2024-01-16 yjl0518 9444
When it comes to yum cha, there’s lots to choose from on the menu. From dumplings to steamed rice to buns to deep fried seafood, the choice of dim sum is endless – and there are some dishes we’ll always insist on ordering because they are our favourites.


Over the years across Asia and Australia, I’ve eaten yum cha countless of times with the folks and friends and we always order the same dishes. We love them, we order them, it feels right eating the same dishes over and over. Only occasionally we’d order something we don’t usually eat.


Yum cha is traditionally a Cantonese brunch that involves Chinese tea and dim sum. Yum cha literally means ‘drink tea’. The meal originated in the Cantonese-speaking regions of China, and the meal can be traced back to the time when travellers on the ancient Silk Road stopped at teahouses for tea and snacks. On the other hand, dim sum are small serving dishes. These dishes are commonly carted around on trollies in restaurants and served in bamboo steamers or on small plates. Here are some typical, classic Cantonese-style dim sum dishes that are popular at yum cha:

喝百胜茶是传统的粤式早餐和午餐,包括中国茶和点心。“Yum cha”的字面意思就是“喝茶”。这种吃饭的方式起源于中国的粤语地区。在古代时,行走在丝绸之路上的旅行者们会在茶馆停下来喝茶和吃点心。点心是用小碟子盛的食物,它们通常被放在餐馆的手推车上,用竹制蒸笼盛着。这里有一些经典的粤式点心,在喝百胜茶的时候很受欢迎:

1. Siu Mai

1. 烧麦

Sīu máai are bite-sized dumplings. They consist of pork and/or shrimp filling, wrapped with yellow wrapper and topped with an orange dot made out of crab roe or carrot. Scallion, ginger and mushroom are commonly mixed in with the filling, which is usually soft and chewy. I’m not a huge fan of pork but this is one dumpling I never hesitate to eat.


2. Har gow

2. 虾饺
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This is also known as shrimp or prawn dumpling. It’s a simple steamed dumpling: prawn wrapped in a smooth translucent wrapper. Often oyster sauce, sesame oil, ginger and bamboo shoots are used to season the seafood. It’s usually served together with sīu máai, and together they are called hā gáau–sīu máai. If the two dishes happen to be served at the same time, I grab one of each dumpling right away.

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3. Cheong Fun

3. 肠粉

This rice noodle roll dish tends to be filled with chā sīu, shrimp or vegetable. Seasoned soy or sesame sauce is served together with the rolls. The English translation of chéung fán refers to intestines but this dish is not made up of intestines – it just looks like intestines. Arguably it’s one of the plainer dishes: the rice paper rolls themselves are plain and unseasoned. If made with precision, the rice noodles should be thin, soft and silky smooth – sometimes I find them slipping in between my chopsticks and almost impossible to put in mouth.


4. Lor mai fan

4. 糯米饭

This is steamed glutinous rice, served with or without chicken and wrapped in lotus leaf. The sticky glutinous rice is cooked with oyster sauce and the centre is packed with mushrooms, shrimp, scallop, peanuts, pork and laap cheong. As one of the more filling dim sum dishes, it’s also one that comes in a bigger serve compared to the others mentioned here.


This dish is usually a hit or miss with me. Sometimes it leaves a bitter aftertaste in my mouth, which still lingers after drinking some Chinese tea. Not the kind of taste I like. As lotus leaf is considered a bitter herb, it’s probably the reason why.


5. Lo Bak Go

5. 萝卜糕

This is turnip cake, made up of radish and also known as radish cake. It’s pan-fried and served up in square pieces. It’s soft on the inside with slightly crispy outer edges and sometimes there are small pieces of laap cheong mixed in. It’s a popular dish around Chinese New Year and the Chinese believe that this savoury cake brings good luck: loh bak go is synonymous (in texture) with lin go/nián gāo, which in itself is synonymous to the Chinese phrase nián nián gāo shēng– meaning ‘higher each year’.

