Eating Breakfast Like a HK Local: Dim Sum 

Dim Sum is probably the most well recognized food item from the Chinese Cuisine. Everyone knows about dim sum, although I would say that a lot of people don’t know it’s usually enjoyed as breakfast or brunch. You can start having dim sum as early as 7am at some dim sum houses in Hong Kong and it goes till about 3pm. The ones that start at 7am are really geared towards the locals, usually not fancy and no frills. People come here to start their day before heading to work or to just hang out, meet a friend and eat an item or two along with loads of tea over reading the latest news.

The nicer spots open at 11am and also usually end by 2:30pm or 3pm. So clearly this is a morning to afternoon meal. The 11am spots tend to be full on restaurants that serve dim sum along with entrees. And people tend to start off with some dim sum items before completing the meal with a few entrees (this tends to be lunch)

Since dim sum is enjoyed regularly like it is for us in the states when it comes to eggs, toast, and bacon, people in Hong Kong really don’t over do it like we do when we go to dim sum houses in America. In America, people eat it like it’s a Sunday Experience, you order every item you love and your table is packed to the breams. You stuff yourself with every dumpling and fried morsel you can stomach. In Hong Kong, you rarely see locals ordering boatloads of dim sum. The breakdown:

One person: usually orders 1-2 items but always has a ton of tea

Two people: usually orders 2-3 items and maybe 4 but always has a ton of tea

Three people- four people: usually orders 4-5 items and maybe a dish or two and of course plenty of tea

Here’s a typical spread more likened to a local’s selection. There were 3 of us and we ordered 8 items. We could have left off one entree, as it was a little more than we could finish but since we are visiting Hong Kong, we indulged an extra dish:) 

Here's the dining room of The Seventh Son Restaurant (known for some of the best char sui, braised tendons, and high quality dim sum). This spot opens at 11am and is treated as a power lunch spot for Hong Kong Natives. 

Char Sui (1 plate of roasted meat) not every dim place has good roasted meats and it’s not often we order it unless the spot is known for excellent roasts. Usually we go to places that specifically make roasts only, which deserves an entirely separate feature. Anyhow, Seventh Son Restaurant is known for the perfect Char Sui so of course we ordered a small plate of it. How to tell Char Sui has been executed right. The char sui should come warm, not piping hot, room temp or cold. The exterior needs a translucent, glossy and sticky glaze that is sweet but not overpowering. The plate should not have a pool of glaze, oil or sauce. Once you bite into it, the exterior is slightly crisp with char and the inside should be VERY moist and tender with tiny pockets of fat. It shouldn’t be super lean nor should it be super fatty. I would think of it as marbling when you look at a piece of flavorful steak. 

Crystal Vegetarian Dumpling (Steamed dumplings always make it into the mix and while hao gao and shu mai tend to be the superstars of dim sum items it’s not always something we order) Remember, dim sum is something you have regularly, so today we skipped the superstars and went with something unique to Seventh Son. Many spots have some form of vegetarian dumplings but the fillings vary. 

This spot uses a nice blend of veggies, Chinese broccoli, pine nuts, water chestnuts, and shiitake mushrooms. So we went with this one as we can’t find this in this one as we can’t find this in the states

Panfried rice rolls - freshly steamed rice rolls flecked with scallions, sesame and dried shrimp panfried slightly and dipped into sesame sauce or sweet soy.


Panfried Radish Cake - Ahhh, they have some marvelous radish cakes here. It’s not dry like the ones you see in the States. It’s sooo soft, and full of radish. It just falls apart when you bite into it. And the slight crisp on the outside adds this nice contrast to the soft interior. You see chunks of radish in there which is also a good sign. Not shredded radish which resembles pulp. Drizzle a little soy and hot sauce and you’re set!

Steamed Char Sui Bao - This right here is, the perfect Char Sui Bao. The dough is light and fluffy with a slight chew. There is a hint of sweetness and aroma from the dough when you bring it to your nose. Split the bun in half to reveal the filling and you see a beautiful mound of char sui. Large tender pieces of char sui, not minced up fatty mush with sauce that’s thick from corn starch. And there is no surprise that their Char Sui Bao is going to be stellar, especially since their Char Sui quality is top notch. This compact bun can be eaten in 3-4 bites, just the right size. 

This concludes our dim sum portion of the meal. Next we move to the entrees

Steamed Minced Beef Patty with Dried Orange Peel and Scallions - This dish reminds me of my grandmother. She use to make this for all the grand children and all the kids would fight over it because it was THAT good. We would take turns scooping pieces of flavorful beef patties over rice and spoon that luscious rich beef broth that comes from the beef patty over the rice. I would watch my grandmother hand mince the beef, no food processor used for this, it changes the consistency of the patty. And then she slams the raw minced beef in a mixing bowl over and over to aerate the beef so that it becomes light and tender. It’s something I haven’t had in a while as it’s pretty time consuming to make so naturally we jumped on ordering this when we saw it on the menu. Look at that clear deep beef broth. It’s like beef consommé, rich pure and flavorful. 

Claypot Beef Brisket with Tendon - One of my favs. Cooking tendon until it melts is easy. Doesn’t require much skills. You simply just need to over-cook the tendon. Cooking tendon in Hong Kong is like an art. There is an important balance of textures you have to get from each bite. When you bite into the tendon, the exterior needs to be super soft, the inside needs to have a slight bite to it, the mouth feel of the sauce coating the tendon needs to be velvety, rich, and a little sticky. There should be a nice gloss/sheen to the sauce. 

Lotus Steamed Duck Fried Rice - This fried rice is cooked with conpoy (dried scallop), roasted duck, chicken, shiitake mushrooms, and egg. When you open the lotus leaf, the aroma of the leaf mixed with the rice is amazing. 

Hope you enjoyed going through the feast of a dim sum meal we had in Hong Kong. Stay tuned for more in depth coverage on food in Hong Kong and then Shanghai on Chowhound. If you want to see more what I've done in the past through travels and food, Follow me on my Instagram Myfangalicious or go to my website Kathyfang.com.

About the Author

Kathy Fang

"I run a business by day, work the kitchen lines at night, switch into blogger mode by midnight and occasionally travel the world to hunt for inspiration" Kathy Fang is chef and co-owner of Fang, a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco offering a fresh take on dishes influenced by both Northern and Southern China’s cuisine. The daughter of famed House of Nanking chef/owner Peter Fang, Ms. Fang has emerged from her renowned culinary family to enliven San Francisco’s food scene with her own cuisine at Fang Restaurant located in the city’s South of Market (SOMA) neighborhood. She has contributed and appeared in numerous publications such as Wall Street Journal, Self Magazine, Men's Journal, SF Chronicle, Singtao Daily, Examiner, Munchies, and makes appearances on Food Network, CNN, and Travel Channel. She recently became a two time Chopped Champion.