You dim sum, you lose some!
Dim sum. A Hong Kong classic. Whether you’re on the hunt for something for yourself or something to share, there’s a piece to please everyone, especially when there’s a crowd. With its literal translation being “touch the heart”, it’s no wonder dim sum is enjoyed by all as a Cantonese comfort food. Kids love it too because it’s easy to handle and eat. The cute and quirky presentation in some restaurants is just another bonus! And with so many amazing dim sum spots in the city (ranging from the fancy-shmancy to hole-in-the-wall), we’ve rounded up a few of our family favourites, so whenever you need just a little more heart in your life, you’ll know where to head to…
Jump ahead to restaurants you’d go to for:
Adding MSG to Chinese food is common, as is using some sort of animal fat or broth, so call ahead to check if anyone in your family has serious allergies or dietary restrictions. English menus and English-speaking servers may be difficult to find in some of the more local restaurants, but with a little bit of gesturing and pointing to pictures of dishes, you will not only be able to get on, but quite enjoy the experience as well.
You cannot go wrong with this one! It was the first Taiwanese restaurant to earn one Michelin star in 2010 and its Silvercord branch continues to be recommended in the 2020 guide. Originating in Taiwan (but in locations worldwide), it’s a favourite among locals and expats alike. Get there early (all branches in HK open at 11:30am) though you will still probably have to take a ticket and wait. Specialising in xiao long bao (soupy dumplings – steamed pork, green squash and shrimp or chicken are top faves), its other must-try dishes include the deep-fried yellow croaker, the pan-fried shrimp and pork dumplings, or for the vegetarians, the steamed mushroom vegetarian bun. You’ll be surprised at how much your kids pack in! Get them to leave some space for desserts – the steamed eight-flavour glutinous rice dessert or any of the red bean paste buns. High chairs and cutlery for kids are available on request.
This is another Taiwanese street food specialist that is a winner with the kids. What mamas will love is that their food is fresh and proudly claims to contain no MSG. You can expect your hungry little mouths to devour the popcorn chicken, xiao long bao, dirty fried rice and honey glazed spicy prawns. Don’t forget the bubble tea while you’re here!
The Night Market, 11 Stanley Street, 6th & 7th Floor, Central, Hong Kong, 2810 1121
The Night Market, Shop 1028A, 1/F., Elements, 1 Austin Road West, Kowloon, Hong Kong, 2807 2292
A firm favourite amongst the team is Tien Yi in Pacific Place. Always bustling with family gatherings on the weekend, it’s a great spot to bring visitors as its unique and modern takes on the old classics are (dare we say!) better than the original. A must-order for us is the Fried Rice Rolls with XO Sauce served in a piping hot stone bowl. Sumptuous and totally satisfying! Another great option is the Korean Kimchi Chicken Spring Rolls – crunchy, tart and slightly spicy. You also can’t go wrong with ordering the Honey Stewed Barbecue Pork aka char siu for the kids. At a reasonable, but slightly higher cost than typical dim sum, this spot is worth it for the special dishes and friendly staff. Plus, the receptionists always have balloons on hand for your little ones!
Crystal Jade now operates three restaurant concepts – La Mian Xiao Long Bao, the newly-opened Chiu Chow Kitchen and CJ Go, perfect for mamas on the move. We’re big fans of the traditional La Mian Xiao Long Bao, which is conveniently located at shopping malls across the city for its tasty MSG-free options. It prides itself on its craftsmanship of the perfect xiao long bao with hairy crab roe. The meat stuffing is stirred with pork bone broth and then mixed with hairy crab roe, adding a sweet and savoury flavour to the dish. Sounds good? Try the pan-fried mini shrimp, yellow chive and pork dumplings and the sweet purple potato mochi with red bean paste too.
This could possibly the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant! The Sham Shui Po branch has one star, while the North Point branch and the Tai Kok Tsui branch both get recommendations in the Michelin 2020 guide. With a global presence peppered around Asia (and even in Australia and America) and several locations scattered across town from Hong Kong Station to Sham Shui Po, you have no excuse not to drop by. Queues start early (it opens at 10am) and there are no reservations, but the wait is definitely worth it! We recommend the world famous crispy Char Siu Baos – the light-as-air buns burst with sweet, tender pork and BBQ sauce. The best part is the price – where else could you treat your children to a Michelin-starred restaurant lunch for $50 to $80 per person!
