As I was born and raise in Hong Kong, I love everything surrounding the Dim Sum culture. A big part of dim sum, is ‘Yum Cha’, which literally means ‘to drink tea’ in Cantonese. It is a time where you wind down and catch up with family and close ones. When I was living in Hong Kong, my mum and I would get up early in the morning on every Sunday just to line up for a table. If you show up late, be prepared to wait at least an hour!
There are only a couple of dim sum places around Dunedin. My usual go-to is Sichuan 88 because they are relatively cheap, the flavors are light and clean, and their cosy environment.
We came around 11:00AM, and the restaurant was already bustling with hungry diners, and we luckily got the last unreserved table. Make sure to call ahead for a table in advance, especially on Sundays!
It really made me feel at home, greeting people in my own language, seeing families coming in big groups to catch up with each other, and of course enjoying the dim sum. As soon as we sat down, we were served a pot of hot Chinese tea and given a dim sum order sheet to fill out. We ordered 10 dishes for just the 3 of us!
A tip for yum cha etiquette, when it comes to pouring tea, serves others at the table first, then yourself. When someone serves you, it is traditional to show your appreciation by tapping your index and middle fingers on the table. And when the tea runs out, simply turn the lid over, and soon, someone will refill it for you.
This is siu mai, it is a cup-shaped dumpling that are filled with pork, prawns and mushrooms. It was perfectly steamed, very moist yet lightly firm on the inside. I particularly loved the chunks of prawn inside, it gave a nice pop to the bite.
We ordered baked char Siu bao (barbecued pork bun), it is one of the most popular options at the restaurant. The pastry was flaky and crumbly, and held a sweet and savoury barbecued pork filling inside. It was a little too sweet for my taste, but those who have a sweeter palate, will love it.
I love egg tarts, the most famous dim sum in Hong Kong. The egg tart crust was flaky and incredibly light, and the filling was delicately sweet, soft, and eggy. It melted in my mouth. Perfect.
I always love getting turnip cake at dim sum restaurants. This time I opted for something different – turnip cake with XO sauce. XO sauce is a spicy sauce originated in Hong Kong, and is a crunchy mix of dried scallops, shrimp, and chill oil, amongst other ingredients. Although my boyfriend doesn’t usually like turnip cake, he really enjoyed this one. It was golden brown on the outside yet smooth and almost creamy on the inside. The bean sprouts and carrots provided a nice crunch too.
This is lo mai gai, which is steamed glutinous rice wrapped in lotus leaves, with a filling of chicken, pork mince, and mushrooms. When I opened the leaves, I was met with a mouthwatering fragrance. The rice was warm and chewy, and the mix between the meats and mushrooms created a great harmony. This is definitely one of my favourite comfort foods.
The left top corner dim sum is called ham sui gok, a savory pork filling wrapped around a glutinous rice dough, and deep fried. This is my boyfriend’s favourite dish. He said the slightly sweet filling and the chewy exterior was amazing. He ate all three…
On the bottom left is the spicy beef stomach, and on the bottom right, is the black pepper pork stomach. It might be a little off-putting for somebody not familiar with organ meats, but these two dim sum are very popular back home. The spicy beef stomach was very tender, and flavorful, and I would definitely recommend it if you want to try something different. The black pepper pork stomach was wonderfully chewy, but tasted a little bitter, which lessened the enjoyment of the dish.
All in all, it was a lovely Sunday at Sichuan 88. Nothing better than spending a morning with great company and great food.
Address: 45 Mailer St, Mornington, Dunedin, NZ