Yum cha is a huge part of Hong Kong culture. It's one of those Sunday morning brunch activities, where families come together and catch up on all the goss every week.
The name "yum cha" (飲茶) means to "drink tea" in Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese both), but is also the name of the meal itself. There is a heavy focus on the dishes, called dim sum (點心) in Cantonese (and dian xin in Mandarin), which are served in small portions, either on plates, in bowls, or in small bamboo steamers.
Image by Alpha, Flickr
There are several methods of service in a yum cha restaurant. One is for the dim sum to be wheeled around in trolleys for you to flag down when you see something you like; another is to specify exactly which dishes you'd like, tick them off on a special menu pad, and hand it to a staff member to bring to the kitchen. You can also order from passing staff members throughout your meal, but this is rather inefficient during a busy service.
Yum cha is very much about sharing. The food is placed at the centre of the table, and are conveniently made into small portions, to make it easier to pick up with chopsticks. Tea is served in pots, and the tea charge is calculated per head. Each table is given a card, which is stamped every time a dish is set down on the table; this is how your bill is calculated at the end of the meal.
Restaurants serving yum cha have been around for years in Australia, so it's only right that we try and find out where the best places are located. Here are five in Brisbane people have been talking about:
Landmark was first on the list, and had once been touted as the best yum cha in Brisbane a few years ago. The establishment itself is huge, and the food is delicious. General consensus is that Landmark is relatively cheap, but the service can be a little hit-and-miss at times. But do you really go to yum cha for the service? Side note, if you're looking for something other than yum cha, check out their Peking duck.
This restaurant dates back to 2005, and is constantly busy and bustling. It is popular with the younger folk, and also has BYO options, so it's great for a party (or after-party hangover cure).
Image from King of Kings Facebook
China House Restaurant 12 Duncan Street, Fortitude Valley QLD
Phone: (07) 3216 0570
Trading Hours: Monday to Saturday, 10am — 3pm and 5pm — late; Sunday, 9.30am — 3pm and 5pm — late
China House has been around since 1994, located in the heart of Chinatown. It's cheap,
and the food is good, which helps contribute to its business. But this also means the service tends to suffer. Overall agreement that it is good value for money, and really an old hat when it comes to yum cha in Brisbane.
Reasonably priced yum cha, with good food, especially when competing with the rest of Chinatown. The decor looks great as well, with a more modern glass-walled look, rather than the traditional Chinese layout.
Guang Zhou Lou Chinese Restaurant Big Gun Shopping Centre; Shop 7/2922 Logan Road Underwood QLD 4119
Phone: (07) 3161 8319
Trading Hours: weekdays 11am — 3pm and 5pm — 2am; weekends 10am — 3pm and 5pm — 3am; public holidays 10am — 3pm
I think this place may have closed down a while ago, and has reopened with new management and staff. They've got a great yum cha menu (and a nice website doesn't hurt either), with all the usual favourite dim sums to look forward to.
Image from Guang Zhou Lou website.
To be honest, this list is very much incomplete - a work in progress, if you will. The yum cha scene is constantly evolving; new places crop up, old places close down, and the competition is fierce. I would not be surprised if, a few months or years down the track, the establishments on this list are replaced by others making their mark on the Brisbane yum cha market.
Don't see your favourite on this list? Share them in the comments!
if the CBD is your bailiwick, no need to travel to Fortitude Valley, as Beijing House on the Queen Street Mall is as good as it gets: absolutely top notch delicious, and it blew King of Kings out of the water. And at the opposite end of the Queen Street Mall, New Shanghai offers delicious dumplings and much more at a quality and price as proven by the line to enter at peak hours.
Agree, agree, agree. There's also great little ones in unexpected suburbs, like Rochedale, near Sunnybank. Not sure if King of Kings opened in 2005, I've been in Brisbane since 2000 and recall having YumCha upstairs from the Seafood Restaurant around then - it did not look new. UrbanSpoon says they've been 'doing' YumCha for more than 20 years, but not sure if this was within the downstairs restaurant.