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Full steam ahead: where to get dim sum

What makes bite-sized food irresistible? (Don’t tell me you can say no to a mini-burger, teeny quiche or sushi roll.) Is it their neatness, their easy edibility or simply their illusion of portion control? Contrary to the Highlander’s timeless words, there can never be only one.

The most enigmatic member of all the mini edibles must surely be the delicate parcels known as dim sum, a traditional Chinese snack. These nuggets of fragrant fillings are enclosed by paper-thin wrappers or light dough and then steamed (dumplings and buns), boiled in broth (wontons) or fried (pot-stickers). The little bundles can contain anything – even biltong and cream cheese in some local eateries – but the most popular ingredients are seasoned prawns, pork, beef, chicken and vegetables.

Har gao (steamed prawn dumplings), with their translucent skins and pleated curves, might be intimidating, but dim sum can also be approachably doughy, in the case of the lovable char siu bao, the lightest and fluffiest of steamed buns filled with barbeque pork. The wonton member of the family is wrapped up like a bonbon and usually served in a broth, and siu mai are more flirtatious wontons that peek open at the top.

We encourage you go out with an open mind and an empty stomach to order everything (yes, even the biltong) and watch the steaming baskets emerge from the kitchen with their hot treasures.

Be sure to let us know in the comments if we’ve missed your favourite dim sum spot.

Johannesburg

Beluga (Waterfall Corner)
Order: From their comprehensive menu, which includes steamed dumplings filled with spinach and cream cheese (R37 for three); prawn, mushroom and spring onion (R52 for three); chicken, coriander and corn (R44 for three) and duck, honey and ginger (R58 for three). The pot-sticker collection includes beef, coriander and ginger (R46 for three); duck, honey and ginger (R52 for three); lamb and XO sauce (R46 for three); spicy peanut, chicken and coriander (R44 for three) and an unconventional version with roasted butternut, feta and onion (R40 for three). Beluga’s menu has similar fillings for deep-fried wontons (R48-R64 for four). Char siu bao (steamed buns) come in variations of duck and sweet barbeque sauce (R58 for three); chicken, chilli, ginger and coriander (R45 for three); duck, honey and ginger (R56 for three) and lamb and XO sauce (R46 for three).

The Good Luck Club (Illovo)
Order: Steamed dumplings with fillings of spinach and cream cheese (R39 for three); salmon and cream cheese (R48 for three); chicken, spring onion and ginger (R42 for three); prawn and mushroom (R48 for three); and butternut, mushroom and spinach (R39 for three). You could also opt for a platter of spinach, prawn and chicken dumplings (two pieces of each for R86); a platter of salmon, butternut and chicken (two pieces of each for R86); and a platter of prawn, salmon and spinach (two pieces of each for R90).

Gwefey Asian Cuisine (Sandton)
Order: Beef curry potstickers (R48 for four); minced pork Shanghai balls (R56 for four); vegetarian budda jiaozi (R42 for four); Chinese barbeque pancakes (R48 for three); char siu buns (R36 for two); steamed chicken dumplings (R52 for four) and steamed prawn dumplings (R58 for four).

The interior at Gwefey Asian Cuisine. . Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

The interior at Gwefey Asian Cuisine. . Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Koi (Rosebank and Sandton)
Order: Steamed dumplings including spinach and cream cheese (R40); butternut, spinach and feta (R40 for three); prawn and shiitake mushrooms (R48 for three); butternut, spinach, mushrooms and pine nuts (R42 for three); and chicken and ginger (R46 for three). The menu also includes beef pot-stickers (R46 for three); lamb pau (R48 for three); salmon and cream cheese dumplings topped with caviar (R48 for three); chicken and prawn siu mai (open wontons) topped with caviar (R48 for three); chicken, ginger and chive wontons (R46 for three) and prawn puffs (R46 for three). You could also order a platter of six pieces (R89); eight pieces (R126); a vegetarian option (R78); and 10 pieces (R147).

Kong Roast (Fourways)
Order: Prawn har gao (R65 for four); spinach and creamy cheese gao (R61 for four); prawn and celery parcels (R65 for four); Hong Kong pears – duck, chicken and prawn deep-fried dumplings (R64 for three); crab meat, spring onion, cream cheese and mushroom dumplings (R55 for four); gyoza with leeks and carrots (R56 for minced pork; R57 for spicy lamb); and pork and prawn siu mai open wrappers (R69 for four).

Lai Lai Garden (Montecasino)
Order: Pork dumplings, steamed or deep-fried (R16 for three); deep-fried pork wontons (R35 for six pieces); pork siu mai (R30 for four); and prawn dumplings (R30 for three).

