【Dim Sums】Top 10 Nostalgic Hong Kong Dim Sum That Evoke Fond Memories

15 August 2023 by
Daisy Wong

The aroma of freshly steamed dim sum fills the air as waiters pour hot water from their iron kettles for customers. Old ladies push a trolley loaded with fragrant dim sum, making one's mouth water. We used to rush to the dim sum trolleys with our dim sum cards to pick out our favourite dishes, but those days have become memories. Looking back at the dim sum of the 70s and 80s, they were a feast for the senses compared to what is available now. However, many nostalgic dim sum dishes have disappeared from tea houses. In this article, we introduce the top ten Hong Kong nostalgic dim sum dishes and tea houses that still serve nostalgic dim sum, allowing us to reminisce about these unique dishes of the past.

1. Tri-colour Crystal Dumplings

Tri-colour Crystal Dumplings

Photo Source: Tripadvisor

Tri-colour crystal dumplings come in three different colours, representing three different flavours: red bean paste, taro, and custard. The dumpling's skin is transparent, allowing one to see the colour of the filling inside. Many children who love sweets enjoy these dumplings.

2. Glutinous Rice Dumplings

Glutinous Rice Dumplings

Photo Source: Openrice

Glutinous rice dumplings are made by wrapping seasoned Chinese preserved meat rice in a siu mai wrapper and steaming them until cooked. One basket of these dumplings is usually enough to fill up one person. Unfortunately, this dim sum dish is becoming harder to find in restaurants nowadays. The reason being that glutinous rice dumplings tend to be more filling than other dim sum dishes, causing customers to order less food and resulting in lower profits for the restaurant. As a result, fewer and fewer restaurants are offering this dish on their menu.

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3. Steamed Chinese Sausage Bun

Steamed Chinese Sausage Bun

Photo Source: Cook1Cook

Mix water with clear flour and cornstarch to form a dough, then roll it around a Chinese sausage to make a roll. Steam it over high heat until cooked. Traditional Chinese Sausage Buns are larger, but nowadays smaller and more delicate versions are also available.

In traditional Hong Kong-style dim sum, Steamed Chinese Sausage Bun is a winter treat. The outer layer of the bun absorbs the flavourful oils and aromas of the sausage, resulting in a soft, fragrant, and warming taste when eaten.

4. Black White Sesame Roll

Black White Sesame Roll

Photo Source: Michelin Guide

Sesame rolls were very common in Hong Kong restaurants in the 70s and 80s, but nowadays they are rarely seen. However, some small shops still sell them. The sesame roll is made from black sesame, rock sugar, and water chestnut powder to create a paste. An inner layer made of fresh milk, sugar, and water chestnut powder is added before it is rolled up, creating a black and white pattern. Making the black and white effect requires twice the effort compared to making a regular black sesame roll, as the outer and inner layers need to be made separately. Despite the effort required to make them, sesame rolls are sold at a low price, so many restaurants gradually stopped making them.

5. Big Bun

Big Bun

Photo Source: WordPress

The post-war tea house boss empathised with the grassroots and designed big buns with a variety of fillings that were filling but cheap. They were made by steaming buns stuffed with pork, fresh bamboo shoots or sarsaparilla, chicken, and minced vegetables. Servers would push dim sum trolleys to sell them, but the tea house limited the number of big buns sold, and tea drinkers followed the rules and generally did not snatch them.

Later, there were more types of dim sum, and the popularity of big buns gradually decreased. Additionally, the production cost and process of making big buns were higher, and new-style tea houses gradually stopped selling them.

6. Orange Juice Roll

Orange Juice Roll

Photo Source: HK01

In the 70s and 80s, orange juice rolls were one of the popular dim sum dishes in Chinese Tea House. They were usually placed on the dim sum trolley alongside other desserts such as jelly candies and sugarcane rolls, and were a favourite among many children. However, with changing times, people had more choices, and the production process of orange juice rolls was complicated, leading to their near extinction. But in recent years, a dim sum restaurant in Prince Edward has revived the almost lost orange juice roll. Those who are interested can give it a try.

7. Fried Wonton with Sweet and Sour Sauce

Fried Wonton with Sweet and Sour Sauce

Photo Source: Lin Heung Tea House

Traditional Fried Wonton are folded into a flat shape and served with sweet and sour sauce. The skin is made from bamboo noodles, and the filling is usually made with shrimp and pork, then deep-fried. The sauce is made by cooking shrimp, char siu, squid, shredded pork, chicken giblets, seafood, chopped onions, green peppers, and red pepper together. However, nowadays, the sauce-making process is very time-consuming, so a simple sweet and sour sauce is often used as a substitute.

