飲茶 The Civilised Lunch
I’ve just travelled 25 minutes there and 25 back just to eat. What, didn’t I have perfectly good ingredients for Sichuan food in my fridge? you ask. Yes, of course. But no matter how good and life-giving those chillies are, every so often I’m overcome with an intense longing for drinking tea – 飲茶 (yam cha). Or rather, eating dim sum. (點心)
Because, although it’s called Drink Tea, it’s all about the food. Those alluring little packets of goodness arriving three or four together in a basket or on a plate – they call, nay, scream out, to me! I feel the need for a session about every five days or so. What is it that creates the addiction? I’ve always avoided finding out exactly what’s in dim sum but I suspect there’s rather a lot of lard…
Testicles? No, they are 煎韭菜餃(chin gau choy gau – pan-fried chive dumplings. With pork, hello!). For some reason these are much more common in the mainland. Perhaps HK people are more squeamish when it comes to biting into a distinctly testicle-like object? When they do appear on the menu in Hong Kong they tend to be called Japanese dumplings and be considerably smaller than in the mainland.
Ah, 飲茶(yam cha)! It’s so civilised! If there’s something you don’t like, you can just order another basket, and another, and another. You’re not stuck with one big dish all to yourself that you have to sit and chew and chew and discreetly spit into your handbag if you mis-order.
I’d experiment with various forms of tea though, if I were you. If you’re Caucasian, the staff will plonk down jasmine tea on your table no matter whet, instead of asking 你飲咩茶呀？(Lei yam meh cha ah – you drink what kind of tea ah) like they do with Asians. Not fair! And jasmine tastes like perfume!
If you want to find out more about Yam Cha, teas and dim sum, take a crash course in Dim Summing with Happy Jellyfish People’s Democratic Language Bureau. It’s clean, convenient and almost without violence.
香片 (heung pin – fragrant flakes [jasmine tea])