The Best 15 Must-Try Dim Sums in Guangzhou
Dim sum is one of the specialties of Guangzhou, with more than 1,000 kinds of dim sum available. Here are the 15 best dim sums you should consider trying when traveling in Guangzhou.
1. Steamed Rice Noodle Rolls
Steamed rice noodle rolls are the most famous Guangzhou dim sum. The different fillings are rolled into thin rice flour sheets and cooked. The salty sauce drizzled on top makes them more flavorful. The most popular flavors include egg rice roll, pork rice roll, and shrimp rice roll.
- Chinese name: 肠粉 chángfěn ‘intestine pasta’
- Recommended eateries: Yuanji Changfen (源记肠粉), Yinji Changfen (银记肠粉)
2. Shrimp Dumplings
Shrimp dumplings were created in a small teahouse in a village on the outskirts of Guangzhou. Traditional shrimp dumplings are half-moon shaped and have 12 folds. The traditional stuffing consists of shrimp meat and bamboo shoots, but there are many variations on bamboo shoots now.
Unlike ordinary dumplings, the skin of shrimp dumplings is made of sticky rice flour. You can see the tender shrimp through the crystal-clear skin after steaming, which is appetizing.
- Chinese name: 虾饺 xiājiǎo /sshyaa-jyao/
- Recommended eateries: Xiajiao Sister (虾饺妹), Taotao Ju (陶陶居), Dian Du De (点都德)
3. Fried Salty Dumplings
Fried salty dumplings are a traditional dim sum in Guangzhou. Fried minced pork and mushrooms are mixed and wrapped in skins made of glutinous rice flour, then fried until they turn golden. The crispy outside and tender inside combo tastes great.
- Chinese name: 炸咸水饺 zháxiánshuǐjiǎo /jaa-sshyen-shway-jyao/
- Recommended eateries: Panxi Restaurant (泮溪酒家), Rongxin Cake Shop (荣馨饼屋)
4. Shaomai (Steamed Dumplings)
Shaomai are one of the must-order dim sums for Cantonese morning tea. Different from those in other places, the outside skins of Cantonese shaomai are made of egg instead of dough and are filled with pork, shrimp, and crab legs. The tops are decorated with crab roe.
- Chinese name: 烧麦 shāomài ‘cooked wheat’
- Recommended eateries: Lucky Tea House (幸运楼), Guangzhou Restaurant (广州酒家)
5. Chashao Bao (BBQ Pork Buns)
Chashao bao are one of the four most popular dim sums selected for Cantonese morning tea, along with shrimp dumplings, shaomai, and egg tarts.
The buns are filled with barbecue-flavored pork, which is sweet and salty. They can be either steamed for a fluffy and white texture or baked with a light sugar glaze to produce a smooth golden-brown crust.
- Chinese name: 叉烧包 chāshāo bāo
- Recommended eateries: Guangzhou Restaurant (广州酒家), Dian Du De (点都德)
6. Turnip Cakes
Turnip cakes are a traditional dim sum in Guangzhou, representing the authentic taste of dim sum in local people’s hearts.
Pickled turnip shreds and sausages are added to rice milk with peppers and salt to be steamed or fried. The cakes taste soft and delicious.
- Chinese name: 萝卜糕 luóbogāo /lwor-bor-gao/
- Recommended eatery: 39 Qianjin Road, Haizhu District (a small nameless shop in an alley)
7. Ji Zai Biscuits
Ji zai biscuits are Guangzhou's leading kind of biscuits (U.S. cookies). They are also one of the most popular souvenirs among visitors.
Legend has it that ji zai biscuits’ origin stemmed from the sluggish sales of mooncakes at one time, when biscuit makers at Guangzhou's Chengzhu Teahouse used a mixture of mashed mooncakes, pork, cabbage hearts, mashed garlic, ground pepper powder, and five-spice powder to create the crispy sweet and salty biscuits.
They are shaped like chicks (with imagination) and yellowish, hence the name "ji zai biscuits".
- Chinese name: 鸡仔饼 jī zǎi bǐng ‘chicken young biscuit(s)’
- Recommended eateries: Chengzhu Food Store (成珠食品), Minghua Cake Shop (明华饼店), Lianxiang Lou (莲香楼)
8. Banana Cake
Banana cake is a kind of sweet and soft dim sum. It is made of glutinous rice flour, sticky rice flour mixed with sugar, banana oil, and water. Sometimes sweetened bean paste or jujube paste will be added to increase the taste.
