Finding the Best and Cheapest Dim Sum in Hong Kong
No trip to Hong Kong should ever be complete without trying out dim sum, that tasty, bite-sized food widely regarded as the best in the world. But the sheer number of dim sum restaurants is so much that finding the best and cheapest dim sum in Hong Kong can be overwhelming, especially so when your stomach is already grumbling and all you want to do is storm straight into the first shoddy dim sum restaurant you can find, perhaps to brag to your friends that you have eaten the best dim sum. I mean you can’t go wrong simply because you had Dim Sum in Hong Kong, right?
Well, not exactly. While it is true that what the locals may deem as mediocre dim sum can be regarded as great anywhere else, man, you are already in Hong Kong, and you should enjoy the most out of this culinary experience by seeking out the best among the best without necessarily putting much strain on your already battered pockets.
So in order to help you separate the mortals from the gods, I did my research and actually tried them all for good measure. Here is my list of the three best and cheapest dim sum in Hong Kong. Eat your hearts out!
Tim Ho Wan
This hole-in-the-wall eatery is definitely a labor of love. Owner Pui Gor left a high paying job as a chef at the Michelin-starred restaurant Lung King Heen, went across the harbor to Mong Kok to serve five-star dim sum to the masses at rock-bottom prices.
You can start out with two of the most popular dishes on the menu: cha siu baau and cheung fun. The cheung fun noodle is thin and wraps around a firm strip of pig liver which is impeccably gamey. The baked cha siu pau (BBQ pork) is a sweet pastry take on the traditional pork-stuffed buns. For want of a better description, the cha siu pau seems to have fallen right out of some heavenly plate and lands straight into my mortal plate. It is that good, especially if you have a sweet tooth.
Every other dish at Tim Ho Wan is made to order. The classics, so commonly mistreated anywhere else, are outstanding here. The beef meatballs are tender and resplendent with the hint of dried mandarin zest and cilantro. The turnip cake, which often takes the form of a tasteless brick at other places, is fantastically filled with real slices of turnips – just the way it should be. Most dishes cost between HK$10 and HK$20.
In addition to the original restaurant in Mong Kok, there are now two other shops in operation, one is in Sham Shui Poh and the other is in the IFC Mall, Hong Kong Station, but do note that the quality there are less consistent.
Address: Tim Ho Wan, 2-20 Kwong Wah Street, Mong Kok, Kowloon, tel +852 2332 2896
Saam Hui Yaat
Don’t ever let the grubby appearance fool you. The interior décor has not been touched since the 70’s – parts of the tile floor, mismatched furniture, metal fans and the altar are all covered in permanent grime. When the waiter presented me with a bowl and hot water to rinse my dish, teacup and chopsticks, it seems more like an actual necessity and less of a convention.
Decrepitude might be a result of age, but experience is another, and Saam Hui Yaat’s decades of cooking have given it some serious knowledge in the kitchen. The har gau (shrimp dumplings) here is particularly good and I love the chiu chow dumplings. There are other non-dim sum dishes here, too, such as the shrimp rice omelet which I’ll gladly settle for as my final meal.
Address: Saam Hui Yaat, 11 Pokfulam Road, Sai Ying Pun, tel +852 2547 3917
The easiest way to find the best cooked food in a crowded market food center is to look for people queuing up outside a stall. Sure enough, Lam Kee is right on the money. It is the only stall with a long queue on the Tai Po Market Cooked Food Center.
I waited patiently for more than an hour, but the long wait on an empty stomach, is well worth it. I sat down on a table with two grannies, next to an open kitchen where billows of steam shoot up from tall piles of bamboo baskets. One old lady whispered to me in a conspiratorial tone that the food here is as good as the big dim sum places, only much cheaper, mostly less than HK$10. Besides, the old lady continues, the tea is free. I win!
The food really is cheap, simple and yummy but the portions are rather small, especially on a hungry stomach. The siu mai arrives, and it straddles the line between firm and tender, with a balanced flavor between pork and shrimp and there is no need to add soy sauce. The har gau, tiny as they are, with just a small strip of shrimp in each, tasted fresh and the wrapper is impeccably chewy. The steamed rice spare ribs with preserved black bean paste, a signature dish of the stall, is fantastic. Each grain of rice is steamed to perfection and the interplay between the spareribs and the black bean paste are just wonderful.
But the dish that truly sums up my Lam Kee experience is the bean curd wraps, which contain chicken, taro, baby corn, and spam – an unlikely and unexpected combination of textures and flavors that surprisingly worked perfectly together.
Address: Lam Kee, Shop 9, 2/F, Tai Po Hui Market Cooked Food Centre, Tai Po Market, Tai Po