By Chaney Kwak
Originally appeared in October 2015 issue of Virtuoso Traveler
Hong Kong may have evolved into a hypermodern metrop-olis, but its 7 million inhabitants continue to honor the tradition of dim sum by gathering with friends and family to feast on dumplings, buns, and steamed rice noodles. Once considered humble snacks to accompany tea, China’s version of tapas is now a serious business in one of the world’s most densely populated cities, where dim sum chefs garner Michelin stars – and cultlike followings.
The Etiquette Of Dim Sum
Eating dim sum in Hong Kong is a social affair with its own codes and history. “Each har gow, or translucent shrimp dumpling, is made with thirteen creases,” says chef Lau Yiu Fai of Yan Toh Heen, the InterContinental Hong Kong’s Michelin-starred Cantonese restaurant. “Eaters won’t count them, but a real chef will not cut corners.” You can honor the care put into dim sum dishes by adhering to these traditional practices.
Complement your dishes with hot tea, and thank the person pouring by softly knocking the table with two or three fingers.
At many establishments, attendants push carts loaded with dishes such as steamed buns, scallop-shaped dumplings, and meat-layered sheet noodles. Simply accept or decline the dishes as they go by. In restaurants without trolleys, check off items on a slip of paper and then hand it to the waiter.
Never order solely for yourself. Whatever you get is fair game for the whole table. Dim sum is a gregarious event, after all.
Be prepared to fight for the bill; treating your companions is considered an honor. Diners tussling and elbowing each other for the check is considered routine.
What Dim Sum Restaurants Must You Visit?
Virtuoso travel advisor Tony Huffman of Dayton, Ohio, shares his favorite restaurants in Hong Kong:
Fook Lam Moon
“The food outshines the Spartan decor. Don’t skip the duck dishes.” (53-59 Kimberley Road, Kowloon)
Luk Yu Tea House
“Still in its original 1933 location, this is the place for traditional dim sum: Old-school waiters in white coats push trolleys full of food.” (24-26 Stanley Street, Central)
Yan Toh Heen
“The restaurant has magnificent views of the cityscape from its wonderful location right at the harbor’s edge.” (InterContinental Hong Kong, Kowloon)
And Where Should You Stay?
Chef Lau Yiu Fai personally teaches dim sum making at Yan Toh Heen, in the 585-room InterContinental Hong Kong
. Classes from $195. Doubles from $365; Virtuoso amenities include breakfast daily and a $100 dining credit.
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