Monday, September 24, 2007

Dim Sum-ing in Hong Kong

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I recently spent a few days in Hong Kong wandering its streets – getting lost and wandering aimlessly. The original plan was to attend a friend’s shop opening but due to some technical difficulties the opening was shelved, but since my flight and my leave was booked I decided to make trip anyway to meet up with some friends, eat and do some shopping.

There is plenty to eat in Hong Kong. And you can’t go to Hong Kong without having some dim sum in Hong Kong, so let’s start there. I only visited two dim sum teahouses: Lin Heung and Luk Yu.

Lin Heung, on a weekday morning, is a place where the locals come armed with their newspapers and gossip. Walk in, pick your spot, select your tea, then wait for the trolleys to swing by, do not linger around the counter and wait to be seated because you will get scolded by the waiters in a classically rude manner, so please help yourself.

Dining at Lin Heung on a Sunday takes a certain amount mental strength to remain zen-like in all the craziness. Seated elbow to elbow with a friend on the left and a strange on my right at the same table, I soon realise that this is not the right place to talk because it is noisy from all the chatter that I had to raise my voice during conversation. Already thrown off centre, I then realise that we might have to be rather proactive in seeking out our food. The tables are tightly packed and already beyond full capacity, the trolley meanders slowly through the crowd and by the time it gets to us, there isn’t much left. So if the food doesn’t come to you, you have to go to the food and sometimes you have to squeeze and fight with others for your food.

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On my return visit, this time on a weekday and earlier, Lin Heung summoned up a different charm that I had missed in the Sunday morning chaos. Having breakfast gives a small insight into their lives, breakfast at the teahouse – a favourite is their da bao is highly recommended, packed filled with chicken and egg it is a meal in itself – and sipping tea before going off to work. I also loved their luo mia kai (glutinous rice with chicken steamed in lotus leaf) and the ma lai gao (Chinese sponge cake) and other dim sum such as pig liver and stomach siew mai, which isn’t really a siew mai.

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If you are into history or is a retro queen – self-professed by the person who brought me here – Luk Yu is a beautiful place to dine in. It first opened in 1933 and nothing much has changed. The menu remains in written in Mandarin on smoothened jotter book paper, the waiters are still amusingly snooty and the décor looks largely unchanged. If you can, sit in one of the old booths, its private and cozy. With its history come numerous stories from the newsworthy like the robbers who hid in the tea house to the personal ones like my favourite one about a friend’s friend’s father who routinely had breakfast here every morning at his own table and tipped the tea service man every morning and was accorded polite and pleasant service. Alongside the usual suspects of the dim sum trolleys, you could also have the tomato baked rice – but you can only order this after 11am, which simple and will evoke nostalgia for some.

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Lin Heung
160-164 Wellington Street, Central
Tel: 852- 2544-2556

Luk Yu Tea House
24-26 Stanley Steet, Central
Tel: 852-2523-5464

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Blogger Chocolate Reindeer said...

oh I have been to both places and loved them both... I had to share tables at Lin Heung! They're really the traditional type of dim sum places... not the sterile clean ones.. haha...

9:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reading your blog brought back memories.
I shared a table with a Taiwanese couple at Lin Heung. We had fun chatting and even exchanged contacts.
It was not a very pleasant experience cos me and my partner felt like fish out of water at the Dim Sum place. And most of the uncles kept looking at us cheekily cos we really didn't know what to do at the Dim Sum place.
For a clean freak like myself... the spitton under the table was a tad unberable. (:

But I enjoyed climbing the hill after dim sum to sample the famous egg tarts at Tai Cheong Bakery.

11:54 PM  

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