“Yum Cha” or “Dim Sum”

I grew up in Penang knowing “yum cha” as “dim sum” with my grandfather. He used to take the little ones; that is, us little siblings – brother, sister, aunty, uncle, nephew depending on our relationship with one another. We were all about the same young age between one to ten years difference. My grandfather would go for his usual early morning walk. In his good mood, he would come home first and collect us little ones for an early morning treat at his favourite “kopitiam” (that is, coffee shop in Penang local dialect – Hokkien). Only those little ones who woke up early got to follow him. Grandfather would order a big pot of freshly brewed strong Chinese tea. In the old days, the tea would come in a large aluminum pot and a shallow plastic bowl filled with boiling hot water with little Chinese tea cups, little saucers and chopsticks. The hot water was used to sterilise the cups, saucers and chopsticks before using them. Then came the little treats of delightful dishes passionately known as “dim sum”, which was really a variety of little dishes (in our modern world, dim sum is almost like a small “tasting” plate). Called it the old traditional Chinese way of degustation breakfast meal. That was my childhood memory.

Turning the clock forward to today’s time, Dim Sum is now available in almost all Chinatown in western capital cities. They are extremely popular and the good ones usually will have crowd lining up as early as 10 in the morning. Most places do not take booking. You pick a number as you arrived and wait for your table depending on the number of guests. Other restaurants do take booking and provide two seatings.

I have used the word “yum cha” and “dim sum” interchangeably. “yum cha” is a Cantonese word which refers to drinking tea, whereas “dim sum” depending on how you pronounce it, is also a Cantonese word but refers to “little dishes”. It depends on where you are, the phrase is used interchangeably but refers to the same thing – little dishes and drinking tea. In Australia, it is more commonly known among the Chinese as “yum cha”, but in Penang, my hometown, it is known as “dim sim” in Hokkien among the local Chinese. I like to call it “yum cha” here in Australia, but again when I am back home in Penang, I will call it “dim sim”. Sounds confusing enough??

In Hobart, we are very lucky to have a good “Yum Cha” place at the elegant and best Chinese Restaurant in Tasmania, “Me Wah“. This is a small city and to have such a good Yum Cha’s place is indeed very special. There are not much varieties compare to the bigger cities but good enough for the small crowd here. The small selection of “dim sum” has the advantage of being very fresh.

At Me Wah, they offer yum cha on both Saturday and Sunday with two seatings. One starts at 11 am, and the second seating starts at 1 pm. I have been to the Saturday and Sunday 11 am seating, and also the Sunday 1 pm seating. My preferred choice is the Sunday 1 pm seating. I have not tried the Saturday 1 pm seating before. But, what I have noticed with the Sunday 1 pm seating is that they bring out the trolleys with the food. I love that. That is how it should be done. The trolleys will move around the tables very quickly and you pick what you want to eat. The other time I have been there, which was the 11 am seating, I had to order from the menu. I like the trolley movement for yum cha as this is what yum cha is all about. The chaotic-ness of a moving trolley and the waiter/waitress calling out, “would you like Sui Mai, Har Kow, Char Siew Pow….” adds to the experience of a true Chinese style experience of enjoying the dim sum. But, Me Wah is a proper and fine dining Chinese restaurant which lacks the noise and rude services that come with a typical yum cha place like in Sydney’s Chinatown. It offers an entire different experience. It is smooth and very professional.

The other thing about yum cha that is missing in today’s time is that it is almost like a Chinese fast food place. You get in. You order what you want very quickly as the trolley passes by. You eat quickly and then you leave. Everything done and dusted in less than an hour. In the past during my grandfather’s time, they would sat down, read the newspaper, ordered the food and took their time to eat, drank the tea, chat with friends and drank more tea which could last for a couple of hours. There was no rush. It was an enjoyment of drinking tea (that is why it is called “yum cha”), which purify the body and mind.

Last Sunday, my partner and I went to Me Wah for yum cha. It was fully packed. We had a wonderful time and meal. It was definitely a great place to enjoy a good yum cha in Hobart. We had 8 different dishes and a bottle of Goatyhill Riesling with a total bill of $109.40. The wine cost $44.

Sunday Yum Cha at Me Wah

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Note: the post image is not taken at Me Wah. That was a photo I took in Penang at a Dim Sum’s place in Kimberley Street. All other photos were taken at Me Wah.

