Hong Kong food: Dim sum at Maxim’s

Most of you probably know what dim sum is, but just in case you don’t, here’s the definition from Wikipedia:

Dim sum /ˈdimˈsʌm/ (simplified Chinese: 点心; traditional Chinese: 點心; pinyin: Diǎnxīn; Sidney Lau: dim2sam1) is a style of Chinese cuisine (particularly Cantonese but also other varieties) prepared as small bite-sized portions of food served in small steamer baskets or on small plates. Dim sum dishes are usually served with tea, together formed a full tea brunch.

The day after I arrived in Hong Kong, a group of people from the Hong Kong skeptics took me to dim sum at a famous dim sum palace in the Central district, Maxim’s Palace City Hall Restaurant (see here and here for reviews). Hong Kong is arguably the best place on Earth to get dim sum, although I had a mean dim sum in Dongguan, China (pix to come), and some say that Vancouver is no slouch at the tea lunch, either.

Maxim’s is crowded, and we showed up an hour before it opened to get in line, being second after an Australian regular named Kim, who eats there nearly weekly. She gave us the skinny on the best dishes while we were waiting.  And here’s what it looks like—both the ambiance and the fare.

The line snaked down the stairs and onto the next floor by the time the place opened:

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Inside: a sumptuous banquet hall with chandeliers and fancy tablecloths:

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The dim sum is wheeled around on carts, so you can look at everything and choose what you want.

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Some of the carts have labels on them so you don’t have to guess, and some even have videos!

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Shrimp dumplings (I think):

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Pork dumplings with vegetable wrapper:

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Beef balls with scallion:

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Bao, or steamed barbecued pork buns, one of my eternal favorites:

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Soup dumplings, which are made by filling the inside with jelly that turns to soup when they’re steamed. They’re scrumptious, and must be consumed in one bite lest they squirt everywhere. You can see some of the soup leaking out.

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Fried shrimp dumplings:

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Interior of the same, showing the big hunks of shrimp:

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I forgot what these are; perhaps a savvy reader can tell us:

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We had two big plates of the house speciality: barbecued pork (recommended by Kim). Oy, was it good!

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Another cart listing its wares:

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This is how the bill is totted up: each time you get a dish, they stamp the right box. Again, a Chinese-speaking reader can enlighten us about the meaning of the rows and columns:

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Three of us, completey sated, in a postprandial shot. Left to right: Michael Bigelow, me, and David Young. Photo is by Andrew Davidson. All four of my hosts are associated with the Hong Kong Skeptics, founded by David about five years ago.
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Now THAT was a meal. We also had dim sum in mainland China; pictures soon.

23 Comments

  1. Rita
    Posted November 12, 2016 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Oh, that looks GOOD! I’m going out to lunch now, think I’ll do Asian.

  2. BobTerrace
    Posted November 12, 2016 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    …and here I was about to go eat a salad…cruel!

  3. geckzilla
    Posted November 12, 2016 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    You got the soup dumplings. That’s about all that matters! I cannot fit them in one bite myself and must be very careful to not allow any of the precious liquid to escape.

    I don’t know what the unknown thing is. It doesn’t look familiar to me. The chefs do try to make their own creations from time to time and not all places serve identical items.

    The bill is summed up mostly in three categories: Small, Medium, Large. Most of your items were in the small category. Next, medium, which the symbol there (中) is recognizable as part of China’s name, the Middle Kingdom. After that, large. The one at the bottom is probably “specials”. I don’t know what the top is. Would have to ask one of the actual Chinese people in my home.

    Anyway, each server gets their own stamp, and at the end of it all they get a lot of data to see who served what.

    • geckzilla
      Posted November 12, 2016 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

      I just noticed I mixed up large and small. Most of your orders were in the “large” category.

  4. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted November 12, 2016 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    All I’ve got in the house is a Pot Noodle. This is Chinese order torture.

  5. James Walker
    Posted November 12, 2016 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Glad you made it there, it’s one of my favourite places for dim sum (or yam cha “drink tea”)!

    A less traditional place that serves ‘cute’ dim sum is here: http://yumchahk.com/

    Can’t wait until I’m back in HK in a few weeks.

  6. Monika
    Posted November 12, 2016 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    Mouthwatering! This is what I like best about traveling, tasting yummy new foods.

