Friday, 8 October 2010

Dim sum in Hong Kong

I knew I'd love Hong Kong. Everyone said I would but I didn't realise quite how much. It is an amazing city with so much to see, do and above all, eat! I went in September with my sister. We’re both dim sum obsessive fanatics so we had dim sum for lunch every single day. The dim sum we tend to always order are: har gao, shu mai, char siu bun, cheung fun, yam croquette, turnip cake (a recent addition to the repertoire) and quite often glutinous rice wrapped in lotus leaf. I have eaten a lot of dim sum in my time but in Hong Kong we discovered a few gems to add to the list of dishes we love. When I go on holiday, I like to have personal recommendations from people of where to eat, rather than rely on the guidebooks so a huge thanks to all the people who offered their recommendations, especially Fanny Leung who listed around 10 restaurants and probably didn't expect us to eat at every single one of them!

I will dive straight in with the best meals we had.

Dim Sum trolleys at Maxim's restaurant at City Hall.

Fantastic atmosphere as it's in a beautiful enormous room that feels very regal. They come round to your table with trolleys of dim sum, so although it might not be the most amazing dim sum (according to locals), as some of it has been on the trolley for a while, the setting made it all worthwhile and so much more delicious. We loved it so much we went back a second time on our final day, though we were incredibly hungover. From the moment you sit down you get bombarded with ladies on commission coming around with trolleys of different types of dim sum, all fighting to be the first one to serve you. A great view too.

Please mind the lip-licking! This photo is to show the beautiful room:
Maxim's Restaurant
Low Block (2nd floor),
City Hall,
Connaught Rd. Central and Edinburgh Place,
Central District

Luk Yu Tea House:
Our rule with dim sum is we can order the stuff we love but there always has to be something unknown in there. At the Luk Yu Tea House we ordered 'mince beef balls' thinking it sounded delicious. It certainly wasn't! They were rubbery, bouncy balls of gristle and tendon and for pretty much the first time in my life, I had to leave food to one side. However, it was also here that we discovered the amazing 'polo char siu bao' (bottom centre of the following snap, almost out of the shot).

These are baked, rather than steamed, char siu (barbecued pork) buns which have a sweet biscuit-y casing - the topping is sweet, the pork is packed with flavour (as it is in a regular char siu bun) and the whole thing is indescribably delicious. They were an absolute revelation. I have never seen them at a dim sum restaurant in London but will keep my eye out for them now.
Luk Yu Tea House
G/FL 24, Stanley street, Central
Tel. 852 2523 5464

Tim Ho Wan - the cheapest Michelin starred restaurant in the world.
We knew we'd have to queue to get into this place so we decided to go late in the afternoon and arrived at around 4pm. In amongst the gun shops and the 'Romance High Class Hotels' of Mong Kok, lies a little gem called Tim Ho Wan, famous for being the cheapest Michelin starred restaurant in the world. As you can see, there was no need to take photos of the food as there were actually photos on the placemats of some of the options! This place certainly deserves its Michelin star for the quality of its food, if not for the quality of the service or the atmosphere! We tried 'deep-fried glutinous dumplings' which are hard to describe but slightly sweet and quite chewy in the most delicious sense of the word! You can see these in the bottom left of this photo:
Check out the hottie heading into 'Guns 'n' Guys'!
The queue to get in:

Obviously our knowledge of Chinese led us to the restaurant, not the queue outside!
You can see here that the interior is very basic: Tim Ho Wan's famous polo char siu bao - delicious but not quite as incredible as the ones at Luk Yu Tea House:
Yummy cheung fun - I think these were prawn but I can't quite remember:

I think there will always be things in Chinese cookery that I simply don't get. We also tried their 'steamed rice with pork' (also recommend by Hollow Legs) which was bland, chewy and dry and I think I must have missed the point of it entirely (like Tigre in Argentina!).

We ate our body's weight in dim sum, paid the princely sum of $114 (£9.50) in total for the pleasure and left as quickly as we'd arrived, with the queue still piling up outside. Definitely worth it.

Yan Toh Heen at the Intercontinental (NOT the Intercontinental Grand Stanford!)

After persuading The Sister that we could walk to the Intercontinental for lunch at their renowned dim sum restaurant she reluctantly caved and we arrived, sweating and cursing, at the hotel. Upon entering we asked someone to point us in the direction of Yan Toh Heen restaurant. After a few minutes of deliberating whether the restaurant had recently changed its name, the hotel staff clicked and told us that we were standing in the Intercontinental Grand Stanford and not the Intercontinental which was 'just a bit further down the road'. After about 45 minutes of walking in the blazing midday sun (albeit a lovely walk along the promenade by the water) we finally saw the hotel. Well, we saw it, and it then took us a further 15 minutes to finally figure out how to get inside it!

Once inside (sweat and curses once again emanating from The Sister) it was a picture of 5 star hotel calm. We felt seriously underdressed and seriously over-sticky but nobody seemed to mind and we were treated like princesses. The food is dim sum but not your every day dim sum. They try to make their fillings more exciting than the usual suspects, however, I do always find comfort in eating the old favourites and although we tried lots of new ones, the ones we loved the most were the trusty old favourites. And what a view.

G/fl Intercontinental hotel
18 Salisbury Road
Tel. 852 2313 2323

Wu Kong
I will talk about the 'xiao long bao' at the Wu Kong Shaghainese restaurant, even though I've never seen it as part of the usual dim sum menu and it was the only dumpling-y thing we ate here, because for me they really stole the show. Xiao long bao are probably the most fresh and clean tasting thing I have ever eaten. They are little steamed dumplings and i'm not sure exactly what's inside them but when you pop them in your mouth (and you have to do this all in one mouthful or it will explode all over you!) the most delicious rich ginger broth bursts out and makes you go "oh wow!!"! That's them in the middle of the table:
Wu Kong
L/G., Alpha house
27 Nathan Road
Tel 852 2366 7244

More to come from Hong Kong about our other meals…don’t go away!