Dim sum originates from Hong Kong, and what a better place to indulge in the Cantonese classic than at Flower Drum? Cheung fun are thin sheets of rolled rice noodles that envelop fillings like juicy prawns, sweet barbecue pork or liver. Flower Drum’s version places slices of scallop between the steamed noodles so the delicate seafood arrives just-cooked and is served with a touch of sweet soy. It's best enjoyed alongside fragrant, jasmine tea.
This South Yarra institution is a staple in Melbourne’s yum cha scene. Services are always bustling and another bonus to this venue is the extensive tea and booze list. These fried, football-shaped dumplings are filled with a savoury, ground pork filling, but the crisp, sweet and chewy exterior made from a glutinous rice flour dough sets them apart from other dim sum dishes. Better yet, they pair perfectly with a beer.
Xiao long bao are not a traditional item on the dim sum cart, but yum cha houses in Melbourne like to break the rules. Instead of being disappointed by a thick-skinned imposter sitting next to your har gow, head to Din Tai Fung for the real deal; thin skins, a minimum of 13 pleats, a porcine filling with tongue-burning stock and the correct accompaniment of black vinegar and slivers of ginger.
This dumpling house is set apart not for its amazing trolley service, but for the absence of service altogether. Touch screens are the name of the game at China Red, which always lead to over excitement and over-ordering, but the quality of the food means finishing it is never a chore. Slippery won tons sit in a sweetened soy base doused liberally in the house chilli sauce, hitting all the points of your palate in one bite.
You know that old adage of having to travel for good food? Well, that’s true of Golden Dragon Palace. Unfortunately no trains or trams go to Lower Templestowe, but this yum cha house sits directly on a bus route with a stop out the front. Phoenix claw is a more appetising term for braised chicken feet, and these come in a sweet-savoury black bean sauce. It takes a bit of work to eat them, but trust us: like the trip, it will be worth it.
If you’re partial to a good steamed bun at yum cha, these will be right up your alley. Even more so if you’re a sucker for desserts with a touch of savouriness to them. These steamed buns come filled with a hot, flowing egg custard filling (hence the name) spiked with grated salted egg yolk. It creates an almost sandy texture that may be a shock when you first try them, but are a delicacy in Hong Kong. Eat while still hot.
For variations on the xiao long bao theme, Mr Huang Jin spices up their broth within the pork-based dumpling, meaning you need not add chilli oil to your ginger-vinegar dunking bath. Find these in the Financial District of the CBD and be sure to order up some Taiwanese fried chicken and an aromatic, traditional beef curry to get a true taste of Mr Hung Jin.
You wouldn’t expect to find stellar dim sum in a modern-Vietnamese eatery, but Jerry Mai knows how to knock them out. Take these oxtail dumplings, for instance. The tails have been braised in an aromatic sarsaparilla-spiked stock until the meat falls off the bones. The cooking stock hasn’t been left to waste, as it has been reduced to make a sticky sauce that accompanies these beefy morsels.
Docklands is best known for being the home of the Melbourne Star, Costco and whole lot of nothing else – except Gold Leaf. The taro puff, or wu gok, is a fried, savoury dumpling filled with a pork, dried shrimp and garlic chive gravy, encased in a crisp and starchy taro-based shell. These dumplings can be quite filling, so if you like to order up at yum cha, ask your waiter to cut them in half.
Off Windsor’s Chapel Street you’ll find this unassuming antique store and yum cha restaurant. The service is à la carte rather than trolley, but you won’t miss the rattle of the carts. Order the turnip cakes; they’re made made of grated radish, lap cheong (Chinese sausage), shiitake and spring onions mixed with a rice flour batter, which is then steamed. Traditionally, this cake is then cut into bricks and then pan fried, but Red Door’s version is deep fried, presenting a more interesting textural contrast.