If you are one of the few people in Sydney that hasn’t heard of yum cha before, then you have been missing out! This glorious celebration of delicious Chinese food features all the classic dishes such as dim sum, spring rolls, steamed pork buns and chicken feet (an acquired taste). What could be better than having an entire menu laid out on a table in front of you? – knowing where Sydney’s best yum cha restaurants are!
But before we jump right in, here is everything you need to know about yum cha and why it has become so popular not just in Sydney but throughout Australia.
Yum cha is an old Cantonese tradition of brunch that features a range of delicious food and is served with Chinese tea. It started way back in the 19th century in the Canton Province and only involved Chinese tea and dim sum. Since then, yum cha has evolved to include a wide variety of Chinese cuisine.
It depends on the restaurant you dine at, but yum cha features a huge variety of small savoury and sweet Chinese dishes designed to be bite-sized, like a Chinese version of Spanish tapas.
The main dishes you would typically see on a yum cha menu can include char siu bao (steamed pork buns), har gow (steamed or fried prawn dumplings), bite-size pork spare ribs, cheong fun (steamed rice noodle roll), custard egg tarts, salt and pepper squid, jiaozi (savoury dumpling), siu mai (dim sum), rice noodle spring rolls and phoenix claws (braised chicken feet).
Again, it all depends on which restaurant you go to, but many yum cha restaurants will offer a selection of tea to choose from on their menus.
The most typical type of tea yum cha restaurants in Sydney will serve is Jasmine green tea. However, different regions serve different types, such as in Hong Kong they mainly serve Pueruh black tea. Many Chinese restaurants will serve oolong tea like tie guan yin, which is a stronger version of Jasmine tea.
There aren’t any hard and fast rules to eating yum cha, but if you are wanting to dine with the traditional etiquette, then here are some of the main ‘unofficial’ rules:
If you’re craving a plate of prawn pancakes, dim sims, pork buns, rice noodle spring rolls or steamed dumplings, here is where to find Sydney’s best yum cha destinations.
Image by Fiona Wang
Providing an incredibly unique yum cha dining experience is The Gardens By Lotus. Situated inside the iconic Chinese Garden of Friendship, you can enjoy a tranquil dining experience surrounded by one of the most beautiful gardens you will ever encounter.
The Gardens By Lotus specialises in cooking traditional yum cha dishes with their own modern twist. We recommend ordering their crystal prawn dumplings (har gow) and their BBQ pork puffs (char siu so) with delicious almond topping. You will also want to order a plate or two of their incredibly irresistible pork Xiao long bao (soup dumplings) and their roasted Cantonese style duck pancakes!
They also offer an extensive drink menu featuring red, rose, sparkling and white wine from Australia, Germany, Italy and France, including refreshing beer and cider. Once you have finished your meal, you can work it off by taking a stroll through the enchanting gardens, which is free entry if you have dined at The Gardens By Lotus.
Address: Chinese Garden of Friendship, Pier St, Haymarket NSW 2000
East Phoenix has established itself as one of the best yum cha dining experiences, highly regarded for its great service, a vibrant atmosphere, and of course, its incredibly delicious food. Featuring a sleek and classic red, white and black colour scheme, it offers a modern, stylish and comfortable interior.
Once the steamer troller rolls past and the aromatic smell hits you, you will be in heaven. We highly recommend starting with their Singapore fried noodles and a classic dish of fried rice. Make sure you also order a few of their incredibly delicious deep-fried calamari which is seasoned with spicy salt and comes with chilli-steamed Chinese broccoli with a serving of oyster sauce.
You will also find all the yum cha classics on their menu such as fried prawn dumplings, BBQ pork, roast duck, dim sum, gow gee (steamed dumplings), steamed BBQ pork buns and more. To end on a sweet note, you have to order some of their egg custard tarts and their flavoursome mango pancakes.
With a strong reputation as being one of the most highly sought-after yum cha restaurants in Sydney, booking ahead of time is a must when dining at Palace Chinese Restaurant. Featuring over 80 different types of delicious spicy, baked, steamed, savoury, fried and sweet dim sum to choose from, make sure you arrive hungry!
Their enormous yum cha menu makes deciding what to order somewhat difficult – so we’ll help you out with a few top suggestions. An absolute must-try is their roasted pork belly with succulent meat and a gentle crisp on the outside. We also recommend ordering a few rounds of their black pepper beef and pork ribs!
