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food blog: dos and don'ts of hong kong yum cha

yum cha in hong kong

You just can't have a peaceful lunch in Hong Kong, especially in a Yum Cha restaurant where it's always cluttered with people – there are no decent Wedgwood teapots, no superior services, and no bossa nova radiating from all corners of the restaurant.

But, that’s the fun of the Yum Cha culture in Hong Kong and you will barely find such organized chaos anywhere else on the planet. You might find a few dim sum shops around the world, but most times it will be in some fancy Chinese restaurant where Tou Fu Fa is placed in lovely glassware with a cover.

Therefore, to fully enjoy the Hong Kong Yum Cha culture, it is not adequate to just order the right food, but also to employ some exotic behaviors. Here are some Dos and Don'ts that can greatly boost your gourmet Yum Cha experience:

DO Pile the steam baskets up. When you order the dim sum, don’t scatter the baskets horizontally on the table. Instead, pile them up into small towers until it begins to block the vision between you and your partner. I assume you can remember how the gangs eat in Hong Kong movies: the mafia gang would sit opposite each other with several piles of steam baskets between them. It’s a sign of power  

DO Compliment the food and produce necessary sounds of appreciation. Interact with your food and praise the food incessantly with phrases like: "Eat! It’s damn fresh!”, “Ummm”, “ delicious!” “wow” etc. You can make up your own comments – just keep them positive. 

DON'T eat in silence. Talk and laugh out loud. What’s the point of sitting quietly in the corner of the restaurant and whining, “Why are people so noisy? Don’t they know we try to enjoy the meal?” Please, you're in Hong Kong! If you can’t beat them, join them! When you hear a joke, you laugh out loud; you got these succulent pork ribs – suck the juice out like a vampire. When you're having a conversation, don’t talk or murmur, scream! And by the way, no one will mind if you compose a song with your chopstick beating against the plates – everyone is too busy.

DON'T be on a diet.  Order a lot. It’s quite embarrassing if you just order two small baskets yet occupy a big table. By ordering a lot, it means two baskets of turnip cakes, 3 spring rolls, 1 basket of taro dumplings, 4 congees, 5 egg tarts and 3 barbecue pork buns. Finish them fast, as these are just appetizers.

DO order in a random way.  Don’t order everything at one time, that’s not done. While you're busy eating and chatting, always call the waiter over to add another dish or two (and another, and another, etc.)

DON'T hesitate. Be fast. Hong Kong people are very efficient so there’s no time for you to read the menu, ponder what you want, hesitate and revise your order. In Hong Kong, it’s all about speed as there are a heck of a lot of people waiting in line to take your table. Eat vigorously and chew 2-3 foods at one time.  Bon Appetite!

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Reader Comments (2)

Isn't a point of a meal to enjoy it. Its one of the last great PURE pleasures in the world. If you rush it you will ruin it
April 10, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterengineering leveling
Don't be silly,just be yourself ,u don't need to try too hard trying to blend in. This is silly. I am a Chinese,from Singapore by the way.
July 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Fun

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