SA Food Heroes: South China Dim Sum
Hit the City Bowl Market on a Saturday morning and amid the usual spread of bacon and egg croissants, bakers, butchers and coffee peddlers you’ll discover a different kind of brunch on the boil. Working under a constant stream of steam from their station, you’ll find the dynamic culinary crew of Ed Hung and Clinton Ho Wing from South China Dim Sum.
The two met at a film casting and realized they had a shared background. Chinese-South Africans, originally from Jo’burg (their accents betray them) their families come from Guangzhou, China’s third largest city, the capital of Guangdong Province in the south and the spiritual home of dim sum. They teamed up and started South China Dim Sum initially attending markets and quietly pushing the gospel of dim sum. In time they opened South China Dim Sum bar where a nightclub had failed on Cape Town’s iconic Long Street.
For Ho Wing (an IT specialist) and Hung (an accountant), the move into the restaurant industry wasn’t as big a deal as you might think.
‘Food is a massive part of the Chinese way of life. It’s like the Italians. The food culture is inherited, it’s in the blood.’
While Ed has culinary training in Toronto, they run the joint as a team, both mucking in in the kitchen and the bustling front of house. Their unique offering’s been a hit and the place is packed night-after-night. Booking is essential.
So what is dim sum?
Small plates of food designed to be shared, think of dim sum as the Chinese equivalent of tapas. One major difference is that these delicious steamed buns, potstickers and wontons are largely eaten as a brunch meal served between 10am and lunch instead of with sundowners like the Spanish snacks. Fortunately Cantonese tradition hasn’t stopped Hung and Ho Wing’s South China Dim Sum Bar from doing a roaring trade at night.
In contrast to the heavier, oilier Chinese main dishes you might be used to that tend to originate from Northern China, dim sum is seen more as a snack and with steaming, pan-frying and boiling the preferred methods of cooking, it’s usually a healthier option. Hung and Ho Wing only use fresh produce and focus on the flavour of the ingredients first and foremost.
Ho Wing says, ‘Our flavours are a lot more subtle compared to North Chinese dishes. It might seem bland to some but you get the full flavour of the ingredients. It’s important that we use the freshest ingredients we can find. That’s the difference between what we do and others because a lot of food in Asian restaurants is mass produced.’
Classic dim sum served by Hung and Ho Wing at their restaurant and at the Hope Street Market on Saturday mornings include steamed buns with a sticky Cantonese BBQ pork filling, chicken potstickers (pan fried dumplings), wontons (a filled, crimped dumpling either boiled or pan fried), Har Gow (shrimp dumplings) and for dessert, donta, a custard tart with a flaky pastry base, a treat influenced by the Portuguese colonial influence in Macau, Southern China. While the restaurant’s dim sum menu stays largely the same Hung and Ho Wing experiment with the mains changing them every few days.
South China Dim Sum Bar
289 Long Street
078 846 3656
Lunch 12.30 – 3pm. Tues – Fri.
Dinner 6.30pm ’till late. Tues – Sat. No liquor license
City Bowl Markets on Saturdays 9-2pm.
With thanks to Clare Louise Thomas for the beautiful photos.