  7. Jenny Haniver
    Posted November 12, 2016 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    In the mid-1970s I once went to a Chinese theater in SF to see “Chronicle of the Years of Fire,” an Algerian-made film about the fight for Algerian independence (this forgotten film far more powerful to me than “The Battle of Algiers”). This theater sometimes screened “art films,” though mainly Chinese films. On the bill with this film was a wild and strange Chinese “documentary” that seemed to have no narrative objective, at least to me (and no subtitles), but as I recall, it would cut between stunning shots of outdoor scenery, such as exotic foliage and water coursing through wild gorges, people eating in fancy restaurants (some animals were alive when cooked and served, which was very difficult for me to watch), and long scenes moving through the interior of an alimentary canal, as if a camera inserted down someone’s gullet and snaked through their digestive tract. This was amazing, and so weird, especially in the context of this inscrutable film.

    The film itself, whatever it was about was something I won’t forget, but another thing about the experience I won’t forget is that when the camera focused on people dining in restaurants, quite audible sounds of gustatory delight emanated from the audience around me. I’d never before been at a film, or in any other situation, where people exclaimed with gusto, and so fervently and frequently, over images of food. Now, everybody does it — witness this post. And I do, too. Yum. I want some.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted November 12, 2016 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

      At the time I didn’t know anything about endoscopes and wondered how this could have been done. Now not mysterious, except as to why it was in the film, not that I didn’t find it interesting, just couldn’t figure out the why.

  8. Mobius
    Posted November 12, 2016 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    Gawd, am I hungry.

  9. bric
    Posted November 12, 2016 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    One thing I noticed in the place we regularly had dim sum breakfasts in H K (on Nathan Road) was that the prices on the English language menu were higher than on the Chinese.

  10. Kiwi Dave
    Posted November 12, 2016 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    The food whose name you’ve forgotten is probably fu pei zhuan (sp?), made with bean curd pastry from which it gets its name and can be fried or steamed.

  11. nwalsh
    Posted November 12, 2016 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    Great food, nice digs. Enjoy.

  12. ToddP
    Posted November 12, 2016 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    That barbecue pork looks SOOOOOO good.

    Envious!

  13. John Harshman
    Posted November 12, 2016 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    Just wondering, if this dim sum was much better than what you could get at, say, Three Happiness in Chicago Chinatown, what made the difference?

    • madscientist
      Posted November 12, 2016 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

      I’d never been to Three Happiness so I can’t comment on that specifically, but many restaurants catering to foreigners really don’t make the food anything like what you’d get in various parts of China. There are also other reasons why the restaurant might not prepare the dish in quite the same way, such as the availability of ingredients. The best way to edumacate people about the real thing is to take ’em to a restaurant that does things the Right Way – for some it’s a pleasant surprise and for others it’s an unpleasant experience.

      • John Harshman
        Posted November 13, 2016 at 8:53 am | Permalink

        Let me generalize. Assuming for the sake of argument that dim sum in Hong Kong is superior to dim sum anywhere in the U.S., what makes it so? Visually, it’s identical. I don’t think the ingredients are any different. As for “catering to foreigners”, when I go to dim sum, there’s generally a large Chinese majority in the restaurant, though maybe that’s just the Bay area. So I don’t think you have captured the difference.

  14. madscientist
    Posted November 12, 2016 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    Not all entirely Cantonese fare, but all good nonetheless. I miss having a good Cantonese restaurant around – or any other restaurant providing cuisine from different regions of China. Well at least I can get *some* Cantonese and Hainan cuisine a mere 2 hours drive away, but it’s been a long time since I’ve had any genuine Shanghai or Beijing cuisine.

  15. SeniorSkeptik
    Posted November 13, 2016 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    I lived in Hong Kong for a couple of years in the mid 60″

  16. SeniorSkeptik
    Posted November 13, 2016 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    I lived in Hong Kong for a couple of years in the mid 60’s. On weekends I would wander around HK and Kowloon, frequently eating at outdoor food stands and hole-in-the-wall restaurants sampling their offerings. Food was delicious, never got sick.
    Now if you’ll excuse me, my mouth is drooling.

  17. Amy
    Posted November 14, 2016 at 6:18 am | Permalink

    Come to Chinatown or Flushing, you can have these dim sum any time. Last time, your food guide did not take you to dim sum place. Overall Chinese food is way ahead of most of the Asian countries, Japan may be the one exception. These people, indulge too much on eating.

    How are you feeling about the Trump era? Enjoy food and pat squirrel? :)))

  18. Posted November 14, 2016 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Good to see the carts. So many people here in Ottawa think that dim sum just means “appetizers” and ignore that part of menus. There are a few places that do carts left, but they are very rare. I for one love the carts, because it encourages trying new and wonderful items. Interesting to see the soup dumplings – I took my parents to a place that specializes in them in Montreal a few years ago. Very fun, but very messy …🙂 (We also had a wonderful seaweed salad, with great vinegar topping.)


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