Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Yum Cha, Hong Kong

The week before I left for Hong Kong, I stalked tons of Hong Kong-based food bloggers on Instagram, scouring their accounts for fun, tasty and - not gonna lie - Instagrammable restaurants to try.

But who was I kidding? With only two full days there, and most meals already lined up with family members at "proper" restaurants, the odds of me escaping to find some random place with cotton-candy topped ice-cream floats in the shape of panda bears (this actually exists, folks) seemed unlikely.

Enter my cousin: fellow food enthusiastic and a sucker for anything cute. I told her about this restaurant I'd seen on Instagram called Yum Cha, which served baskets of "puking" molten custard buns and char siu bao shaped like tiny piglets. And, as someone who can't resist a good gimmick - I was immediately sold. I sent the link to my cousin who suggested we head over to Yum Cha for dessert, after surprising her parents (my aunt and uncle, who didn't know I was in Hong Kong!) for lunch at a Chiu Chow restaurant in Wan Chai.

In Cantonese, 'yum cha' literally means "drink tea" but it can also refer to the event of eating dim sum. Going to yum cha is a real treat. It's something to be enjoyed over a long, leisurely brunch/lunch at a round table with friends and family.

Despite the playful, modern twist (something I'm sure my parents would frown upon!), the restaurant itself evokes the true sentiment of yum cha. Situated on the top floor of Nan Fung Place in Central (there's Kowloon location in Tsim Sha Tsui), the interior of Yum Cha features floor-to-ceiling windows, marble-top tables, and beautiful crockery and glassware that demand to be admired.

Because we'd already had lunch, we ordered sweet dim sum for dessert - specifically, the hot custard buns, molten matcha buns, the pineapple pastry puffs shaped like birds (and served in a bird cage!), plus a few BBQ "piggy buns" for good measure.

The pineapple pastry puff birds arrived first, with desiccated coconut dusting the bottom of the bird cage like sawdust - such a sweet detail!

I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but the pastry of the bite-sized birds was crisp, light and not too dry. The pineapple filling (similar to a paste or a ganache) tasted almost candy-like - a little on the sweet side, but very enjoyable as a dessert.

When the buns arrived, I was surprised at the generous portion size - I'd expected them to be much smaller, for some reason. So, at HK$49 for a portion of hot custard buns (3 pieces), it wasn't too crazily priced.

I was so full from lunch, I had to stop after eating a molten matcha bun (we had fun trying to poke a mouth-shaped hole in the bun with our chopsticks to make it "puke" in just the right place - next time, I'll request a sharp knife), but boxed up the custard bun and the BBQ bun for later (tip: don't do this if it can be helped, unless you've got access to a microwave at your hotel, as the buns are best enjoyed while piping hot!).

After tentatively biting into the buns, my cousin and I both agreed that Yum Cha delivered in terms of quality as well as presentation: the buns were soft and served piping hot; the fillings rich in flavor and natural in taste.

Aside from Instagram-friendly dim sum, Yum Cha also serves more traditional, savoury Chinese dishes (with a little twist), such as beetroot with salted fish and fried rice, ox tail braised in red wine, and Singapore vermicelli served in a fresh pineapple. I'm sure my parents would disapprove of this type of "fusion" cuisine, but hey - isn't it fun to experiment with different flavors and textures?

I'm dying to go back to Yum Cha already for some of the savoury dishes and the actual desserts (they look amazing!)! If you're heading to Hong Kong anytime soon, I'd highly recommend making a pit stop here for some steamed baskets of "puking" buns and glasses of chrysanthemum tea.

Huge thanks to my gorgeous cousin, May Po, for treating me to this delicious afternoon yum cha!

Yum Cha is located at 2/F Nan Fung Place, 173 Des Voeux Central, Hong Kong or 3/F, 20-22 Granville Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon

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