Visiting Hong Kong is never complete without a meal feasting on the amazing dim sum that the city has to offer.
Dim sum is actually a Cantonese translation of the Chinese word 點心 which can be loosely translated to little bites/pieces – which makes sense since dim sum dishes are usually served to cater 3-4 people per dish.
In other countries, the act of “going out for dim sum” is also known as “yum cha” which is also a Cantonese translation of the Chinese word 飲茶 which literally means “drink tea”. This is interesting since the idea of “yum cha” actually places an emphasis on drinking tea first, then snacking on dishes second.
With so many different restaurants that offer dim sum, it’s sometimes hard to figure out which is the absolute must try dim sum place especially if you’re limited on time while in Hong Kong.
I have a few favourites including Chau Kee (in Western District & Tin Hau), Sun Hing (in Kennedy Town), and Lin Heung Tea House (there’s two – one in Central & Sheung Wan) and I’ll explain below the key differences of these few, but others that are much loved by Hong Kong include YUM CHA 飲茶 and Dim Sum Icon (in Tsim Sha Tsui).
If you’ve only got time / tummy space for one dim sum restaurant in Hong Kong things to consider include:
One of my favourite dim sum restaurants for “modern-ish” (in terms of environment) dim sum, the prawn toast & french toast varieties are so sooooo yummy. Apart from these dishes I also love the fried turnip cakes with XO sauce (XO醬蘿蔔糕) and the spring rolls stuffed with cheese & prawn (芝士蝦長春捲) is also good too. The bottled milk tea also tastes very authentic and is definitely worth trying.
Great for: small groups, a more “restaurant” take on dim sum, you order food from a menu (with some pictures) – good for around 4-6 people.
Must order: sesame prawn toast (芝麻蝦多士), salted egg yolk HK style french toast (流沙西多士) or the chocolate one if you’re not so keen on salted egg yolk.
How tourist friendly: welcoming to tourists, staff are quite friendly
#2. Sun Hing 新興食家 (Kennedy Town, Hong Kong Island)
Their opening times are only from 3am to 4pm in the afternoon. These times were actually put in place to cater to minibus drivers who would have to start the morning shifts shortly after.
It’s a relatively small space, and the staff speak limited English, but it’s quite a local experience. Instead of ordering food you typically have to go to the front counter to take whatever there is (some special dishes like the fried milk can be ordered via a staff member). Due to its location, HKU students love visiting this place in the wee early morning hours too for a snack.
Great for: late night munchies after a night out, or the early morning snack if you’ve been studying/cramming all night.
Must order foods: “fried milk”
How tourist friendly: Sun Hing is probably better to navigate with a local/someone that’s been there before.
Perfect for your truly local Hong Kong dim sum experience. You’ll see local patrons that frequent the place on a daily basis, and the interior, vibes & waiters bring you back to a nostalgic version of Hong Kong.
Here they do serve dim sum the traditional style, pushing little carts around so you can have a look at the food before adding it to your table.
Great for: local traditional dim sum in a very authentic environment
Must order: I don’t particularly have favourites here, because the attraction is definitely the more local & authentic environment.
How tourist friendly: it’s manageable, but it’s likely you’ll have to already be able to recognise the dishes as it’s unlikely you’ll get an English translation of the foods.
#4. YUM CHA 飲茶 (various locations on Hong Kong Island & Kowloon)
This place is loved by those who love the cute presentations that make it hard to gobble up the food. Here we had pineapple cakes that came in the shape of birds (in a cage), and the char siu pork buns come in little piggy styles while the hot custard molten buns make it so difficult to not poke a hole in the bun to create a unique emoji look of your own.
The environment is comfortable, modern & clean, and you have English menus as well.
Great for: a fun dim sum dining experience in a comfortable setting
Must order: the molten buns (or any of the buns with a face on it), it’s fun to play with! But make sure you don’t leave them out for too long as the insides might solidify.
How tourist friendly? Very tourist friendly, easy to navigate and order as you wish.
#5. Dim Sum Icon 點心代表 (The One, Tsim Sha Tsui – Kowloon)
This place definitely appeals to those who love seeing their dim sum come out in adorable varieties. They’re famous for bringing cartoon/anime characters to “dim sum life” so most of the cartoons aren’t permanent, they will change the characters on a seasonal basis.
Great for: those who really want to see their favourite cartoons on buns/food
Must order: the dishes with your cutesy cartoon characters on it
How tourist friendly? Relatively okay as their menus are in English & Chinese. Lines here can be quite long so do get there early.
Hope this gives you a quick overview of some dim sum restaurants you can try out while visiting Hong Kong and feel free to share any other places you love in the comments below!