The Restaurant: Dumpling grounds
Andrea Burgener picks her favourite dim sum spots in the land
For me, dim sum is best when it's served as part of a traditional Cantonese yum cha. This means "to take tea" and dim sum are the myriad bits and pieces you eat at yum cha. This covers dumplings and much more besides. The full, glorious yum cha experience never took off in any of our cities the way it did in London, New York and Sydney, and so we must often be content with a small handful of dim sum floating in among other menu items. Johannesburg, with its large Chinese community, is the centre of dim sum eating.
SHUN DEK - A great place to go for the full yum cha shebang. This basic but merry restaurant in the middle of the Cyrildene eating strip serves dim sum all week and pulls out the stops on Sundays, with piles of baskets pouring out of the kitchen and disappearing into the loud throng of Chinese diners. Do have the chilli-kelp salad and addictive bashed-up cucumber salad, which are part of most traditional yum cha menus, offering green relief from all the starch. As is traditional, dim sum is only served during the day, mid-morning until 2pm. Booking advisable. 23 Derrick Street, Cyrildene, 0116157168.
SO YUM - A small selection of dim sum (some traditional, some not so) in a slick Asian mall restaurant. So Yum has a few items that make me rethink my general stance on fusion dim sum. Usually such creations make me want to cry. (Cream cheese and spinach filling? Aarrggh.) But these, I grudgingly admit, are pretty good. Go for the Hong Kong pears: small potato croquettes with a juicy chicken, duck and Chinese mushroom filling. Lower Level, Hyde Park Shopping Centre, 0113255360.
REGAL PALACE - The best place in the city to wallow in the textures, tastes, noise, steam and bustle of a full-on Sunday yum cha. Puffy buns, congee (savoury rice porridge), water-chestnut jellies, taro squares, ho fun (rice noodles), siu mai open dumplings, sweet sesame balls and much more are on offer. Their prawn har gau dumplings - arguably the benchmark of a good yum cha - are godly, with gossamer thin pastry and firm, fresh filling. 100 Linksfield Road, 0114433353.
TAO YUAN - Old-school, low-key Chinese restaurant perfect for Sunday brunch. One of the few spots in the city serving a full yum cha meal that includes the traditional staples - chicken feet with an unctuous sauce, fried turnip cake, and my favourite crispy-chewy rice-flour bomb: ham siu kok. 275A Beach Road, Sea Point, 0214348188.
HAIKU - The most extensive dim sum menu in a non-Cantonese establishment, and still one of the best and most popular. Options, both traditional and new-fangled, are many in this swish restaurant. Perhaps most enticing is the wide choice of cheung fan, including a great hoisin duck version. Hardly a single restaurant not deeply and purely Cantonese serves these floppy, slippery little duvets of sticky rice pastry, and none offers so many fillings. 58 Burg Street, 0214247000.
SOUTH CHINA DUM SUM BAR - This groovy little Asian eatery on Long Street has devoted customers. The selection is small - usually wontons, pot-stickers and steamed buns (bao) - but everything is perfectly executed. Sadly, not open on Sundays, which is traditional dim sum scoffing day. 289 Long Street, 0788463656.
MOOKI NOODLE BAR - A few good dumplings are better than none, right? And this is where young and groovy Durbanites hunt them down. It's an Asian pop-diner with the usual line-up of salads, noodles and such, but everything's top quality. Steamed or fried wontons are the business here. 196 Brand Road, Glenwood, 0318119199.
CHINA PLATE - Traditional family-friendly Chinese restaurant offering consistent good quality. Though there's no separate yum cha menu, or that sort of range, there are enough dumplingy things going on here for this to be a serious dim sum destination. 11 Brown's Drift Road, Umgeni Riverside Park, 0315646437.