Yum cha, or having dim sum and hot tea in a teahouse, is a unique dining experience that is hugely popular among Cantonese people.
When the luxury White Swan Hotel reopened in Guangzhou last year, yum cha lovers formed long queues for the morning treats. The waiting took four hours on average, but that didn’t scare the crowds away.
Yum cha is so deeply rooted in the Cantonese culture that it has long been a part of their daily rituals. It has even seeped into their conversations: instead saying goodbye to friends, they say: “Let’s do yum cha soon.”
Back in the 1960s, our family in Foshan made it a point to visit Guangzhou at least once a year. It was no easy task, but my father insisted on taking us there for one particular purpose – to have yum cha.
We set off very early in the morning and arrived there by noon.
Under the direction of our foodie father, we tried all renowned teahouses in the city, such as Tou Tou Koi (陶陶居), Dai Tung Restaurant (大同), Lin Heung Tea House (蓮香樓), Bei Yuan Cuisine (北園) and Panxi Restaurant (泮溪酒家).
The most impressive was Panxi, ruled over by the highly acclaimed chef Luo Kun (羅坤), a.k.a. “The King of Dim Sum”. He is said to have created over 1,000 varieties, many of which depicted plants and animals.
The eight must-order dishes were steamed “rabbit dumplings”, deep-fried mini-pears, quail egg puffs, deep-fried crispy and fluffy salted duck egg yolk dumplings, pan-fried soup buns, steamed fresh prawn dumplings, water chestnut cake, and glutinous dumplings in lotus leaf wrappers.
Panxi has been and will always be my top choice for a teahouse, mainly because it holds so much of my childhood memories.
That’s where my dad brought me along with other members of my family, and that’s where I first tasted many of the dishes that I used to share with my friends, telling them – bragging, actually – how delicious the food was in town.
In my book, dim sum is far superior to extravagant dishes such as shark fin soup or braised abalone.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 15.
Translation by Darlie Yiu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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