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About Victor

I live in Melbourne. Blogging as a pleasure. Sharing my thoughts, mostly on food and places I find interesting. I am on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook Page which you can follow by clicking on the link on my blog page.
Gallery | This entry was posted in Eating out in Tasmania, In Tasmania, Places, Restaurants and Cafes and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to “Yum Cha” or “Dim Sum”

  1. bri says:

    I am very glad to see you blogging again, Victor!
    The yum cha pics look delicious. I have been meaning to go there for yum cha for a very long time. Must do so soon!

    • Victor says:

      Hi Bri – thanks. You will be happy as long as you don’t compare the prices to what you will get in Sydney Chinatown. Me Wah is the best in town.

  2. Rita says:

    I absolutely LOVE yum cha. Many years ago (about 25 years ago), as parents of a young family holidaying with relatives in Sydney, we regularly partook of Sydney’s huge selection of yum cha’s, in both Chinatown and Manly. The kids always asked to be taken to yum cha but it was always only there in Sydney that we could have it. Hobart people looked at you blankly if ever you bought up the subject of yum cha, and clearly didn’t have a clue what yum cha was, or, if they had known, looked down on you for having gone over to the ‘dark side’ and eaten foreign food! We are SO progressive here in Hobart – NOT!!!

    A few brave Chinese people tried starting up this wonderful concept here in Hobart, but after a while, they always had to close down due to lack of constant turnover. The most notable that springs to mind is the couple who subsequently went down to Sandy Bay to start up Wings, following the closure of their Fortuna (yum cha) Restaurant in Elizabeth St, North Hobart. The food there was fabulous , and my now-32-year-old son has spent all his adult life searching for a Mongolian Lamb dish to equal theirs at Fortuna, which he enjoyed eating as a young boy! My favourite there was the stuffed chicken wings. You would have to hold a gun to my head to make me eat chicken wings normally, but Fortuna’s were delicious.

    I love Me Wah’s yum cha too, and your pics have now made me crave another dose of it, asap!

    • Victor says:

      Hi Rita – thanks for sharing the past. I never knew about the earlier days of Fortuna. Let me know if you plan to go. Love to catch up with you again. Cheers!

  3. Freya Su says:

    Any good yum cha in Launceston? Please say yes!

    • Victor says:

      Hi Freya, I am not familiar with the food scene in Launceston. Sorry. I was hoping that Me Wah offers YC at their Lonny restaurant, but just had a look at their website. Looks like they only do it in Hobart. Cheers, Victor

  4. Michelle says:

    Hooray! I’m glad you’ve started another blog Victor!
    I love yum cha, we always make time to have it when we go back to Sydney, often instead catching up with friends! (although they are always invited to join us)

    I always wonder though, why the har gow lady only comes by after you’ve paid the bill and you’re leaving the table.

    • Victor says:

      Hi Michelle, I remember that as well…in Sydney’s Chinatown. There is always that one last cart that hasn’t pass by and we had to go. So much rushing at the table. Hee hee. M y favourite was Marigold. But that was years ago now. Have never been back to Sydney for maybe 6 yrs now. Prefer to fly to Melb. Closer.

  5. Shirley says:

    I went to Me Wah for yumcha and was not impressed. It was my first yumcha in Hobart. The dim sum were a bit too plain for me and far far too expensive!!! I’m used to paying $30 max per person in Melbourne and very tasty and lots of variety too! Between 3 people we payed $150!!! Also they did not have “dou fu fa” (bean curd dessert in ginger syrup) and when I asked the waitress, who was Chinese by the way, she didn’t even know what that was! How can you have a yum cha restaurant that doesn’t serve dou fu fa??! or one where the wait staff don’t even know what it is?!?
    Although in saying that, Me Wah is probably the best yumcha place in Hobart. I had yumcha at the Castle in Lenah Valley and the wrappers tasty rubbery, like the dim sum was over steamed, or else recooked ie. recycled from a previous day. I don’t bother going to yumcha in Hobart. Too expensive and not very good quality.

    • Victor says:

      I understand what you mean by both places, especially at the Castle. But, it is Hobart. Me Wah is a good place for Yum Cha. But, you have to do it on a Sunday 1 pm booking. I love my “tau fah” as well. Usually, it only cost both of us $25-$30 pp at Me Wah once you have been there a few times, because we only order what we want, not the lot.

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