Recommended spots to sample this quintessential Chinese dining pastime
Dim sum, dumplings, yum cha, whatever you want to call it, we’ve searched out the city’s tastiest pint-sized parcels.
Dim sum refers to a plethora of dishes – steamed and fried little treats and dough-encased dumplings, traditional to the Canton regions of China. But it also refers to the Cantonese art of turning dumplings into a meal time and occasion; the Chinese answer to afternoon tea. In Dubai, dim sum varies from authentic yum cha served from trolleys, to highfalutin foie gras stuffed concoctions. We ate our way through bamboo steamer after bamboo steamer with dim sum deals and à la carte options galore (with even a Himalayan option thrown in for good measure) to find out where Dubai gives Hong Kong a run for its money when it comes to dim sum.
À la carte China Sea The wacky dining experience is the closest thing you’ll get to being in mainland China in Dubai. Main dishes are superior to the dim sum offerings but don’t let that put you off a visit. The large parcels are a meal in themselves, but lack the finesse of hiher priced options in the city. The spicy gootey dumpling contains meat soaked in hot sauce and the vegetable and prawn dumplings are not strongly-flavoured enough for our liking. Okay as an accompaniment, but you wouldn’t seek it out. If this dim sum were a famous person, it would be… Mao Tse-Tung, seeking conformity. From Dhs12. Near Clock Tower roundabout, Al Maktoum Street, Deira (04 295 9816).
Long Yin With 34 dim sum varieties to choose from, even the most ambitious diners will need a couple of visits to sample everything this sophisticated Cantonese restaurant has to offer. There is a roughly 50/50 split between fried and steamed dim sum with standard offerings on both counts. The crispy taro puff has a crunchy exterior giving way to a gooey, richly-flavoured filling, while the steamed buns and dumplings all have a light texture but strong flavour. Also try the shrimp banana waffle roll, radish cake with dry shrimp and a sticky glutinous rice and chicken serving wrapped and served in a leaf. If this dim sum were a famous person it would be… Chinese state circus acrobats: Small, sophisticated, perfectly formed, beautifully-presented and with plenty of variety. Dhs21 per plate. Long Yin, Le Mèridien Dubai Hotel and Conference Centre, Garhoud, www.longyin-dubai.com (04 217 0000).
Ping Pong For those who are looking for more variety when it comes to dim sum, Ping Pong at The Dubai Mall offers a unique selection. From spicy chicken, vegetarian and seafood options, guests can choose from more than 15 dishes. Seafood lovers can sink their teeth into the crab and prawn dumpling or go for a mixed seafood dumpling with snow crab, prawn and scallop in carrot pastry. For vegetarians, the crunchy golden vegetable dumpling with carrots, shallots, garlic and celery in a turmeric pastry hits the spot.If this dim sum were a famous person, it would be… Lady Gaga: Always full of surprises. From Dhs18 per dish. The Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai (04 339 9088).
Shanghai Chic Popular with holidaying couples for its dimly lit, fine-dining feel, this restaurant offers six different types of dim sum, including a fried foie gras gyoza, typically tasty chicken and shrimp siew mai and the emerald vegetable dumplings, which arrive as radioactive green parcels lightly drizzled in chilli oil. Fried options are limited to spring rolls and gyoza, but the menu holds some tasty Chinese dishes and the service is faultless. If this dim sum were a famous person, it would be… The Great and Powerful Oz, straight out of Emerald City. From Dhs42. Mövenpick Hotel Ibn Battuta Gate, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 444 0000).
The Noodle House The dim sum section of the menu at this pan-Asian includes siew mai, pot stickers, prawn bags and hacao as well as vegetable spring rolls. The steamed chicken siew mai are stuffed with tender meat and mixed vegetables and are deceptively filling, if a little bland. The huge portion of pan-fried vegetable pot stickers looks great, but the filling is slightly uninspired; luckily they’re served with a tasty soy and coriander dressing to liven things up a bit. If this dim sum were a famous person, it would be… Ashton Kutcher: Looks great but that’s about it. From Dhs30 per portion. Madinat Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim (04 366 6730).