A great combination is their BBQ pork puffs, fried pork dumplings, prawn toast and pan-fried pork bean curd rolls. You also don’t want to leave without trying some of their incredibly flavoursome dim sums, so we recommend trying their duck and mushroom dumplings, garlic chives dumplings and their irresistible XO sauce seafood dumplings!
Spread out over two levels and offering an incredible 80 yum cha dishes, Mr. Wong seats over 240 people yet still provides an intimate dining atmosphere. With a mixture of moody jazz music, dim lighting and a rustic interior featuring grey-washed brick walls, exposed columns and classic Chinese artwork, Mr. Wong proudly stands out as one of the best yum cha experiences Sydney has to offer.
Their two superstar head chefs Jowett Yu and Dan Hong, alongside dim sum chef Eric Koh, have designed a yum cha menu that takes their guests on a culinary journey through the world of yum cha. It’s not hard to spot their standout dishes such as king prawn with bamboo shoot dumplings, pork xiao long bao, garlic butter prawns and king crab and prawn dumplings with golden hot and sour soup.
As the rich, intense flavour of their dim sums are almost indescribable, we recommend ordering their steamed dim sum platter which gives you the full selection of the day’s current specialites. You also can’t finish your meal without trying their famous Peking duck pancakes with a side of snap peas, broccoli and lotus root stir-fried in garlic and rice wine!
Known as one of the finest Asian dining experiences Sydney has to offer, there is no way we could have this list and not talk about The Dynasty in Belmore. It features a visually stunning interior decor with a bamboo curtain roof, lush indoor plants, Pagoda-style timber, beautiful artworks and even a watercourse to create the illusion that it is floating on a lake.
Once you have sat down and spotted a steamer trolley coming towards your table, here are our top recommendations to keep an eye out for! Make sure you try their steamed seafood and spinach dumplings, beef spare ribs, deep-fried taro dumplings and deep-fried prawns dumplings with a side of mayonnaise.
If you are feeling a little more adventurous, then you have to order a plate of their steamed beef tripe with ginger and shallots, and a plate of steamed chicken feet in rich black bean sauce. You will also find dessert dishes on their yum cha menu such as mango pancakes and red bean and coconut cake.
Located in the heart of Chinatown, the Marigold has been providing Sydneysiders with some of the best yum cha for over 39 years. This Hong Kong-style Chinese restaurant features a lavish interior decor that is a nod to the mid-century style of Hong Kong glamour.
A very popular option on their yum cha menu is their prawn toast (also known as shrimp toast) and prawn rolls, which are both covered in sesame seeds and then deep-fried. Their Chinese roast duck and chicken feet marinated in garlic and chilli are also highly popular.
Of course, all the typical yum cha offerings make an appearance such as pork and beef spare ribs, steamed and fried dumplings, spring rolls and duck pancake. You also can’t go past their siu mai (pork dim sum), but if you’re not a fan of pork, then don’t worry, Marigold has over 100 different varieties of dim sum to try!
Maroubra not only has one of the best surfing beaches in Sydney, but also one of the best yum cha destinations: Golden Unicorn Chinese Restaurant. Don’t be surprised if there is a long queue outside, as unfortunately, this amazing yum cha restaurant is not a closely guarded secret with locals.
Their extensive yum cha menu is filled with a huge variety of delicious choices that can take a minute or two to fully comprehend before you’re ready to order. They may have only 10 varieties of dim sum, but each dim sum is meticulously prepared and cooked for maximum flavour, so that should be your starting point. Also grab a few side sauces including chilli paste, soy sauce and their classic sweet and sour sauce.
We also highly recommend ordering a few plates of their beef brisket, salt and pepper tofu, roast duck, prawn rice noodles, pork ribs and steamed duck feet. Then finish by ordering some salted edamame, Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce and stir-fried green beans. If you have a sweet tooth, don’t worry, they also have an entire section on their menu dedicated just to desserts!
Cuisine that is designed to be shared amongst friends, family and loved ones over good conversation is an incredible experience that is almost too hard to describe. This is one of the many reasons why yum cha has become so loved throughout Australia. Now that you know where to find the best yum cha in Sydney, there is no excuse for booking yourself a table and experiencing the mouth-watering palate of flavours!
If you’re planning to visit a yum cha restaurant with friends, why not read our article on where to find the best escape rooms in Sydney and make a day of it instead?