Hello Kitty har gao. Adorable pink-nosed piggies. Beloved characters from Disney movies, and even a super lazy Gudetamago lounging in a bamboo basket. You won’t be sure if you should eat it or just take a picture of it.
Cute character dim sum is a relatively new invention in Hong Kong, and a trendy twist on a time-honoured tradition.
Hong Kong foodies have embraced this creative culinary move with arms wide open. New restaurants serving up squee-worthy savouries are popping up all the time. A few make a name for themselves as having both cute and delicious food (after all, it’s not enough to just be cute if the dim sum ain’t worth a damn).
Here we round up our top picks for where to find the cutest dim sum in Hong Kong:
Yum Cha – Central, Causeway Bay, Tsim Sha Tsui, Mongkok
Forget your typical massive hall with endless round tables. Yum Cha has a clean and crisp modern decor in which to enjoy your baskets of goodies. The tiny ‘birds cage’ of pineapple puff chicks is too adorable, as are the BBQ Piggy Buns and Doggy Sausage Rolls. To get that perfect Instagram shot, order the bug-eyed Hot Custard Buns and carefully give it a ‘mouth’ to let the custard ooze out.
Social Place – Central, Tsim Sha Tsui, Tsuen Wan
The chefs at Social Place painstakingly transform food into tiny works of art, such as the bun cleverly disguised as a shiitake mushroom. Their Sweet Potato Piggy Buns are sweet indeed, while the Turtle pork buns even have tiny sesame seed eyes. There’s a lot of variety at this contemporary take on Cantonese food that goes beyond just dim sum.
Ming Bistro – Causeway Bay
The chefs at Ming Bistro truly think outside the box. Yes, the fantastically detailed swan puffs served on a bird’s nest are impressive. But the really unique menu items are the edible mahjong tiles (spoiler alert: made out of coconut pudding jelly), and the edible chess tiles, served on a chess board. Sure to make for an unforgettable and photographic meal.
Crystal Lotus – Hong Kong Disneyland
If you’re visiting or staying at Hong Kong Disneyland, you need to plan ahead and make a reservation at Crystal Lotus if you want their amazingly cute dim sum. Mickey, Minnie, Olaf, Baymax and a whole crew of Disney and Pixar characters are lovingly formed into yummy buns. On a weekday, reservations must be made at least 48 hours in advance, and on weekends at least 24 hours in advance.
Dim Sum Icon – Tsim Sha Tsui
This playful restaurant has a thing for themes, particularly anime and manga from Japan. The theme changes every few weeks to keep things fresh and to put new items on the menu. When the theme was My Little Pony, for example, Dim Sum Icon made rainbow-coloured ‘Twilight Sparkle’ xiao long bao dumplings. Past themes have also included emojis, Sailor Moon, and Garfield. It is a bit gimicky, with lots of accessories on sale, but who knows, you may even get the kids to eat something!
Zhen Restaurant Contemporary Dim Sum – Shek Tong Tsui
Tiny little rabbits with almond-slice ears, translucent bug-eyed goldfish, and panda buns are just some of the animal-themed goodies on the menu at this hidden gem. Don’t be afraid to try the somewhat mysterious looking black-skinned dumpling (it’s shrimp inside). Zhen Restaurant is a stone’s throw from HKU Station, but it’s more fun to get there by riding the tram to Shek Tong Tsui.
Not into cute? Just want real, traditional dim sum, with the clatter of chopsticks, steaming pots of tea, and an army of fast-moving waiters wielding tiny stamps? Check out our awesome Cheapo Guide to Yum Cha for our recommendations on what to eat and where.