Orient (Melrose Arch)
Order: Prawn har gao (R58 for four); spinach and cream cheese gao (R53 for four); prawn and celery in rice wrappers (R58 for four); Hong Kong pears – mashed potato with chicken, duck and prawn (R65 for three); siu mai portions of four (pork and prawn R57; chicken and mushroom R63; beef R65; pork R53); chicken and pork deep-fried wontons (R63 for four); and bao fluffy buns with barbeque pork (R51 for three).

Regal Palace
Order: Vegetable spring rolls (R15 for 3); prawn crackers (R18 for 3); steamed prawn dumplings (R32 for 3); pork and prawn dumplings (R32 for 4) and steamed char siu buns (R20 for 3). Every Sunday from 9am they serve a full dim sum buffet, which is a favourite of Chinese families.

Shun De Chinese Restaurant (Cyrildene)
Tucked in the heart of Cyrildene, Shun De is well known for its authentic dishes. So authentic, in fact, that we struggled to find anyone to speak English to us over the phone to confirm the prices of their popular deep-fried wontons, prawn wonton noodles and prawn dumplings.

So Yum (Hyde Park)
Order: steamed buns with fillings of honey barbeque pork (R50 for three), duck (R57 for three) and vegetable (R47 for three); steamed pork siu mai (R50 for four) and chicken and Chinese mushroom siu mai (R50 for four); many gau options including butternut (R47 for four), crab and cream cheese (R55 for four) and scallop (R55 for four); specialities like lamb gyoza (R55) and Hong Kong pears (R60 for three); wontons served with sweet-sour sauce in variations of prawn (R55 for four) and duck (R55 for four); and a selection of spring rolls (R47 to R55 for four).

Pretoria

Beluga (Hazelwood)
Order: From their comprehensive menu, which includes steamed dumplings filled with spinach and cream cheese (R37 for three); prawn, mushroom and spring onion (R52 for three); chicken, coriander and corn (R44 for three) and duck, honey and ginger (R58 for three). The pot-sticker collection includes beef, coriander and ginger (R46 for three); duck, honey and ginger (R52 for three); lamb and XO sauce (R46 for three); spicy peanut, chicken and coriander (R44 for three) and an unconventional version with roasted butternut, feta and onion (R40 for three). Beluga’s menu has similar fillings for deep-fried wontons (R48-R64 for four). Char siu bao (steamed buns) come in variations of duck and sweet barbeque sauce (R58 for three); chicken, chilli, ginger and coriander (R45 for three); duck, honey and ginger (R56 for three) and lamb and XO sauce (R46 for three).

Koi (Lynnwood)
Order: Steamed dumplings including spinach and cream cheese (R40); butternut, spinach and feta (R40 for three); prawn and shiitake mushrooms (R48 for three); butternut, spinach, mushrooms and pine nuts (R42 for three); and chicken and ginger (R46 for three). The menu also includes beef pot-stickers (R46 for three); lamb pau (R48 for three); salmon and cream cheese dumplings topped with caviar (R48 for three); chicken and prawn siu mai (open wontons) topped with caviar (R48 for three); chicken, ginger and chive wontons (R46 for three) and prawn puffs (R46 for three). You could also order a platter of six pieces (R89); eight pieces (R126); a vegetarian option (R78); and 10 pieces (R147).

Koi in Lynnwood.

Koi in Lynnwood. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Golden Butterfly, formerly Shen Zhou Chinese Dumpling Restaurant (Hatfield)
Order: Beef and pork dumplings, steamed or fried (R38 for 11 pieces); prawn spring rolls (R29 for four); and crab and cheese spring rolls (R22 for two large).

Wing Hin (Hazelwood)
Order: Prawn har gao (R27 for three); prawn and chive dumplings (R27 for three); pork buns (R24 for three); spring rolls – beef, prawn, chicken, pork (R11 each); and vegetarian spring rolls (R9 each).

Zhongnan Restaurant (Faerie Glen)
Order: Fried pork dumplings (R28 for four); vegetable spring rolls (R10 each); chicken, prawn or beef spring rolls (R11 each); and prawn spring rolls (R13 each).

