If you haven’t experienced yum cha before, we strongly suggest you put it on the agenda. It’s a brunch experience like no other, where all kinds of dumplings fly out the kitchen on trollies and different cuts of meat such as roast pork, BBQ duck, tripe and tendons abound. The best and only way to do yum cha is to get a big group together for a long session of conversing over some dim sum dishes and copious amounts of hot herbal tea (a classic tactic to help your digestion cope with the non-stop eating that is required). We’re especially lucky in Auckland, considering how numerous the options are when it comes to yum cha restaurants in this city — there seems to be one in every suburb.
In order to give you a bit of guidance, we have rounded up the best yum cha restaurants around Auckland and the must-have dishes you absolutely cannot miss at each.
Rice noodle rolls with XO sauce and sesame balls from Sun World Restaurant
Tucked away on the corner of Khyber Pass and York St, this Newmarket gem is one of the best yum cha restaurants in town. Sun World has all the staples, from the steamed pork buns to the har gow (steamed shrimp) dumplings, but it’s the rice noodles with XO sauce that take centre stage at this restaurant. The dish consists of large noodle sheets that have been rolled and cut into smaller sections, then doused in a spicy seafood sauce, otherwise referred to as ‘XO.’ The sesame balls also cannot go amiss. These fried, chewy morsels are filled with steaming-hot, gooey sesame and sugar paste and it’s impossible to stop at just one.
Oysters with salted egg sauce and egg tarts from Grand Harbour Restaurant
It would be a crime if we talked about yum cha and did not mention Grand Harbour Restaurant. One of the first yum cha restaurants to open in Auckland, this establishment is considered an undisputed OG. For almost 20 years, Grand Harbour has been drawing people to Viaduct Harbour, and it’s still going strong. Although every dish at Grand Harbour is nothing short of divine, the oysters with salted egg sauce are the show stopper. The oyster remains snug in its shell and is drowning in a creamy and rich sauce that work to balance its fresh ocean flavours. Another unmissable dish is the egg tarts — offering some of the flakiest, most buttery pastry in town.
Shark fin dumplings from Grand Park Restaurant
Located in the heart of Epsom, the sister restaurant of Grand Harbour — Grand Park may have entered the Auckland yum cha scene four years after its iconic sibling, but that’s not to say it’s not any less spectacular. Grand Park provides a huge variety of dishes, ensuring that there is something for everyone to enjoy. Named after their curvy shapes (and NOT their contents), the shark fin dumplings are a firm favourite among Grand Park regulars. Despite the fact that these iterations contain no shark meat, it is true that up until the 1980s in China, real shark was used. Now the shark fins have been replaced with thin noodles along with shrimp, crabs and an assortment of mushrooms.
‘Ha kao’ fresh truffle prawn dumpling from Huami
Whether you spell it har gow or ha kao, the fact that these delicious dumplings are an absolute staple to any yum cha experience remains steadfast. On its lunch menu, Huami has given the classic dish a sophisticated spin by adding truffle to each morsel and pack the delicate skin with plump and juicy prawns, while allowing the aromas of the truffle to shine through. Huami’s evening menu also offers some of the most high-quality Chinese we have ever seen with its unbelievably aromatic, fruit wood-roasted peking duck one of the best this city has to offer.
Prawn chee cheong fun and durian balls from Lucky Fortune Restaurant
When it comes to yum cha, service is not usually the priority. The restaurants are manic, filled with hungry customers and the trolley service can get quite frantic and overwhelming, making service feel somewhat rushed. That said, good service is what Lucky Fortune Restaurant in Three Kings is renowned for. That, and its prawn chee cheong fun of course. The steamed rice paper roll is filled with plump prawns and the entire dish is drenched in a sweet soy sauce for a flavoursome kick. Another highlight here is the durian balls offering the perfect way to end the yum cha feast. Renowned for its unique aroma and flavour, the durian is a fruit with pungent notes. Here, its strong flavour has been encapsulated in a chewy, mochi ball and balanced by a generous helping of whipped cream.
Tempura prawn rice rolls from Asian Wok
North Shore locals don’t always have to cross bridges to satisfy their yum cha cravings, with Asian Wok in Browns Bay offering a wide selection of modern and creative dishes. Our favourite is the tempura prawn rice rolls. This dish is similar to the prawn chee cheong fun that was mentioned above, but instead of steamed prawns, the rice rolls wrap around deep-fried prawns which have a golden crisp exterior to contrast the soft noodle sheet. Asian Wok also does a remarkable shu mai that is filled with juicy pork and more prawns than we’ve seen anywhere else.
Pheonix claws and tripe from HKD Chinese Seafood Restaurant
HKD (Hong Kong Delight), is an absolute delight. The dumplings and buns always taste freshly-made, as if they had just come out of the steamer and it’s a favourite of many Chinese people in Auckland. Chicken feet is a very common delicacy in Eastern-Asian cuisine and HKD pushes the boundaries with its jumbo-sized versions. Renamed ‘phoenix claws,’ to reflect the scale, these are the biggest chicken feet we have ever seen and a must-have dish when dining at the Dominion Road yum cha eatery.