A local favourite (and one of ours, too!), One Dim Sum is located in Prince Edward – perfect if you have taken the kids to see and experience the flower market. Take your pick from the classics, including our all-time favourites like char siu bao and har gow (prawn dumplings). Be sure to leave space for the egg custard buns – we can’t ever leave without ordering some, even if we’re already stuffed to the brim (and the kids are sure to love the sweet treat!). With prices sitting on the lower side, it’s a great place to make a stop if you’re looking for something quick and easy. Just make sure to get there early! Doors open at 10am, but there’s always a queue at this popular spot.
One Dim Sum, Shop 1&2, G/F Kenwood Mansion, 15 Playing Field Road, Prince Edward, Kowloon, Hong Kong, 2789 2280
This part-restaurant-part-nightclub is perfect for all the vegetarian families who feel they miss out on dim sum fare. We love the all-you-can-eat weekday lunch and weekend brunch options. Try the steamed Omnipork and vegetable dumplings, wo tip (pan-fried Beijing dumplings) made with Omnipork and the cheung fun (rice paper roll) with mushroom and water chestnuts.
If you have a child who just can’t get enough of dim sum, the Bao brunch at Old Bailey in Tai Kwun is worth exploring. There’s all-you-can-eat xiao long bao, Jiangnan dim sum and more, along with free-flow house-made kombucha, soft drinks and non-alcoholic beverages.
If you’ve only got time for a quick bite while you’re out and about with the kids, Dim Dim Sum is the perfect place to hit up. With four branches around town, this no-frills eatery specialises in dim sum, but also offers up other more filling mains such as a variety of congee and steamed rice bowls. We recommend the black truffle xiao long bao and the “golden sand” little pig buns with sweet runny filling (a guaranteed hit with your little ones!). There are also meat-free options, so be sure to check those out if you’re a veggie! The main branch in Mong Kok is open till 2am, but timings vary across outlets, so be sure to check before heading there.
If you and your kids are after no-frills good food, the other restaurants to consider are the cheap and cheerful Dim Sum Square in Sheung Wan, as well as the Michelin-recommended Sheung Hei Dim Sum in Kennedy Town and Ah Chun Shandong Dumpling in Prince Edward.
Restaurants with fun & playful dishes
If you’ve got picky eaters on your hands, perhaps some cute little buns will do the trick. Home to the famous “vomiting” custard buns and an adorable cast of bao characters, young ones will have a blast playing with their food (because, finally, they’re allowed to!). The soft minty green and white interiors, and super photogenic dishes make this resto a haven for Instagrammers. Offering incredibly attractive options for lunch and dinner alongside its famous buns, its char siu bao and sweet and sour pork and pineapple Singapore vermicelli is sure to whet your kids’ appetites. Mamas will appreciate the no-MSG promise too.
Social Place prides itself on its contemporary Chinese cuisine created with healthier ingredients. Must-tries include its truffle shiitake buns that look like giant mushrooms themselves, and the “pears”, a cream soup-filled dumpling. Younger children might like the sweet potato piggy buns and the “turtle” barbeque pork buns, while the black and golden custard bun almost looks too good to eat! Reservations are recommended because it’s almost impossible to get a table at lunchtime otherwise.
If we are talking about fun and what kids love, how can Disney be far behind? Indulge your kids’ (and secretly your own) Disney obsession with its signature character dim sum, including Baymax buns and the Mickey’s Double-Layer Turnip and Taro pudding that’s available year-round. For special occasions and anniversaries, there are innovative dim sum dishes added (look at the adorable Big Hero 6 dim sum pictured). Serving up food from the four major culinary regions of China with a contemporary flair, no tickets are needed (just be sure to call ahead to order your dim sum)!
Restaurants providing a unique experience
The best part about dim sum is that it can cater to all brackets, no matter what their age or spending power. If you want your kids to have a different yum cha experience, take them to any of these restaurants.
Not for the faint of heart, this old-school gem has all the classics, along with the excitement of jostling for the best dishes as they come right out of the kitchen. After you wash your dish and chopsticks in tea (as is the custom), you’ll want to spend a moment observing the scene so you can make a plan of attack. Watch the regulars and when in doubt, do what they do! We love taking visitors here for a taste of old Hong Kong. The restaurant was in danger of closing down last year, but managed to renew its lease for three years and is now busier than ever -only closing for dinner!
