Getting eating suggestions for Hong Kong is simple. Actually selecting where and what to eat from long and varied lists is not.
As a guailo visiting this great bastion of high rise buildings, shopping malls and gluttony for the first time, I was frankly flummoxed as I sat on a long haul flight, my eyes flitting between sheets of paper, emails, top tens and blogs that I’d taken screen shots of or jotted down. So many words and locations that meant nothing to me, so many types of food, so much enthusiasm, so damn confusing.
In order to narrow things down, I stripped out what I didn’t want – western food of any level, middle of the road Cantonese, Sichuan or Hunanese (I’d just spend five days in Chengdu) and anything too try hard, fancy or spenny – and ended up, mostly, with dumplings.
Which was fine. I’m a big fan of dumplings and the occasion of dim sum, yum cha, or whatever you want to call it. Hong Kong is surely as good as anywhere to get a fix – there are tens of Michelin starred restaurants specialising in the little steamed fellas, with many more neighbourhood restaurants rolling thousands of thin cases round prawns and minced pork every morning.
And so it came to pass that I ate pretty well from numerous plates and bamboo steamers.
The base standard is unsurprisingly decent, though only a few bites were outstanding – I would have liked to try a few of the top quality places, but two of life’s greatest frustrations are that: strictly speaking, the best time to get a good selection of dumplings is at lunch time; and there really aren’t enough lunch times in each day.
What follows is not a list of the best places to get dumplings in Hong Kong, just a round up of the places I went to. You’ll see they’re largely central. If you’re heading over, Google obvious key words and you’ll find plenty more suggestions with a wide geographic spread.
Don’t get too worked about it all. My basic conclusion was that a decent har gao or zheng jiao is never too far away. Some of the better ones are now chains and other local, convenient and cheap restaurants will fill the hole perfectly well. Ultimately, it’s just lunch.
Din Tai Fung
There’ll be another post majoring on Din Tai Fung (DTF) in a few of days. Suffice to say I reckon it’s worth eating at a branch. I know I’m not the only person to think this.
There are two large DTF restaurants in Hong Kong. One (in Kowloon) is Michelin starred, but I happened to go to the other in Causeway Bay which is not gilded, but was totally packed through lunch and justifiably so.
The real and genuinely relevant stars are the xiao long bao – faultless Shanghai dumplings with sagging pockets of umami packed gelatinous stock. But we tried a number of other decent dumplings too. Wontons, shao mai and steamed buns were quality ‘n’all. A very safe bet.
dintaifung.com/hk G/F 68 Yee Wo St, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
Tim Ho Wan
This is another chain of dumpling restaurants. Like DTF, a number of the Tim Ho Wan branches are seen as star worthy. Significantly, in terms of pricing, Tim Ho Wan is a real outlier for The Guide – you’d do well / badly to spend more than £15 per head.
I accidentally found myself eating at one of the lesser Tim Ho Wan sites after I failed to secure a table at a Lei Garden dumpling restaurant (yet another chain recognised by the fat tyre man).
The upshot of this table fail was that I waited for 45 minutes in partially organised chaos by the basement exit of the metro station at the bottom of the International Finance Centre. I was slightly confused by the whole process, but still excited about getting my chop sticks round some top class yet bargainous dumplings.
Service was rapid once I’d sat down, but the food was disappointing across the board. The signature baked pork bun was sickly after the first bite, rice flour shao mai were overcooked and gloopy, pork liver cheung fun barely filled and also gloopy … I could go on, but ultimately I reckon I waited for 45 minutes, stayed for 10, and left half of the order untouched.
Maybe the starry ones are stratospherically better. Maybe it’s just a cheap restaurant with a big name.
Shop 12A IFC Mall, Central, Hong Kong – near the A1 MTR exit.
Also restaurants in North Point, Kowloon, Tai Kok Tsui
Go to this busy little Soho institution for satisfying and cheap platefuls of rustic Beijing dumplings.
Beijing dumplings are dryer than their Shanghai cousins, but the best (or the ones I like the most) do seem to still have a little puddle of post-steaming gelatinous stock within the casing.
The cases at Wong Fu are a little thick and pinched together by hands more interested in efficiency than delicate presentation. But focus on the flavour because the fillings more than do the job (indeed, they did so on two occasions for me). A pea shoot, pork and shrimp special was particularly good. Great house dipping sauce. These dumplings satisfy. Cheap.
98-102 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong
I’ve no idea whether Bistro Manchu is a well known restaurant or regarded as a dumpling specialist – there are many more things on the menu. But a few baskets of their hand made dumplings at the start of a decent meal there were as good as any I had over the week. Indeed, I suspect would stand up to all but the most ambitious; they were certainly skilfully assembled, filled and carefully steamed.
It’s a focused selection. XLB were good, but cabbage and pork dumplings probably won the day.
33 Elgin Street, Central, Hong Kong.
Crystal Jade – La Mian Xiao Long Bao
Here’s a decent value, doeseverythingprettywell dim sum chain that I’d happily head back to.
The fact there are more than 15 of them in Hong Kong alone suggests I’ve stumbled across the steamed bun equivalent of Subway. But there really was lots to be pleased with when, between flights, we flopped into the handy restaurant in Terminal 1 of HK International. Perhaps none of the dumplings we tried were remarkable, but they were all decent, made on site, and steamed neither too little, nor too much.
crystaljade.com Passenger Terminal 1, Level 5 Arrival Hall, Hong Kong International Airport (and many other places)
The ones that got away
I’m told The Square, any of the Lei Garden restaurants, and lunch at The Sheraton on Kowloon are particularly good ways to get a refined dumpling fix.