Yalla Momos Not strictly dim sum (in the Cantonese sense), but if you are looking for a dumpling experience with a difference, Yalla Momos is difficult to beat. This tiny kiosk in Karama sells ‘momos’, the Himalayan/Nepalese answer to the dumpling. Try plenty of vegetarian, as well as non-vegetarian options, all freshly steamed or fried. Exotically spiced, try delicious dumplings stuffed with shredded spinach and paneer (cheese), or lively ginger and onion seasoned shrimp dumplings with a peppery twist. If this dim sum were a famous person, it would be… The Dalai Lama: A Himalayan export that will bring you inner peace. From Dhs11 per portion. Behind Park Regis Hotel, Opposite Bikanerwala restaurant, Karama (04 385 2233).
Dim sum deals Hakkasan Flagrantly chic Chinese restaurant-lounge-bar Hakkasan’s dim sum is just as you’d expect: a sublime blend of old and new – such as siew mai topped with roe – served with panache and as beautiful to taste as to gaze at. Best sampled with its Friday brunch package, every table can choose just four steamed and four fried dim sum – just one serving of each per person, although there are live roast duck and beef dumpling stations if you’re still peckish – as well as a main and dessert, making it more like a set menu than the relaxed flow of the pastime’s tradition (in which, interestingly, tea is included but water is not). But the tastes are hard to fault. The ha gao and venison puff are especially delicious. If this were a person it would be... Cate Blanchett: Dainty, classy, slightly arrogant, annoyingly on-trend but unmistakably talented. Dhs199 (unlimited teas), Dhs398 (mixed drinks), Dhs558 (bubbly). Fri noon-4pm. Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 384 8484).
Shang Palace An international brand renowned for offering a touch of comfort to globe-trotting Chinese travellers, Shang Palace serves up a reliably authentic, all-you-can-order, à la carte dim sum package every lunch time. Choose from a huge list of more than 30 time-honoured treats, including soups (four), steamed (12) and deep fried (seven) dim sum, as well as rice, noodle and dessert options. The standard is uniformly high, with the steamed favourites such as cheong fun, siew mai and shrimp dumplings outstanding. The competitive price and wide range make this easily one of the best places for a dim sum newbie to sample its many delights. Ask to dine in the main room, rather than on the balcony over the lobby. If this dim sum were a famous person, it would be… Humphrey Bogart: Stylish, traditional, timeless, andever-charming. Dhs115; Dhs188 with three hops. Daily 12.30pm-3pm. Shangri-La Hotel Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 405 2703).
Royal China Some of the tastiest we’ve tried in the city, the assortment of freshly-made dim sum at this London export includes doughy, steamed barbecue chicken buns, minced chicken and prawn varieties as well as Beijing-style dumplings served with vinegar. The service is slick and the jasmine flower tea is reason enough to go. The stand-out by far is the cheung-feung, pieces of sweet barbecued chicken wrapped in glutinous, dumpling-like noodles. If this dim sum were a famous person, it would be… Tom Ford: Slick, stylish and sort of expensive. Dhs188 (tea). Dhs388 (grape). Dhs488 (premium drinks). Fri-Sat noon-3.30pm, Mon 7.30pm-11pm. The Balcony, Precinct Building 4, DIFC (04 354 5543).