8. Sweet Egg Twists

Sweet Egg Twists

Photo Source: Openrice

Sweet Egg Twists are made by kneading a mixture of flour, gluten flour, eggs, and lard into a rope-like shape, and then deep-frying it. Once it turns a light yellow color, it is removed from the oil and served with maltose syrup for dipping. When eaten, it quickly melts in the mouth and is a nostalgic sweet treat loved by many children.

9. Grilled Ham and Chicken

Grilled Ham and Chicken

Photo Source: on.cc

Grilled Ham and Chicken is made from a combination of pork, chicken liver, and fatty pork, even though the name includes the word "chicken," there is actually no chicken meat in it. The three ingredients are skewered on a long iron needle and then grilled to form a shape that resembles a Chinese coin. However, because it is very time-consuming to prepare, it is rare to find it on the menu at modern dim sum restaurants.

10. Chinese Style Doughnuts

Chinese Style Doughnuts

Photo Source: Cook1Cook

Chinese Style Doughnut is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, with a rich and fragrant egg flavour. It's a popular dessert among many children and those who love sweets. The dough is made by mixing eggs, oil, and flour, and then deep-fried and coated with sugar. It used to be widely available in many restaurants and cafes in Hong Kong, but now it's less commonly seen compared to other nostalgic classic desserts.

The Last Remaining Nostalgic Tea House

If you are looking for "atmosphere" and "nostalgia," there are some unique nostalgic tea houses in Hong Kong that not only preserve nostalgic dim sum, but also retain dim sum trolleys. Freshly baked dim sum is placed in front of you, and it will not get cold because you order many pieces at once. As soon as the dim sum comes out of the oven, many people rush to the dim sum trolley. If you want to experience this kind of environment, see what unique nostalgic tea houses are available now.

1. Lin Heung Tea House

Lin Heung Tea House

Photo Source: Openrice

Lin Heung Tea House was established in 2009 and is a sister restaurant of the now-closed Lin Heung Tea House. It not only preserves the traditional tea cup and the arrangement of servers carrying large copper pots to add hot water for people, but it also still retains the old-style dim sum trolley. In addition, you can find classic nostalgic dim sum such as Grilled Ham and Chicken, Steamed Chinese Sausage Bun, and Chinese Jumbo Chicken bun, which are definitely worth a visit.

Address: 40-50 Des Voeux Rd W, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

2. Metropol Restaurant

Metropol Restaurant

Photo Source: Openrice

The restaurant retains the tradition of selling dim sum with trolleys, and the waiters pushing the trolleys will proactively come over to chat with customers and introduce the dim sum options. It is a very personable experience, and the prices are affordable for the general public. In addition, they also offer nostalgic dim sum such as the Chinese Style Doughnuts and Sweet Egg Twists. Those dim sums are highly recommended.

Address: 4/F, United Centre, 95 Queensway, Admiralty, Hong Kong

3. London Restaurant

London Restaurant

Photo Source: Openrice

The London restaurant has two floors, with a large number of dim sum trolleys pushed by waiters. You are guaranteed not to go hungry and the dim sum is served hot. Additionally, they have a dim sum trolley that can fry dim sum on the spot, such as turnip cake and rice noodle rolls, which is very unique. They also offer some nostalgic dim sum, such as baked tapioca pudding with taro. It is highly recommended to come and try it out.

Address: Good Hope Building, 612-618 Nathan Rd, Mong Kok, Hong Kong

The new-style tea houses gradually no longer sell nostalgic dim sum which mentioned above, and in recent years, ordering in tea houses has been replaced from dim sum paper to QR code ordering, not to mention the disappearance of dim sum trolleys. Some people say that today's tea houses have lost the original atmosphere of the tea house. So what do you think?

Capture.HK believes that through photographs and videos, we can relive the nostalgic atmosphere of tea houses filled with bustling crowds chasing after dim sum trolleys. Our digitalisation services include photo albums, photographs, and videotapes, bringing your memories back to life in front of your eyes.

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*This article is brought to you by Capture HK.

Capture HK is the premier analogue media digitisation company in Hong Kong.

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