Yum Cha, The Breakfast of Champions
If you haven’t tried yum cha, then my friend, you haven’t lived.
Otherwise known as the ultimate hangover cure, yum cha is typically eaten for breakfast (well, more like brunch, if we’re being honest). Between the enticing aromas, the fluffy, cloud-like pork buns, and of course, the dumplings (oh, the dumplings), a yum cha meal is a guaranteed culinary slam dunk.
However, the actual process of securing those steaming baskets for your table can be a bit, um, every man for himself. But fear not, because we’re about to drop some serious pro tips that will exponentially (exponentially!) improve your next dining experience. Fire up those taste buds!
1. The All-Important Stamping Card
One of the cool things about yum cha is that the menu is visual, with waiters rolling around trolleys packed full of steaming bamboo baskets. Once you’re seated, you’ll be given a cardboard card, which is stamped each time a dish is placed on your table. The card will sometimes contain price tiers, indicating the cost of each dish, otherwise, you can assume all dishes are a flat price. When you pay your bill, the cashier will tally up the stamps and give you your total. (It’s always a good idea to keep an eagle eye on the stamping, just saying…).
2. Spy Before You Buy
Sometimes, merely acknowledging a waiter will indicate to that server that you want the dish on their trolley. And before you can say “no, thank-you”, steamer baskets are dropped on your table and your food card is stamped in one, greased-lightning motion. It’s okay to ask to look first, and if it’s not what you’re after — even if it’s already on your table — just say “no, thanks” (but quickly!).
3. Tea for Two (Or Even a Few!)
Tea is always served as you sit for your meal (yum cha literally means ‘drink tea’). Sometimes, you may be offered different types such as jasmine, chrysanthemum or oolong. These teas aid digestion and also act as a palate cleanser between dishes. When your teapot is empty, turn over the lid or leave propped open to indicate that you need a refill. Also, etiquette dictates that you pour tea for the oldest person in the group first, and yourself last. Age before beauty, you guys!
4. Try More Than Fried
Because westerners tend to prefer fried dishes (à la spring rolls), waiters are more likely to swing carts containing these goodies towards your table, rather than the more traditional options (à la chicken feet). Live on the edge a little and don’t shy away from saying no to the fried stuff!
5. Give That Sweet Tooth a Workout
No meal is complete without a little sweet ending. While Chinese cuisine isn’t well known for its desserts, yum cha offers a selection of super delicious plates to sample. Mango pancakes, sesame seed balls, egg tarts and pudding (usually mango, coconut or almond) are all on offer. Try them ALL!
Or, you could just skip all the fuss and order in like a boss. Before you do so, don’t forget to check out Australian most favourite Yum Cha dishes!