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6. Daan taat

6. 蛋挞

This is sweet egg tart, consisting of bright yellow egg custard flanked by a flaky puff pastry. It’s smooth, silky, has a slightly wobbly centre and tastes slightly eggy. Interestingly enough, Macau’s egg tart resembles the Portuguese tart. Portuguese tarts look similar to egg tarts but the former has a caramelised top, doesn’t taste eggy and tastes like sweet vanilla custard.


7. Chā shāo bāo

7. 叉烧包

This bun comes either steamed or baked. The steamed one has a soft white fluffy outside and the baked one a glazed, crispy exterior. The centre of the bun consists of soft pork, corn starch, onions, sesame oil, soy sauce and oyster sauce. Quite commonly the pork filling is red in colour and that is usually due to marinating the meat in saltpetre before cooking it.


Growing up, I watched my parents peel the outer skin of steamed baos before eating them. They claimed the outer layer is dirty and not safe for consumption. Baos are commonly left out in the open before being warmed and served. Others argue that the outside of baos are dosed with sulphur water during the steaming process to ensure they come out white. I’ve eaten baos as they are, unpeeled, and have not gotten sick eating them.


8. Wu gok

8. 芋角

Known as taro dumpling or yam puff, this is a deep fried delicacy. It has a savoury pork-filled centre covered with a thick layer of mashed taro, and the outer taro layer is fluffy, light and crispy. It’s one of my most-favourite yum cha dishes, and I’ve previoulsy eaten 4-5 of these in one sitting.


* * *
Other much-loved classic dishes at yum cha include: steamed Chinese broccoli, congee with century egg, chicken feet, beef tripe (cow’s stomach), fried squid, sago pudding, roast duck and ham sui gok. As such, yum cha is more than just dumplings. Not all dim sum dishes are dumplings; not all dim sum dishes are bite sized.


We all have our favourite kind of dim sum. A survey in 2015 showed that sīu máai was voted the most popular dim sum in Hong Kong while shrimp dumplings came second. In Australia, these two dishes are extremely popular as well. Perhaps some dim sum are more appealing than others: sīu máai and hā gáau are dumplings and as I wrote in this post, some dumplings remind us of familiar comfort foods that we love eating.


Yum cha is a sharing affair and a meal where we want to share is a meal where we share a good time together. Translated from Cantonese, dim sum means ‘touch the heart’. At yum cha, dishes are designed to be shared: dim sum are commonly served bite-sized, one piece of dim sum and one bite for one person, pass that dish around, move on to the next dish, everyone gets to eat. Notably, while dining yum cha on a few occasions in Australia, I’ve seen Westerners eat entire dim sum dishes individually and their dining companion have their own plates of dim sum. From a Chinese perspective this comes across as odd but in the general sense there’s nothing wrong with that since all of us have different ways of consuming food.

喝百胜茶是一件需要分享的事情,我们可以在一起一边吃东西一边分享美好的时光。dim sum(点心)是广东话,翻译过来的意思是“触动心灵”。在百胜茶餐厅,菜肴是为分享而设计的:点心通常是一口大小的,一个人吃一块点心,然后把这道菜传下去,接着吃下一道菜,这样每个人都能吃到。值得注意的是,在澳大利亚有几次喝百胜茶的时候,我看到西方人会一个人吃掉整盘点心,而他们的同伴也只会吃自己的点心盘里的食物。从中国人的角度来看,这有点奇怪,但总的来说,这也并没有什么关系,因为我们每个人都有不同的饮食方式。

These days where and how we eat yum cha is changing. Frozen dim sum is normally sold in grocery stores in Australia today. Vegetarian dim sum options are usually on the menu these days too (e.g. Red Ginger and Din Tai Fung). Also, it’s common for many Chinese restaurants that serve à la carte meals to also serve à la carte dim sum too. That is, in Australia one can order dim sum as a side dish to a main meal, and eat dim sum any time, all day, every day.