Durban

Beluga (Gateway)
Order: From their comprehensive menu, which includes steamed dumplings filled with spinach and cream cheese (R37 for three); prawn, mushroom and spring onion (R52 for three); chicken, coriander and corn (R44 for three) and duck, honey and ginger (R58 for three). The pot-sticker collection includes beef, coriander and ginger (R46 for three); duck, honey and ginger (R52 for three); lamb and XO sauce (R46 for three); spicy peanut, chicken and coriander (R44 for three) and an unconventional version with roasted butternut, feta and onion (R40 for three). Beluga’s menu has similar fillings for deep-fried wontons (R48-R64 for four). Char siu bao (steamed buns) come in variations of duck and sweet barbeque sauce (R58 for three); chicken, chilli, ginger and coriander (R45 for three); duck, honey and ginger (R56 for three) and lamb and XO sauce (R46 for three).

Beluga's outside area.

Beluga’s outside area. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

China Plate (Umgeni)
Order: fried pork dumplings (R47.50 for eight) and wonton soup for R19.50.

Nam Jai House (Empangeni)
Order: Har gau in variations of spinach and cream cheese; prawn and chicken; chicken and cashew nuts; mixed vegetables; and pork and peanut (all R50 for three). You can also order siu mai (open dumplings) filled with pork, chicken, beef and duck (all R50 for three).

Yang Chinese (Hillcrest)
Order: Steamed pork dumplings (R48 for eight) and steamed pork dim sum (R58 for eight).

Cape Town

Beijing Opera (Foreshore)
Order: pot-stickers of beef, chicken, veg, and pork and chives (R25 for four pieces); buns of pork, BBQ pork, chicken, veg and chive (R15 each); and steamed dumplings including chicken siu mai, pork siu mai, pepper chilli shrimp, veg dim sum, diamond har gau of prawn and corn, peanut and pork, Shanghai pork dumpling soaked in broth, prawn and chive, and pepper, chilli and shrimp (all R45 for four).

Beluga (Greenpoint)
Order: From their comprehensive menu, which includes steamed dumplings filled with spinach and cream cheese (R37 for three); prawn, mushroom and spring onion (R52 for three); chicken, coriander and corn (R44 for three) and duck, honey and ginger (R58 for three). The pot-sticker collection includes beef, coriander and ginger (R46 for three); duck, honey and ginger (R52 for three); lamb and XO sauce (R46 for three); spicy peanut, chicken and coriander (R44 for three) and an unconventional version with roasted butternut, feta and onion (R40 for three). Beluga’s menu has similar fillings for deep-fried wontons (R48-R64 for four). Char siu bao (steamed buns) come in variations of duck and sweet barbeque sauce (R58 for three); chicken, chilli, ginger and coriander (R45 for three); duck, honey and ginger (R56 for three) and lamb and XO sauce (R46 for three).

Dim sum at Beluga (Greenpoint). Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Dim sum at Beluga (Greenpoint). Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Erawan (Wynberg)
Order: Prawn and chive dumplings, steamed or grilled (R44 for three); spicy beef dumplings with mushrooms, coriander, ginger and garlic, steamed or grilled (R41 for three); prawn and water chestnut dumplings (R41 for three); deep-fried prawns with spring onion in crispy wonton wrappers (R44 for four); and har gao of salmon and cream cheese (R40 for three), spinach and cream cheese (R40 for three) and mixed vegetables (R40 for three).

Haiku (City Bowl)
Order: Har gau of prawn with bamboo shoots, prawn with chives, spicy prawn with dhania and green chillies, kingklip with basil and green chillies (all R50 for three); har gao of Asian mushrooms, spinach and cream cheese or mixed vegetables (R50 for four). Also available are duck char siu bao (R50 for three); siu mai in variations of prawn with bamboo shoots, spicy prawn with dhania and green chillies, and chicken with ginger and spring onion (all R50 for three); xiao long bao in options of spicy lamb with dhania and green chillies, beef with ginger and spring onion; and spicy chicken with dhania and green chillies (R50 for three). Pot-stickers include spicy lamb with dhania and green chillies; beef with miso; spicy chicken with basil and green chillies (R50 for three); and Asian mushrooms (R50 for four). Fried wonton options are prawn with spring onion and spicy chicken with dhania (R50 for three).

Hallelujah (Tamboerskloof)
This popular spot doesn’t actually do traditional dim sum, but you can order dishes like grilled prawns on steamed buns with coriander and lime sauce and pork belly on steamed buns with cucumber and homemade hoisin sauce.

Hallelujah

The interior at Hallelujah. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

I Love My Laundry (Bree Street and Buitengracht Street)
Order: Only steamed pockets (no buns and no pot-stickers) from these dim sum specialists. The menu changes regularly, but regular options include pork and cabbage; pork and chive; pork and coriander; wild Chinese mushrooms; leek and tofu; kimchi; and spicy vermicelli (R40 for eight). Speciality items include prawn and chicken; chicken and cracked pepper; and wild rice and mushroom (R60 for eight).