If you’re looking for the same vibe with slightly more space and a little less hustle and bustle, try out its sister branch, Lin Heung Kui, in Sheung Wan. It is spread over two floors and on weekends has a station where some dishes are cooked to order on level 3. Be sure to try the lo mo gai (sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf) and the baked custard buns for a sweet dessert treat! It also dishes up some of the best char sui (BBQ pork) in the city so be sure to order a plate to go with your dumplings.
Sassy Mama tip: The dim sum trolleys stop doing the rounds at around 2:30pm on weekdays so the earlier you go the better (it opens at 6am so no excuses not to get in early)!
Lin Heung Tea Room, G/F Tsang Chiu Ho Building, 160-164 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong, 2544 4556
Lin Heung Kui, 2/F and 3/F, 40-40 Des Voeux Road West, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong, 2156 9328
Enjoy authentic yum cha by having brunch with the family (or visitors) at Maxim’s Palace. The restaurant has many branches across Hong Kong, but we prefer the City Hall location. Maxim’s, the local food and beverage group, owns multiple chains of restaurants in town and its stores are spread all over Hong Kong (for good reason). At City Hall Maxim’s Palace, you’ll see a large variety of traditional and delicious dim sum on offer, many of which will be paraded past your table on trolleys. One of our favourites is the wu gok (deep fried taro puff) because of the perfect contrast between its outer crunch and soft pork and taro mash filling. With plenty of veggie options, everyone’s sure to find something for their palate here. See the whole range of Maxim’s restaurants here.
If you want to try some classics with a twist, look no further than Dim Sum Library. Serving up familiar flavours and fresh new tea-steeped cocktails at the bar that fronts its resto, it’s the perfect option for a stopover while shopping with the family or if you’re going out with the girls or on a date. Our favourite dishes include the black truffle har gau (featuring a hint of truffle wrapped in delicate rice paper) along with juicy, meaty shrimp. The Wagyu beef puffs are not to be missed as well, with tender and peppery beef encased in layers of flaky pastry.
Dim Sum Library Pacific Place, Shop 124, Level 1, The Mall, Pacific Place, Admiralty, Hong Kong, 3643 0088
Hutong is an experience in itself – from the stunning view of the sweeping skyline and twinkling harbour to the 18-dish Feng Wei brunch served at weekends. Dim sum here includes heavenly poached Boston lobster wontons and other “moreish” delights, ranging from the traditional siu mai topped with scallops, to more innovative treats such as the shrimp, kimchi and mozzarella spring rolls. Top up with free-flow champagne or rosé for the perfect Sunday afternoon out! Though there’s no children’s menu, those under 12 years old get to eat brunch for free. There’s also enough entertainment for the kids with face-changing Beijing opera performers and noodle chefs making an appearance.
Fancy a weekend brunch and some quality time in an artsy interior? Head to Duddell’s, where a rotating gallery by guest curators and organised by its resident art manager graces the walls of a beautiful interior (by celebrated British designer Ilse Crawford). The chic Michelin-starred Cantonese dining room serves up some of the best dim sum in the city at its weekend salon brunch, complemented by unlimited champagne, cocktails and an assortment of fresh juices and soft drinks. While this isn’t a place that you would take your kids to on a regular basis, it makes for an unforgettable special occasion experience.
For an experience that can’t possibly be more high-flying (quite literally, since it’s on the 102nd floor) for the kids, take them to the two-Michelin starred Tin Lung Heen. The dim sum menu is available on weekends and public holidays and is very elaborate.
We also love visiting restaurants like Madame Fu and Chinese Library in the historic Tai Kwun complex, as much for the good food as for the lovely setting where the kids can run wild, as well as John Anthony and Mott 32 for the perfect mix of taste and decor.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on 17, November 2017 and was most recently updated by Anita Balagopalan on 23, January 2020.
Featured image via Getty Images, image 1 courtesy of Din Tai Fung, image 2 courtesy of Crystal Jade via Instagram, image 3 courtesy of dragon-i via Instagram, image 4 courtesy of Yum Cha via Instagram, image 5 courtesy of Anita Balagopalan, image 6 courtesy of Hong Kong Disneyland via Instagram, image 7 courtesy of Discover Hong Kong, image 8 courtesy of Anita Balagopalan.