eat at Tim Ho Wan, I had never eaten the baked version of BBQ pork buns. These were Bevan’s favourite and had I not been paying attention, he would have eaten the last one without sharing with me!
Dining at a Hong Kong Michelin star restaurant is certainly more accessible and affordable with the Tim Ho Wan restaurants so if you’re going to eat dim sum in Hong Kong, it might as well be at a lauded restaurant! If you do miss out though, the Tim Ho Wan Group now operates 46 outlets in seven countries including, Singapore, Japan, the USA and Australia.
Must Try Dish: Baked BBQ Pork Buns
Best for the Gram | Yum Cha (Central)
This will be the best looking dim sum in Hong Kong Central that you will ever lay eyes on. The chefs at YUM CHA Central have boosted their popularity with millennials by animating some of their dim sum dishes, encouraging a “camera eats first” culture and simultaneously benefiting from free publicity.
The restaurant channels a New York loft vibe with its exposed red brick walls, copper pipes and hexagonal stone floor. If your budget allows it, go crazy and order all the Instagram-friendly dishes. Char siu bao (barbecued pork buns) arrive shaped as little piggies, lau sha bao (molten custard buns) feature googly eyes and squirts out warm custard when you poke them (there is a technique to get the right amount of “custard ooze” so research this for your Insta Stories otherwise you will fail dismally as we did!) and the doggy sausage rolls are cleverly constructed daschunds. The icing on the cake is the baked pineapple puffs, a trio of canary birds which are presented in a birdcage.
Arrive early (even 15 minutes before opening) as the Central branch is a popular spot for business lunches. On the day we visited, we were seated one minute after opening but we estimate that the restaurant was almost at capacity by midday. Dining at YUM CHA Central was certainly a novelty with the gimmick dim sum providing plenty of entertainment. As a food experience, it wasn’t our favourite in terms of overall taste but this could have been due to our narrow menu selections. One last thing to note is the non-optional 20% service charge added to your bill. YUM CHA also operates a second dim sum branch at Tsim Sha Tsui.
Must Try Dish: BBQ Piggy Buns & Molten Custard Buns
Best for All You Can Eat / Boozy Brunch | Duddell's
Remnants of British colonialism still linger in Hong Kong but one cultural aspect you would not expect to see fused with this traditional Cantonese cuisine is that of bottomless brunch. Duddell’s appears to be THE social destination of choice by expats and well-off overseas visitors. Clearly, bottomless brunch is one of the best options for social gathering and weekend frivolity in a city where space goes at a premium price. The 2-floored space is located on historic Duddell Street. Upon entering, you would be forgiven for thinking that you had walked into a gallery or modern art museum. The chic salon was already full when we sat down for Saturday brunch, mostly occupied by two groups of well-groomed, high-heeled American ladies.
The bottomless brunch option is only offered on weekends and public holidays. Diners have a two-hour window to unlimited dim sum and various Cantonese offerings, including a Peking Duck station. For an additional HKD $238, you also have access to bottomless drinks, with free-flow Veuve Clicquot champagne and an extensive cocktail menu. The food menu changes seasonally but some signature dishes are always on hand. Our favourite items included the steamed barbecued iberico pork bun, peking duck, fried shrimp wonton, kung po prawn and the chilled spicy beef shank. Vegetarians are well catered for with many varieties of mushroom and fungus often featuring on the menu.
Reservations are essential with all prices subject to a 10% service charge. We cannot fault the service at Duddell’s. From laying our napkins to highlighting the particular dishes I would be unable to eat due to my peanut allergy and even the kind-eyed woman who escorted me to the bathroom – the meticulous attention to detail by the staff is impeccable.
Must Try Dish: The Peking Duck Station
Best for authenticity | One Dim Sum
For a truly authentic Hong Kong dim sum restaurant with minimal fuss, we highly recommend One Dim Sum. The restaurant earned its Michelin star in 2011 and 2012 but was unfortunately unable to retain it. Despite now having a reputation as “the former Michelin-star dim sum restaurant”, One Dim Sum Hong Kong continues to attract crowds of loyal locals and tourists.
Like with all popular eateries, you need to arrive early and expect to queue. We queued for 25 minutes before opening on a weekday morning and were amongst the first group to be seated. Other reviews have mentioned wait times of anywhere between 15 minutes to over 2 hours, and this can largely depend on your group size (solo diners can expect shorter wait times but will share their table with a fellow solo diner).
Bevan’s description of One Dim Sum’s interior is “the Chinese version of an American diner” and this assessment rings true. There is no fancy decor or expensive crockery, the menu is your A3 paper placemat and accessing the bathroom requires a small shortcut through the bustling kitchen. But you honestly won’t give a hoot about these elements because the food speaks for itself. Food arrives quickly and waitresses are always on hand to keep topping up your tea (HKD $6 per person). Between the two of us, we shared deep fried glutinous rice with pork pieces, pan fried turnip cake, chiu chow style dumplings, steamed prawn dumplings, glazed BBQ pork buns and beef rice rolls. Delicious food, efficient service, inexpensive prices and a short waiting time made this spot one of our favourite Hong Kong dim sum restaurants. With its neighbourhood feel sporting a mix of devoted locals and visiting foodies, it may only be a matter of time before One Dim Sum earns back that Michelin star.