Kitima (Hout Bay)
Order: Crystal Jade siu mai – steamed spinach dumplings filled with mixed seafood (R60 for four); siu mai of prawn and pork topped with salmon trout caviar (R60 for four); Golden Secrets – diced prawn, shiitake mushrooms, carrots and celery in a rice wrapper (R60 for four); prawn har gau (R60 for four); veggie gau (R50 for four); spinach and cream cheese gau (R50 for four); and Geaw Za, which are pan-fried dumplings filled with minced pork, garlic and ginger (R50 for three).

Nuri (City Bowl)
Order: Steamed dumplings in unconventional variations of potato salad (R25 for three); spinach and cream cheese (R30 for three); biltong and cream cheese (R35 for three); smoked salmon, cream cheese and chives (R38 for three); prawn, spring onion and chives (R38 for three); and sweet custard pau (R30 for three). The fried wonton options include prawn, spring onion and chives (R35 for three) and Thai tuna (R35 for three). Opt for a dim sum tasting plate for R59.

O’Ways Tea Café (Claremont)
Order: A dim sum platter for one, which comes with a pot of speciality tea (R169) or a platter for two, with two pots of tea (R249). The regular dim sum on offer are bao buns served with seasonal greens, spring rolls and har gao. The menu changes every six weeks.

Saigon (Gardens)
Order: Steamed pork dumplings with water chestnuts (R52 for four); steamed pork and prawn dumplings with water chestnuts (R52 for four); steamed spinach, garlic, chives and cream cheese dumplings (R52 for four); steamed prawn dumplings (R52 for four); spicy pan-fried Japanese pot-stickers (R55 for four) and pan-fried mushroom pot-stickers (R55 for four).

Sake House Restaurant & Sushi Bar (Claremont)
Order: Prawn and pork steamed dumplings or pork steamed dumplings (both R45 for four).

Sevruga (V&A Waterfront)
Order: From their comprehensive menu, which includes steamed dumplings filled with spinach and cream cheese (R37 for three); prawn, mushroom and spring onion (R52 for three); chicken, coriander and corn (R44 for three) and duck, honey and ginger (R58 for three). The pot-sticker collection includes beef, coriander and ginger (R46 for three); duck, honey and ginger (R52 for three); lamb and XO sauce (R46 for three); spicy peanut, chicken and coriander (R44 for three) and an unconventional version with roasted butternut, feta and onion (R40 for three). Sevruga’s menu has similar fillings for deep-fried wontons (R48-R64 for four). Char siu bao (steamed buns) come in variations of duck and sweet barbeque sauce (R58 for three); chicken, chilli, ginger and coriander (R45 for three); duck, honey and ginger (R56 for three) and lamb and XO sauce (R46 for three).

South China Dim Sum Bar (City Bowl)
Order: Chicken wontons with Szechuan soy sauce (R30 for three); lamb pot-stickers with spicy yoghurt drip (R30 for three); beef pot-stickers with black vinegar (R28 for three); vegetarian pot-stickers with Vietnamese dipping sauce (R28 for three); char siu bao with honey-roasted pork and onion (R12 per bun); and dow sa bao, which are fluffy buns filled with sweet red bean paste (R12 each).

Tao Yuan Asian Restaurant (Sea Point)
Order: Prawn har gau (R30 for three); pork and prawn har gao (R28 for three); pork bao buns (R28 for two); vegetarian dumplings (R25 for three); and pork dumplings, steamed or fried (R25 for three).

Xiang Yuan (Sea Point)
Order: Prawn dumplings (R29 for three); pork and prawn siu mai open wontons (R29 for four); chicken and prawn siu mai (R29 for four); barbeque pork buns (R29 for three); chiu chao dumplings of pork, barbeque pork, celery, coriander and peanuts (R34 for three); pan-fried pork buns (R28 for three); and pan-fried dumplings (R30 for six).

Winelands

Genki (Stellenbosch)
Order: Steamed prawn and water chestnut dumplings (R45 for four); vegetable spring rolls (R35 four four); salmon and cream cheese spring rolls (R50 for four); and spicy tuna spring rolls (R48 for four).

Lucky Gao Dim Sum Bar (Stellenbosch)
Order: Har gao with fillings of spinach and cream cheese (R8 each) and salmon and cream cheese (R6 each); chicken won tons (R5 each); beef dumplings (R7.50 each); and steamed pork buns (R9 each).

While we make every effort to ensure that our information is current and correct, some items and prices may change without our knowledge.

Have we forgotten your favourite? Let us know in the comments.

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