A few times on the weekend I’ve eaten solo at Tim Ho Wan, the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant. While the portions here are small and I could get more dim sum for the same price elsewhere, the dim sum does taste more flavourful compared to some other yum cha places I’ve been to in Australia.


On one of these occasions at Tim Ho Wan, a Western couple who looked to be in their forties sat next to me. The woman beside me seemed upbeat and eager to try everything. The man in front of her on the other hand seemed restless and did not look like he was in the best mood – picking up a chopstick and fidgeting with it in his fingers, saying that he wasn’t sure what the menu (with English translation) meant and eyed the two colourfully dressed Asian girls at the next table who were chatting away in Cantonese. Rather brusquely, he said to his companion, ‘It’s like another world in here’.


He probably was open-minded enough to walk in and have a seat in a Chinese restaurant that he never tried before. He probably would remember his time at this restaurant whether he liked it or not. Having finished my dim sum, I got up, paid for my meal and left with a reflective mind.


Often yum cha feels like a treat. Or at the very least a meal that makes us curious enough to try it. And then want to come back for more.


Do you like eating dim sum / dining yum cha?


Photography Journal
All of this looks so very good. Yes, I’ve tried dim sum a few times, I really like giving all the possible dishes a try. I love trying things that I would never make at home.


lisa thomson
ooooh, these look amazing, Mabel. Thank you for the descxtions and recommendations. Dim Sum is not something I know how to order but alas, I have a clue now thanks to you. Should be called Dim Yum.

这些看起来太棒了,梅布尔。谢谢你的描述和建议。点心是我不知道该怎么点的东西,但是多亏了你,我现在知道该怎么点了。应该是Dim Yum。

Mabel Kwong
Dim sum is always yum, even the bad ones aren’t actually that bad tasting Hope you get to try dim sum at some point and let me know how it goes


Indah Susanti
I love dimsum!! I wish we have delicious dimsum here. My fave is cheong fun!


Mabel Kwong
I love cheong fun too! I’m usually not one for sauces, but I love the sauce that comes with cheong fun!


Christy B
Dim Sum is such a fun experience and not just for the food – it’s like it’s a community experience! Love it and your post outlines the varieties well Ready for some now, Mabel!!


Mabel Kwong
So well said, Christy. Dim sum is indeed a community experienced and there is always so much food to try. Maybe one day we can eat dim sum together and you can pick the dishes


I may have had #2 but not familiar with it. A local cycling and shopping destination with a longish ride is to a major Chinese chain supermarket where it’s a 45 km. round trip via a very large park area by a river. At the store, I have har gow and a drink.


Mabel Kwong
That is quiet a ride to town and get some Chinese food. Good to hear it’s cheap – that means you can eat quite a few pieces of har gow


Mahesh Nair
I read a lot of food posts, Mabel, but this one is mouth-watering
“These dishes are commonly carted around on trollies in restaurants and served in bamboo steamers…” – I’ve seen this in a few Chinese restaurants I visited here. There’s an exotic feel to it.
My favorite in the post is Siu Mai. I’ll go for pork filling, orange dot made out of crab roe; mushroom, ginger and scallion. Yummy.


Mabel Kwong
Sounds like dim sum is right up your palate, Mahesh, and the dim sum you had has always been quite good


Sue Dreamwalker
Oh Wow.. what a lot of food I have not ever heard of before.. All looking really tasty Mabel.. and I am sure each one so delicious It looks like a lot of effort is put into your food..
Wishing you well dear Mabel and sending you lots of love over the weekend, have a peaceful one..


Mabel Kwong
I too think a lot of effort and attention is put into Chinese food – especially when one is passionate about it. All of the food in this picture tasted amazing


Sue Dreamwalker
Plain and simple is wholesome.. and just as good.. which is why I love simple home cooking with our garden veg..

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Mabel Kwong
Growing your own veggies, you do it out of time, effort and love. That’s why it always tastes good and I’m sure every home cooked meal you have is better than any yum cha I’ll probably ever have


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