Yum cha is phenomenal. It’s like an all-you-can-eat buffet, but actually good. If you leave lunch without a food coma then you’re doing it wrong. Cart after cart of delectable dumpling delicacies, glutinous rice, wontons, chicken feet and everything else you could possibly want keep rushing past your table till you can’t take anymore. I like to do an earlier sitting, say 10:30/11 when the restaurant isn’t completely packed. You can keep your smashed avo, give me dim sum for lunch! If you’re lucky enough to have travelled to a dumpling mecca like Hong Kong or Shanghai then you’ve seen yum cha done properly. Restaurants range from tiny bolt holes (like the original Tim Ho Wan in Kowloon) to epic eateries that take up entire floors of high rise buildings. Here, hundreds of dim sum diehards – including couples, singles and entire families – sit around big tables and raid the carts as they slowly wind their way across the floor. Australia is the lucky country by name and by nature. Being so close to Asia, we are able to sample her gastronomical bounty without having to travel far. These days, every major city (and a lot of smaller towns) have great restaurants offering yum cha to die for. So, to help you whittle down your choices into a more manageable mouthful, here’s a list of our favourite dumpling houses in each major city. Remember: all these lists are subjective, if you think we’ve slighted your favourite place, let us know!
Well, obviously it’s the Flower Drum, the grand old lady of Chinese fine dining. But for those of you on a normal sized budget or not willing to book months in advance, we suggest a little place tucked away inside a shopping centre. Doncaster has become a hotspot for Chinese food in the last couple of decades, and Secret Kitchen is a bit of a hidden treasure. Here you’ll get all your cart riding favourites and a fantastic a la carte menu with dishes from Sichuan to Hong Kong.
Address: Shop L2-2003, Westfield Shopping Center, Westfield Doncaster, 619 Doncaster Road
Phone: +61 3 9840 2248
Sunny Harbour Seafood Restaurant is a vast, chaotic restaurant and one of Sydney’s busiest yum cha joints. Even on Mondays you’ll have to grab a ticket and wait for a table on one of the two upstairs floors. Trust us though, It’s worth it. The high turnover means everything is fresh and steaming hot, with all your favourites like golden fried calamari, sweetly tender pork ribs, king-size chicken feet and silky cheung fun rice-noodle rolls. The prawn dumplings are also to die for.
Address: 9-11 Crofts Avenue, Hurstville
Phone: 9585 1633
Bamboo Basket may have a silly name but they do have 2 stores, so there is the convenience factor. Even better, they hand make and stretch their own noodles! While not generally yum cha fair, it’s definitely worth heading to the a la carte menu for these, as there’s nothing like fresh noodles. They also make a mean xiao long bao.
Bonus points to Citi Zen for serving yum cha inside an old Irish pub. The décor juxtaposed with the food is quite fantastic. After it’s last refurb, Citi Zen can now lay to claim to the title of “largest capacity Chinese restaurant in South Australia”, if that is in fact something worth bragging about. If you venture in during the week you’ll deal with the work crowd, so head in a little earlier if you don’t want to wait. Anything with a prawn in it is guaranteed to be a winner.
Vivisen Teahouse is in the picturesque suburb of Fremantle and a little bit of a hidden gem. The focus here is on fresh ingredients so the menu is a little subject to change, but always delicious. If you’re feeling heavy after devouring a plethora of noodle, vegetable and of course, dumpling dishes, then make sure you grab the house special Goji tea for a quick pick-me-up before heading out the door.
If you’re looking for yum cha with a less traditional edge, Akiba is the place and Canberra the city. Trolleys start rolling out on weekends as soon as enough tables fill up and the handmade ceramic plates are laden with all sorts of surprises. There’s a strong undercurrent of Japanese influence here, so prepare for silky, tender shiitake and water chestnut dumplings with togarashi (Japanese spice mix) and crunchy dried miso flakes and a salmon sashimi “firecracker”. Enjoy it with seriously good saké and you’ll wonder why you haven’t been before.
Well, we hope this list helps you next time you’re hankering for some lunchtime yum cha. As always, let us know if you have any suggestions or have visited any of the above!