- Chinese name: 香蕉糕 xiāngjiāo gāo /sshyang-jyao gao/
- Recommended eateries: Zanji Longfeng Cake Shop (赞记龙凤礼饼), Jiale Egg Tart King (嘉乐蛋挞王)
9. Cantonese Sponge Cake (Ma La Gao)
Cantonese sponge cake is one of the most common dim sums in Guangzhou teahouses. Authentic Cantonese sponge cake is made of flour, egg, lard, and butter, mixed and fermented for three days, and then steamed.
Cantonese sponge cake in teahouses usually comes in a large round shape and is cut into small pieces for sale. It is golden brown, fluffy, and soft with a slight aroma.
- Chinese name: 马拉糕 mǎ lā gāo ‘horse pull cake’ (presumably once sold from a trailer pulled by a horse)
- Recommended eatery: Guangzhou Restaurant (广州酒家)
10. BBQ Pork Pastries
BBQ pork pastries are one of the most representative Cantonese dim sums. They consist of baked flaky pastry with a barbecued pork filling and are best fresh out of the oven, when the hot crispy crust blends appetizingly in the mouth with the savory meat.
- Chinese name: 叉烧酥 chāshāo sū
- Recommended eateries: Yongchang Cake Shop (永昌饼家), Minghua Cake Shop (明华饼店)
11. Fried Rice Cakes
In Guangzhou, it is a tradition to make fried rice cakes during the Spring Festival (the Chinese New Year Period).
Rice is fried until it turns golden, then ground into rice flour. After which ingredients such as sesame, peanuts, eggs, coconut, etc. are added. Then they’re all put in a wooden rice cake mold to form a shape and baked.
- Chinese name: 炒米饼 chǎomǐ bǐng
- Recommended eateries: Dian Du De (点都德), Chunxin Cake Shop (纯心饼店)
12. Bowl Rice Puddings (Bozai Gao)
Bowl rice puddings are cooked in small earthen bowls. Their mixture of sticky rice flour and wheat flour makes them chewy in texture. Sugar and ingredients such as red beans and diced fruits give them more flavor. They are popular among young people and children.
- Chinese name: 钵仔糕 bōzǎi gāo ‘bowl cake(s)’
- Recommended eatery: Bubugaosheng Bozai Gao (步步高昇钵仔糕)
13. Cantonese Mooncakes
Cantonese mooncakes are characterized by thin skin and a large filling. The ratio of skin to filling is usually 2:8. They are soft to the mouth and delicious in taste.
They have different fillings such as lotus seed, almond, olive kernel, peach kernel, green bean, sesame, salty egg, etc.
The most traditional and classic flavor is lotus mooncake. In 1889, a pastry shop in Guangzhou boiled lotus seeds into lotus paste as a filling for mooncakes. Its lotus mooncake was very popular with customers, so it was renamed Lianxianglou (莲香楼 ‘Lotus Flavor Building’).
- Chinese name: 广式月饼 guǎngshì yuèbǐng /gwung-shrr ywair-bing/
- Recommended eateries: Lianxianglou (莲香楼) a.k.a. Lin Heung Tea House (Lin Heung is Cantonese for ‘Lotus Flavor’)
14. Glutinous Rice Rolls (Bocheng)
Bocheng are a kind of stuffed roll made with a glutinous rice flour pancake that is topped with ingredients then rolled up. Bocheng have two different tastes: salty and sweet.
Sweet bocheng rolls are more popular, which are amply topped with crushed peanuts, sesame seeds, and sugar before rolling. Salty ones are filled with finely chopped sausage, dried shrimp, and leek.
- Chinese name: 薄撑 bóchēng /bor-chnng/ ‘thin full-to-bursting’
- Recommended eateries: Datong Restaurant (大同酒家)
15. Champion Congee
Champion congee is cooked with pork liver, intestines, and kidney. Peanuts, chopped fried dough sticks, and chopped scallions are put on top of the porridge when it is served.
It is said that it was created in the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644):
In that era, a boy who had a great gift for poetry was too poor to go to school and had to sell vegetables for a living.
A congee shop owner felt sorry for him, so every day he called the boy to the shop, bought some of his vegetables, and offered congee to him for free. After several years of schooling, the boy became a ‘champion’ (an imperial examination graduate).
The boy visited the owner as soon as he graduated, and the shop owner asked him to give the congee he ate a name. The boy called it ‘champion congee’.
Because of this name, many parents now buy it for their children to eat before their children take exams, hoping it will bring good luck.
- Chinese name: 及第粥 jídì zhōu /jee-dee jo/ ‘pass-an-imperial-exam congee’
- Recommended eateries: Wuzhanji (伍湛记), Yinji Changfen (银记肠粉)
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