You Win Some – You Dim Sum 

We Try Out the Best Dumplings in Mumbai

Before we set out on our dim sum journey, I needed to find out more about this delectable culinary ritual. What constitutes a dim sum meal? Are there rules that one has to follow when eating these little morsels of joy? Can you find authentic dim sum in the city or just desi-fied versions of the same? All important questions that needed urgent answering. 

First things First

History (and the food magazine Lucky Peach) states that the tradition of dim sum can be traced back to the latter half of the 19th century. Merchants who were travelling the Silk Route used to interrupt their day with meals at tea houses along the way. These establishments served meals made up of several small dishes. As the traders made their way from China to Hong Kong and beyond, they carried this eating style along with them. From those humble beginnings, the art of dim sum has become a world-wide phenomenon.

What’s all the fuss about then?

Well, a traditional dim sum meal can be quite a culinary journey. You sit yourself down – usually at a large table and with a big group – as dim sum meals are big affairs where food is shared and exchanged. Some restaurants serve their rotating menu of dim sum delicacies on moving carts that weave between the crowded tables. All you have to do is flag down your server and choose what you like. In modern tea houses, you may find a slip of paper with the menu printed. Check the boxes of the items you want and hand it over to the waiter. Then, sit back and wait for your feast to arrive. 

What is dim sum?

Dim sum is generally served in small portions of a maximum of four pieces. These small dishes can be a mix of baked, steamed, or fried offerings and are usually vegetarian and non-vegetarian, with a heavy focus on seafood and pork. You also have marvellous sweet concoctions like egg tart, mango custard, or sweet baos. But, before anything else, though, you start with the ceremonial tea. Etiquette insists you serve the eldest on the table first. You also don’t start eating until your elders do. All delightful quaint rituals which, of course, we do not pay heed to in India. No worries, let’s get straight to the matter, shall we? 

Top of the Charts – Royal China

My first taste of dim sum was at Royal China. My daughter and I had read about an unlimited dim sum offer and decided to try it out. We had absolutely no idea of the culinary magic that awaited us. Plate after plate of tiny Chinese tapas-like treats filled our table. We feasted on prawn cheung fan – where the silken rice noodles encased plump steamed prawns. Small bamboo steamers were opened with fanfare to reveal intricately pleated dumplings filled with water chestnuts and corn. One saucer held two spongy steamed baos, which, when broken apart, exposed a ruby red char siu pork filling. And the treats didn’t stop coming until we begged the waiters to cease and desist. I hear that this unlimited offer no longer exists in Royal China, and I understand why. With the amount we ate alone, the restaurant would have gone into a loss that day.  

Pic: @royalchinaindia

But to get back to the important stuff…Royal China has a seven-page menu dedicated to dim sum. These are our must-try items –  

  • Fried prawn cheung fun 
  • Pork buns 
  • Seafood dumpling with chilli oil 

Location – 

Fort: Hazarimal Somani Road, Behind Sterling Cinema Building, Fort, Mumbai 400001

Bandra: Damian House, 2nd floor, Near Mehboob Studio, Bandra West, Mumbai 400050. 

New Bao on the Block – Zao Cha

It’s become a thing. Every month or two is now earmarked with a visit to Zao Cha House. We’ve been making time between our busy work schedules to take a break and enjoy some slow, lovely, dim sum-filled afternoons @zaochahouse. Zao Chao is a relatively new kid on the block, but it’s already developed a fan following. With its minimal interiors and chic decor (love their large paper lanterns and unique window shapes), you sink right into the plush sofas to await your meal. 

Pic: @zaocha

Zao Cha follows the principles of traditional dim sum restaurants where the tea is the shining star. No alcohol is available here, but we don’t miss our afternoon cocktails. Instead, we focus on the duck pancakes (crispy duck rather than roasty) and their well priced dumplings. I loved that they come in three portions, allowing us to experiment and order more items. I especially love their menu with images of each dumpling and the accompanying tea recommendations. They currently offer an afternoon tea lunch from Tuesdays to Sundays where you can enjoy unlimited dim sum between 12 and 4 pm for a fixed price. Definitely worth taking an afternoon off for! 

Must try –

  • Chicken Xiao Long Bao (the OG soupy dumpling)
  • Spicy pink crab meat dumpling 
  • Wasabi prawns 

Location – 

House no. 25D, Pali Village Road, Bandra West, Mumbai 400050

Krowd Favourite – Kuai Kitchen

Kuai Kitchen could be considered a poor man’s Royal China, but we won’t be so reductive. With two branches in the city, this pan-Asian QSR is high on speed and predictability and moderate with its space and prices. We love Kuai Kitchen for those nights when you don’t feel like cooking and want a quick bite that doesn’t break the bank. Plus, their sushi and appetisers are really quite delish. The vegetarian crystal dumplings are crunchy and fresh, while the pork puffs are little flaky delights guaranteed to have you reaching for more. 

Pic: @kuaikitchen

Must try – 

  • Dynamite prawns 
  • Water chestnut and corn dumpling 
  • Turnip cake with chilli oil 

Location – 


16/A, Cusrow Baug, Shahid Bhagat Singh Road, Colaba, Mumbai 400005 


Shop 3-4, Plot 614/615, Mangal Bhavan CHS. Linking Road, Bandra West, Mumbai 400052

Won’t You Take Me to Foo Town – Foo

Foo outlets are springing up all over town, and no one is complaining. It has a vast and varied menu, innovative cocktail offerings, and some super cool, funky decor. Get yourself to any Foo on a Saturday night, and you may mistakenly believe you’ve stepped into a happening nightclub rather than a restaurant. The tables are packed, the crowd oozes style, and the food is on point. The salmon carpaccio is to die for, and don’t forget to try their burrata salad for a novel take on an Italian classic. 

Must try – 

  • Lotus root dumpling 
  • Charcoal har gao 
  • Chilli duck dumpling 

Location – 

Multiple locations. Can be found at Oshiwara, Lower Parel, Bandra West, Bandra Kurla Complex, Powai, Churchgate, and Goregaon East 

Of Pandas and Pop Art – Fatty Bao

Fatty Bao is a place of contradictions. The 60s cane furniture clashes with the eclectic wall art where pandas stare down at you while you savour your food. The bar menu is extensive, and their food menu covers all the usual Chinese/ Thai/ Japanese/ Korean suspects. As an aside, the ramen at Fatty Bao is your best friend on those rare chilly Mumbai days, but we were here to taste test the dim sum. Let’s start with the teas that come to you in comfortingly large teapots and serve four. On the other hand, their dim sum menu is a mix of this and that. We tuck into our chicken and asparagus dumplings and top them up with pork gyoza. Leave space for their signature desserts – the Japanese cotton cheesecake is the perfect ending to an indulgent meal. 

Must try – 

  • Brie tempura 
  • Chilli crab and prawn bao
  • Sticky pork ribs (small plates)

Location – 

Ground Floor, Summerville, 33rd Road, Linking Road, Bandra West, Mumbai 400050

And that’s my countdown to the top five dim sum destinations in Mumbai.

But, before we go, here’s some food for thought…

Are momos and dim sum the same? 

If I want to get technical (and I always do), momos are stuffed dumplings made of maida or atta, while dim sum wrappers can be made from rice flour, corn flour, or potato starch. You could even say all momos are dim sum, but not all dim sum are momos! 

This was a commissioned piece but all views expressed are my own

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