Even by chef and restaurateur standards, Jowett Yu is remarkably well travelled. Born in Taiwan, he grew up in Vancouver before training in Sydney and moving to Hong Kong, where he heads up the hip, eye-popping Chinese kitchen Ho Lee Fook. Not exactly a slacker, he also oversees a Vietnamese restaurant (Le Garçon Saigon), a Japanese izakaya (Fukuro) and a club-inspired Cantonese eatery in Shanghai (Canton Disco).
The man knows his way around Hong Kong’s vibrant food scene – especially when it comes to the traditional fixture of dim sum and dumplings, which is in the midst of an exciting transition as a new generation asserts its presence.
“The dim sum offerings are evolving, for a few reasons,” says Yu. “One is there are fewer and fewer cooks doing the trade. Two is that the average age of dim sum chefs is around 60 years old in Hong Kong. Three is that the new style of dim sum is eschewing heavy fat and making it smaller and elaborately shaped, like, say, a cartoon character or a goldfish.”
In other words, dim sum is progressing right in step with young people’s tastes and the wider pop-culture spectrum. But Yu still enjoys plenty of traditional dim sum as well, and his below picks for Hong Kong’s best dumplings strike a perfect balance between old and new.
Hometown Dumpling, Sai Ying Pun
This mom-and-pop favourite relocated after a three-year hiatus and remains a no-frills delight. “They do northern-style shui jiao dumplings,” says Yu. “It’s a flour dough, and very rustic. They’re not as refined as the dim sum style.” That doesn’t make the dumplings any less delicious, though, and highlights from the menu include the signature boiled pork and lamb dumplings. Also check out the popular fish dumplings and plenty of vegetarian options.
G/F,418, 416 Queen's Road W, Hong Kong
Dim Sum Square, Sheung Wan
Exuding old-school style, Dim Sum Square is a well-trodden destination for quick, affordable meals, especially at lunch time. “It’s cheap and cheerful,” says Yu. “They have a dish with cheung fun (stir-fried noodles) wrapped around spring rolls. It’s really garlic-y – they fry the spring rolls first, and wrap the cheung fun around after. You get two different textures.” Make time for the shrimp crystal dumplings too.
88 Jervois Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
Lung King Heen, Sheung Wan
Considerably more high-end than his first two picks – complete with three Michelin stars – this one is in a Four Seasons Hotel. While not dumplings per se, Yu’s favourite dim sum dish here is the baked abalone tart. “It’s braised abalone,” he says, “and they put it on flaky pastry.” He also highly recommends the lobster dumpling.
8 Finance Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
Sun Hing, Kennedy Town
It may read like a typo, but this place opens at 3am and closes at 4pm. That means a colourful, bustling mix of night-owl uni students, early-bird seniors and post-knockoff hospitality workers. “It’s really traditional,” says Yu, “and really an experience in itself. I urge people that stop over in Hong Kong to go there.” His top dishes there include the lava salted egg yolk bun and pig-liver siu mai.
Shop C, G/F, 8 Smithfield Road, Kennedy Town, Western District, Hong Kong
Luk Yu Tea House, Central Hong Kong
Established in the 1930s, this colonial-style tea house prides itself on tradition. In fact, it was named for a Tang Dynasty poet who doubled as a tea historian. “The dishes remain unchanged,” Yu says, “so it’s really traditional Cantonese dim sum. The menu is often rotating, so if you come down from week to week the dishes change – but are from the same repertoire.” As you can imagine the three-floor restaurant is popular with tourists – but it’s absolutely worth a visit.
24–26 Stanley Street, Central, Hong Kong
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