Brought to you by Spice Temple
It’s easy to fall into a rut and order the same dishes every time you go for yum cha – after all, you know the chicken dumplings are delicious. But stick to the same line-up for every lunchtime feast and you’ll miss out on the best part of yum cha: the chance to try something new. Luckily, Spice Temple Sydney’s head chef Andy Evans knows the formula to perfecting your yum cha experience.
The biggest mistake yum cha novices make? Going too hard on the fried food. “Choose some things that are boiled, some that are fried, some steamed and some raw, like a crunchy pickle,” says Evans (Spice Temple offers a bitey cabbage and radish pickle as well as cooling cucumbers with garlic and ginger). “If you get everything fried you’ll walk out feeling too full. Asian food is all about balance.” Aim for a selection of proteins and at least one choice where vegies are the hero – eight to 10 little dishes should do the trick. And always order the har gao (steamed prawn dumplings) for an indication of how good the restaurant is, says Evans. “If they’re good then you’re in for a treat.”
Step outside your culinary comfort zone
You know you like steamed pork buns (who doesn’t?) but yum cha is a chance to be more adventurous with your Chinese food. You might discover a new favourite dish and even if you don’t like it, you won’t have to spend the rest of the meal staring at the leftovers. Look for options like braised chicken feet or fried tripe (it’s done with chilli salt at Spice Temple). “Be brave, grab it and try it, “ says Evans.
Keep condiments simple
All you need is a little soy with house-made chilli sauce or a few slices of the fresh stuff. Pick up, dip and bite. A slosh of red or black vinegar can also add tang, says Evans, if the yum cha house has it.
Drink tea, not alcohol
While a lunchtime tipple is basically a requirement when you can escape the office on a Friday, sipping tea is your best option with yum cha – the name translates to “drink tea” in Cantonese. It will help you digest the copious amount of carbs you’ve just consumed in dumpling form. Many yum cha joints have an extravagant tea service but a high-quality pot of piping hot jasmine is really all you need.
Never forget dessert
“Always go for the egg tarts,” says Evans. Who are we to argue?