Week 31: Yum Cha

Shanghai Stories 1938

This week I got lucky. You see, it was my birthday last week and as any good birthday goes, all celebrations and compulsory birthday treats extend for an entire week, which meant whatever restaurant I wanted to go to MC had to comply…

Nutrition- 5

Taste- 5.5 (7 from NN, 4 from MC)

Service- 7

Ambience- 5

Extra mile- 3

Budget – Medium

*Scores are out of 10

Shanghai Stories 1938: Overall rating – 26.5/50 on a medium budget



To say that I drank and ate my way out of last year’s age and into this new age is an understatement (turning 30 for the 6th time requires some serious celebrating).


My birthday treats started with a 8 course degustation, which set the theme for the following meals.  It is no secret that I absolutely love eating little bits of everything, hence why I love tapas and share plates, and one of my most all time favourite places to eat for this is at a Yum Cha.


I love yum cha.  There was a time in the pre-MC era that I frequented a Yum Cha establishment at least once a week; it was a Sunday ritual.  I love everything about it, from the craziness of fighting your way to the front of a line to secure a table ticket, to the loud noise of families and people eating, to the unlimited cups of green tea.  Yum Cha is an experience of all the senses.


Cold steamed chickenYum Cha is typically served in the morning and early afternoon, and literally means to ‘drink tea’.  Originally tea-houses offered small plates of accompanying food to go with the tea, but in modern times, the highlight is now on the food. These small plates are called Dim Sum, which when translated mean to ‘touch the heart’ or ‘a little piece of the heart’; in past times these meals were for families and guests to get together and converse with each other hence the ‘touch the heart’ meaning.  Today we associate Dim Sum with a type of dish as opposed to all of the dishes.


Semantics aside when most people think of Yum Cha they think of a massive feed which has no place in a healthy eating regime.  The carts of deep fried spring rolls, and other various deep fried goodies are to blame for this, but that is not all a Yum Cha has to offer.  You just need to be smart about picking your dishes.

 NN 'competing'

A few years ago I was on a strict diet because I was competing in a Figure competition, yet I still managed to eat at Yum Cha on a regular basis. *MC’s note: check that out! ========>)


There are two main ways to order Yum Cha – typically restaurants send out carts laden with certain dishes, and as they come past your table you point out what you want and it is handed over.  An alternative is those restaurants that have a menu of the different plates and you order your dishes with the wait staff whom then bring it out as it is cooked.  Clearly the first option is the more dangerous one, as it is very easy to let your eyes order more than your tummy can handle.  A good example was MCs brother-in-law CT, who last weekend had his Yum Cha cherry popped by us.  Like any excited young bloke, CT got excited by all the food, ordered many plates and scoffed it down in minutes – he got full, quick,  pre-maturely so.


The second Yum Cha that we had (and is pictured) was the ordering off the menu type of restaurant, and is definitely the better option.  Without the carts going by you are not tempted to over order.

Greens on the menu page 1

Clients of mine always ask what to eat at a Yum Cha so here is a quick rundown:


You can eat:

–          All the green vegetable dishes such as the beans, Chinese vegetables, and spinach

–          Poached dumplings (typically filled with seafood, pork, chicken)

–          Xlao Long Bao (a delicate dumpling filled with meat and a liquid stock)

–          Wonton Soups (poached wontons not fried)

–          Dim Sum (typically filled with seafood, pork, chicken and wrapped in a yellow wonton)

Greens on the menu page 2–          Poached Meats (poached chicken dishes – hot and cold dishes)

–          Steamed pork buns (go easy on these as they contain a bit of sugar)

–          Vegetarian dishes

–          Crispy Duck

–          Crispy Chicken

–          Pork Belly

–          Tapioca desert

–          Fruit desert/jelly

–          Unlimited cups of Chinese tea

Crispy duck 


–          Noodle dishes

–          Rice dishes

–          Deep Fried anything

–          Tofu dishes

–          Deep fried deserts


As you can see there is a lot on there that you can eat, whilst still maintaining a healthy diet.  As with anything this is to be consumed as part of a well balanced eating plan.


Ok, over to MC, he does NOT share my enthusiasm for Yum Cha, so I apologise in advance if he rants J

 NN eating feet


Huh, me rant? Phhhfffffht. Not sure what you mean there……


Right, so I find Yum cha to be the poor man’s tapas. Or should I refrain from insulting the poor and calling it- the taste impaired man’s tapas.

For, you see, I also love eating little dishes such as the degustation and Spanish tapas, mezze plates etc. I just find yum cha to be beyond unsatisfying; gross.

And what I mean by that is not only am I not satisfied leaving, I feel gross. It just leaves me wishing I’d had a salad. Not a common feeling for me.

Steamed chicken feet 

Anyway, this one was definitely a little better given the ordering situation pointed out by NN. We tried mixing it up by having some steamed chicken feet. Bit of a flop for me really. You’ll know by now that I’ll try most anything, however, after tasting one the smell just  reminded me of a chicken farm I used to work at as a teenager. *Think chicken shit* So yeah, these weren’t a winner. 


Still, a place like Shanghai Stories 1938 which is where we went, allows for sticking to a pretty solid healthy eating approach. depending on the individual and what your week looks like, you could use this as a ‘relaxed meal’ and have more of the steamed wonton/dumpling dishes, or you could keep it stricter with greens and meats. the difference with a place like Shanghai Stories 1938 is that you don’t have to wait for those dishes to come round, you just order them off the bat.

Prawn & pork dumplingsSo my advice to those who find themselves in a situation of “but we have to go to yum cha, how do I eat well?!”, is to choose a place you can order specific dishes instead of grabbing whatever comes your way. if that’s not an option- wait and only choose what works for you, not just any old deep fried thing.


Green beans with pork minceOk, so talking about that has reminded me how much I feel like a decent feed- not yum cha– so, me thinks some tasty pork burger patties for dinner tonight. I know you don’t need to  know that, just thought you might like to, you know, in this age of sharing and all…

I’ll actually be cooking the recipe from my ‘Alpha Cook Book’ which you can download your own FREE copy of at my Unleash Your Alpha site by clicking here or at the top right of this page, on the icon. Enter your details to receive your copy and regular email updates with all of my best tips and information.

The recipes are freaken awesome.

Just saying…

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