The China Club This Cantonese restaurant offers an old-school dim sum dining experience, complete with a traditional style of service, since steamed dumplings are served from a trolley. The daily, unlimited dim sum package offers guests soup, plus a few noodle and rice sides. Leave the latter alone, since they are greasy and unexciting. Fried dim sum includes spring rolls, prawn wontons and more, but the greatest variety and flavour is to be had from the steamed selection (and luckily, this is all included in the unlimited part of the deal). From classics such as ha gao and barbecued chicken buns, try also cuttlefish with sweet satay, succulent beef balls and frothy little clouds of glutinous rice with shrimp inside. If this dim sum were a famous person, it would be… Audrey Hepburn: Vintage, classic and elegant. Dhs99 (including tea). Daily noon-3pm. Dhs139 (including tea). Daily 7.30pm-11pm. Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek (04 205 7333).
The Peacock Basket upon basket of freshly steamed dim sum will be rolled over to you on a trolley when you take your seat for the generous yum cha offer every Friday and Saturday. For Dhs89, you can feast on delicious, traditional dim sum as well as fried variants and a side of soup, all washed down with a pint of hops or free flowing tea. Fresh from the trolley, the steamed dim sum is hard to beat, so make the most of this as the fried options don’t compare. If this dim sum were a famous person, it would be… Tom Hanks: A reliable performer. Dhs89 per person. Fri-Sat noon-3pm. Sheraton Jumeirah Beach Resort, The Walk, JBR (04 399 5533).
Yuan This dim sum ‘yum cha brunch’ offers diners an unlimited array of dumpling choices from an à la carte menu. Made with skill and artistry, these are attractive pieces of dim sum heaven. The menu brims with traditional and contemporary choices of steamed and fried dumplings, spring rolls and salads – the crispy chicken salad with pomelo and a mango plum sauce is a delight. Aside from the dim sum, this stylish restaurant also offers claypot dishes and a nice set of sweets. The restaurant has a cool vibe with a resident DJ playing ambient house. If this dim sum were a famous person, it would be… Lucy Liu: Stylish, elegant and cool. Dhs188 per person. Fri 11.30am-3.30pm Atlantis The Palm, Palm Jumeirah, www.atlantisthepalm.com (04 426 2626).
Around the world in seven dumplings Can’t find what you want on our list? These guys will do your pick-ups and deliveries for you when you need a foodie fix
Empanadas These little fried pasties are found across most South American countries. Try them at Gaucho, where there is a list of gourmet combinations to choose from, such as duck leg confit with foie gras, or ‘humitas’ creamed corn. DIFC (04 422 7898).
Gyoza To the Japanese, dumplings are gyoza. A close relative to the Beijing potsticker or ‘wu-tip’, they originate from China. For an upmarket Japanese take on the humble dumpling, try Zuma’s pan-fried prawn and black cod gyoza. DIFC (04 425 5660).
Mandu Thought to have been brought over by the Mongolians in the 14th century, the Korean dumpling comes steamed and stuffed with a variety of meat or vegetable combinations. At KPOP Chicken, the mandu dumplings come filled with vegetables. Indigo Icon, JLT (04 434 0096).
Manti Thought to have been brought to Central Asian region via the silk trade routes from Asia, opened-topped dumplings manti are an Armenian (and Turkish) speciality. Armenian restaurant Mayrig serves them with yoghurt and sumac. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, Downtown Dubai (04 453 9945).
Pelmeni These little boiled dumplings are common in Russian as well as in other former Soviet States of Central Asia. At Uzbekistani restaurant Uzbegim, pelmeni are served, filled with beef and spices, in soup. The Zen Tower, Dubai Marina (04 392 7311).
Samosa Stuffed pastry treats, usually filled with a mixture of vegetables and formed in a triangle, are a popular snack in India. Want to try an unusual twist? How about chocolate filled samosas for dessert at highly-rated Indian restaurant Indego by Vineet. Grosvenor House Dubai, Dubai Marina (04 317 6000).
Tortelleni The silk route ended in Italy, so perhaps it’s no surprise that dumplings travelled all the way to the Mediterranean. Italian cousins tortellini and ravioli can both be sampled at neighbourhood spot Nais Italian Kitchen and a variety of Italian restaurants around town. HDS Tower, JLT (04 452 9991).