The simple prawn dumpling known as har gao is a well recognised favourite in dim sum circles – its translucent, thin, white pastry barely revealing the deliciously orange-pink flesh beneath. You can eat a whole steamer of these and never get bored. Or can you?
Increasingly, Hong Kong’s high-end dim sum restaurants are setting new culinary standards, with gourmet ingredients, innovative flavours and a level of artistry that take this complex cooking style to elite new heights. Now that an air travel bubble between Singapore and Hong Kong has been agreed upon, it won’t be too long before you can sink your teeth into these divine bite-sized morsels. Check these restaurants out on your next trip to Hong Kong.
If the plush green seats, glitzy chandeliers and shimmering glassware don’t draw you in, then the well-dressed multi-generational families gathered around the lazy Susans surely will. The Mira Hotel’s Cuisine Cuisine Chinese restaurant has a dim sum menu that reads like a glossary of exotic global ingredients: think gold leaf, foie gras, truffle, morel mushrooms and waygu for starters.
Created by dim sum sous chef Ringo Wong, an all-you-can-eat dim sum buffet is offered, with dishes served either on plates or in steaming hot bamboo baskets. Take your pick from more than 20 selections that range from classics to contemporary innovations, such as wild mushroom dumplings with black truffle in delicate translucent wrappers and crispy taro puff with diced chicken and foie gras.
There is a reason Lung King Heen was the world’s first Cantonese restaurant to be awarded three Michelin stars. According to executive chef Chan Yan Tak – who was coaxed himout of retirement to helm the restaurant – the success is attributed to the restaurant’s philosophy of using fresh ingredients. “Everything is freshly made in the morning, dim sums are steamed upon order, there is a fish tank in the kitchen and fish are only killed minutes before it is served,” he says. Located on the fourth floor of the Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong, Lung King Heen has a rotational menu of dim sums for both weekdays and weekends.
The providence of the ingredients is key, says Chan, whose signature dish, baked whole abalone puff with diced chicken, uses South African Abalone specifically for its size. Another favourite is the steamed lobster and scallop dumpling. Chef Chan has a specific preference for lobster from the South China Sea and scallops from South Australia. The result: A parcel that is fresh, fragrant and flavourful.
Hong Kong foodies know the deal: at Mott32 you definitely have to order the soft quail egg and black truffle siu mai (steamed dumpling). When the dish arrives, you eat it quickly before the yolk has time to cook through. The perfectly timed result is culinary bliss. Mott32 is a designer-cool Cantonese restaurant in an old bank vault that has been fastidiously refurbished to marry industrial elements of old New York with classic Chinese wall paintings, calligraphy brushes and lampshades.
According to chef Lee Man Sing, the very traditional way of making siu mai is to have the quail egg on top. Instead, Mott32 wraps it in Iberico pork and tops it with black truffle. The restaurant sells 150 serves a day, proving it the most popular dish since opening. The restaurant’s delicious xiao long bao offering is made from Iberico pork cooked in a Shanghainese soup, and served on a little wooden platform. Another xiao long bao option is the South Australian scallop and shrimp dumpling in a hot and sour soup – a little pink parcel with a twisted garlic chive on top that is surely the darling of the dim sum world.
Secreted away atop fashion house Shanghai Tang, this two-level upmarket Cantonese restaurant is the hangout of Hong Kong’s dressed-to-impress lot. On the lower level sits the main restaurant and private dining rooms. The salon and library upstairs, with its designer chairs, couches and art is the perfect place for dim sum. Regular art shows are featured in its chamber.
Formerly helmed by chef Siu Hin Chi, the one Michelin- star restaurant welcomed a new executive chef Li Man-Lung and dim sum chef Lau Chi-Man in December 2019. Li said in interviews that he wants to inject a new level of energy, modernity and finesse to the cuisine at Duddell’s Hong Kong. His dim sum is testament to his creativity. His crab meat dumpling is topped with imperial bird’s nest and includes milk and egg white, while the garoupa dumpling with shrimp and mushroom is shaped like a fish, with two distinct eyes and yellow fins.
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings on 10 April 2017.