Below is a sampler of some common Hong Kong delicacies.

Dim sum
Dim sum (or ‘little bits of heart’) are a cherished feature of Hong Kong cuisine and rightly so. Siu mai (steamed mince and prawn dumplings decorated with bright orange crab eggs), har gau (steamed prawn dumplings), cheung fen (soft white rice flour rolls sloshed with soy), luo buo gau (fried squares of turnip, pork and mushroom mash), char siu bao (sweet pork stuffed in the center of a white steamed bun) are standards of the lunch-time institution of yum cha (‘drink tea’) and are served at Cantonese restaurants all over Hong Kong. Eaten briskly with colleagues on weekday lunch-times or lingered over with family at the weekend, several hundred types of dim sum fry and steam their way onto tables from eleven o’clock in the morning till past three in the afternoon. The noise generated by customers in a big restaurant can be deafening.

Tucking into dim sum at the Metropole

In some places, the serving ladies still push trolleys around from which you make your selection, whilst in other restaurants the waitress brings food to your table. Trolley ladies can be found at Maxim’s Palace (2/F, Low Block, City Hall) and The Metropole (4/F United Centre, Admiralty – watch your bag as thieves are known to operate there). You select a dish from the trolley and the serving lady stamps your order card. When there are no trolleys, you first mark up your order sheet (which also shows the price of each item – low, medium, high, special price) and then give the order sheet to the waitress who brings the dishes, often in bamboo steamers, to your table. The only problem with this is that most Chinese restaurants do not have English translations of dim sum menus. A nice pictorial guide to many of the most famous dim sum is Dim Sum: A Pocket Guide by Kit Shan Li (Chronicle Books).

Sauces and dips served with dim sum include soy sauce, vinegar (garnished with thin strips of ginger), chilli oil, XO sauce (oil flavoured with chilli and seafood), chilli sauce, sweet sauce and mustard sauce (especially good with roast pork). Tea is usually drunk as an accompaniment – sao mei, bo lei and tik guan yum being among the most popular with local Hong Kongers. Lift the tea-pot lid to the side when you want a hot water refill.

Beside the dim sum (which usually come in 3 or 4 strips or items per helping), it’s common to order other side dishes such as a roast meat plate (pork, goose, duck and eel are common) and one of the many fried rice, congee, or fried noodle dishes (fried rice with dried scallop and egg white is tasty). Chinese also commonly order a plate of blanched choi sum green stalky vegetables, served with oyster sauce.

There is usually a small selection of desserts served after dim sum. Mango pudding in a lagoon of evaporated milk, sweet red bean soup flavoured with sun-dried tangerine peel, mini-egg tarts with the centers almost-runny and sesame or peanut balls in sweet soup (tong yun) are amongst the most popular.

Tags: Dim Sum, Hong Kong, Restaurant