The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Monday, 17 January 2011

Yum cha @ Luk Yu Teahouse, Hong Kong

Is it bad if your waiter stops you from ordering more food because he thinks you have ordered too much already? That was precisely what happened when we had yum cha at Luk Yu Teahouse with my father-in-law and his family during their visit to Hong Kong a few weeks ago. Mind you, we already had eaten a fair number of dim sum dishes when we tried to order more, and the waiter was probably just trying to be responsibly helpful when he advised that we shouldn't need to order any more dishes. We were, after all, at a teahouse and not a restaurant, where we should be enjoying the tea and not stuffing our faces with food. We had been to Luk Yu once before a few months ago, and in spite of a couple of bad first impressions (brusque service by surly men in their 50s and 60s, and a very limited food menu), the food was amongst the best dim sum we've ever had. It was good enough reason to bring our overseas visitors there for a yum cha experience in a traditional setting. In fact, we went to Luk Yu another time less than 2 weeks later with my dad who had also come to HK for a short trip. Both revisits to the teahouse confirmed that Luk Yu Teahouse serves up consistently good dim sum dishes, and as long as the food is good, I'll be happy to put up with the surly service.

First re-visit with Rob's dad & family

We were seated on the second floor, and I found that the waiters on this floor were slightly more affable than the guys on the third floor. The menu changes weekly so I was disappointed to find that I could not order my favourite dish from the first visit (Mashed Dates Cake), however, there were plenty of different dishes to try that day. We had less adventurous eaters in our group, so we stayed safe and ordered the usual suspects like Charsiu bao (BBQ pork bun - a clear favourite), Beef meatballs, Hargow (shrimp dumpling) and of course Egg tarts (another clear winner). We also got a few not-so-usual items like Chinese sausage and dried shrimp in glutinous rice, Chicken dumpling in chicken broth and Mashed lotus nuts & pumpkin dough which are pictured below. Everyone was still hungry after the first round but when we tried ordering more, the guy serving our table said he would ask the kitchen to whip up some Fried Rice and Fried Noodles which were probably a healthier way to fill up with than on those delicious but artery-clogging dim sum morsels. These turned out to be pretty good, but it did seem a little bit of a shame to fill up on dishes you can get everywhere else.

Pan-fried radish cake with BBQ pork - very tasty with slightly charred bits contrasting the soft texture:

Glutinous rice with lap cheong (Chinese sausage) and dried shrimps - delicious with small bits of lap cheong that helped flavour the rice but not overpower it:

Chicken dumpling in chicken broth - surprisingly good with a yummy broth that is bursting with umami flavour:

Fried Rice:

Fried Noodles:

Fried dough with lotus seed paste and pumpkin - this could have worked better in a less greasy setting:

Second revisit with my dad

About two weeks later, we came back to Luk Yu with my dad after a trip to HK Park. We were sent to the third floor of the teahouse where we got to once again experience the not-so-wonderful service by the ever-grumpy old guys who work this floor. The menu was different again, and I was delighted to see my beloved Mashed dates cakes on the menu! We ordered a relatively more modest amount of 8 dishes which filled all three of us up quite well. All the dim sum were pretty good, but the highlight (for me, anyway) was spotting the Jumbo-size chicken bun on the menu which turned out to be quite similar to the da bao I grew up eating in Malaysia, right down to the quarter (or was it half?) of a boiled egg in the filling.

Steamed rice with duck meat wrapped in lotus leaves - sort of like lo mai gai but with normal rice instead of glutinous rice, and with duck instead of chicken. Works well, but not as good as lo mai gai:

(Clockwise from bottom right) Dried mushroom & chicken roll, Chinese ham & chicken pie, and Mashed fish & radish cake - all were done very well, and the pie and roll confirmed the fact that Luk Yu does baked pastries, both sweet and savoury, really well:

Steamed items: Jumbo-size chicken bun and Hargow (shrimp dumpling). We always order the hargow, and it has always been consistently good:

Showing the fluffy soft bun and the innards of the jumbo chicken bun:

The Mashed dates cake still ranked as my favourite of them all. It was still warm from the oven, the pastry gave a delicious slight crunch to reveal the gorgeous date filling, and it found a happy spot in my tummy. It could be my imagination, but this one tasted better than the one I had last time. The Egg tart is a close second. Egg tarts are plentiful in Hong Kong, but most are not worth wasting your calories on (so far, we have found only one other place whose egg tart rivals that of Luk Yu, but is very pricey).

Delicious sweet dim sum - Dates cake and Egg tarts:

We just farewelled the last of our overseas visitor (for the moment) so I should be able to update my journal a bit more regularly and catch up on a backlog of photos I took over the last month. Plenty more to come!

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