When I was a little girl, my family would often go for yum cha on the weekend. These restaurants were a different world, with clinking dishes, rolling trolleys and bustling waiters. The atmosphere was noisy, energetic and vibrant.
We’d order a range of dim sum: stacks of steaming baskets filled with tasty dumplings, buns and other morsels. Although my father’s side of the family speak a colourful mix of ‘Chinese’ dialects, the only words I ever really learnt were related to these foods.
Now yum cha is a rare occasion, but out of years of habit I almost always order:
- Siu mai: pork and prawn dumplings with yellow skin and a little red dot in the centre
- Har gow: prawn dumplings with translucent white skin
- Char siu bao: fluffy white buns filled with BBQ pork
- Chee cheong fan: long white rice noodle rolls that may have various fillings, covered in a soy sauce
- Woo kok: yam dumplings with a flaky coating and pork inside, typically served in a patty pan.
There are key dishes that indicate the standard of any dining establishment, and these dim sum are the staples by which I judge a yum cha restaurant.
I also like to try one new thing each visit. With restaurants such as the Marigold in Sydney – which boasts more than 100 types of dim sum – there’s always something different. (Yet I am still able to avoid chicken feet.) Some of my new favourites include prawn and mango spring rolls, glutinous sesame pork dumplings served in patty pans, and mango pancakes. I’m keen to hear your favourite dim sum dishes so I can hunt for them in an upcoming yum cha adventure!