There is no place like Hong Kong when it comes to yum cha madness. The diversity, the authenticity, and the sheer number of dim sum restaurants, aka tea houses, is astounding to say the least. But if you think that you are excluded from the fun as a vegetarian, then think again. There are a fair few plant-based dim sum restaurants that allow for some serious dumpling indulging, without compromising on yum cha authenticity. After you eat your way through this list of meat-free dim sum spots, the only thought on your mind will be: “Who needs meat anyway?”
Pure Veggie House
With its rustic Buddhist-inspired décor and cuisine philosophy, Pure Veggie House goes above and beyond to serve vegetarian dishes that you won’t even believe are vegetarian. We are obsessed with their enoki mushroom fries (hard to describe but utterly addictive) and their wild mushroom steamed dumplings that we swear have truffles in them! They are also experts in all things tofu: their seaweed-wrapped tofu rolls are a must-try. They don’t have an extensive mock meat selection, but the ones that are available can fool even the most devout carnivores. For plant-based traditionalists, they have a version of shark’s fin soup that consists of glass noodles, mushrooms, and tofu skin strips, and we sincerely wish this could be the banquet course of choice in weddings so as to spare our majestic fin friends. Pure Veggie House is slightly out of the way and a bit difficult to get to without a car, but the food and interiors more than make up for it and it’s also the perfect eatery to pair with an afternoon of ogling the monkeys at the Hong Kong Botanical & Zoological Gardens.
3/F, Coda Plaza, 51 Garden Road, Mid-Levels; +852 2525 0552. Dim Sum Hours: Daily 10:30AM-4:30PM.
Vegelink is popular within the local vegetarian Buddhist community for their menu of meat substitutes that are just like the real thing, both in taste and texture. They have a wide selection of dim sum dishes that substitute for the meat versions with clever iterations of tofu, potatoes, and mushrooms. One thing we heartily approve of: their dim sum is not too oily. No dumpling hangovers here! They also make mean custard buns. Apart from their yum cha menu, they are well-known for their exquisitely presented vegetarian sushi and their gourmet Cantonese set dinner menus. They also have a small vegetarian grocery as part of the restaurant and they sell veggie-friendly condiments, meat substitutes and supplements.
Shop 108, 1/F, Foo Yet Kall Building, 56 Java Road, North Point, Hong Kong; +852 2807 1130. Dim Sum Hours: Monday to Saturday 12-2:30PM; Sundays/Public Holidays 11AM-3PM.
LockCha Tea House
Our favorite part about having dim sum at LockCha Tea House is that we really feel like we’re stepping into a time machine that is transporting us back to Hong Kong in the 1900s. The traditional Chinese décor is enchanting and gives the dainty tea house a very local, artisan feel. Although the LockCha’s expertise is predominantly in matters of tea (it was founded as a tea shop two decades ago by tea master Ip Wing-chi), people return to LockCha Tea House for its numerous varieties of tiny but exceedingly tasty vegetarian dim sum. We particularly recommend their fried turnip cake and their fried squash dumplings, though the menu changes regularly so we make no promises! The tea house is also popular for their Chinese music performances and tea talks that happen on Sunday afternoons from 4-6PM. Read our full review about their tea here and their food here.
G/F, The K.S. Lo Gallery, Hong Kong Park, 19 Cotton Tree Drive, Admiralty; +852 2801 7177. Dim Sum Hours: Open daily 10AM-8PM.
Chi Lin Vegetarian
With a glorious waterfall acting as a beautiful backdrop for the restaurant, Chi Lin Vegetarian is the only way to begin or end your visit to Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden. Known as Long Men Lou amongst locals, the family-friendly restaurant is a noteworthy dining destination. It is slightly on the expensive side, but the portions are quite generous so a few dishes can go far. We highly recommend the daikon radish dim sum shaped like a pretty pastry seashell and their mushroom spring rolls go down a treat! We also love the fact that a huge amount of the restaurant’s proceeds go towards the management and conservation of Nan Lian Garden.
60 Fung Tak Road, Nan Lian Garden, Diamond Hill; +852 3658 9388. Dim Sum Hours: Daily 12PM-3PM.
Kung Tak Lam
Extremely popular among the locals, Shanghai-style vegetarian restaurant Kung Tak Lam highlights their MSG-free cooking and delicately crafted veggie dishes. People keep coming back for their Kung Pao “chicken” and tofu dumplings, both made with tofu. We’re also a huge fan of their mixed cold noodles that come with seven different sauces including chili oil, peanut cube, vinegar, and more. You’ll definitely forget about meat here! Not to mention that you get to dine while gazing out at the beautiful view of our beloved Victoria Harbour.
10/F, World Trade Centre, 280 Gloucester Road, Causeway Bay; +852 2890 3127. Open Daily 11AM-11PM. Dim Sum Hours: Daily 11AM-4PM.
Three Virtues Vegetarian Restaurant
Three Virtues Vegetarian Restaurant caters to both takeaway and dine-in customers: in fact, they have two different venues to better deal with each. Both located within the same mall, the snack shop is four floors below the restaurant proper and serves all their popular grab-and-go Cantonese dim sum treats like steamed lotus leaf-wrapped sticky rice dish (“lo mai gai” with imitation chicken), bean curd skin rolls, sponge cakes and more. As compared to other tea houses and dim sum restaurants, Three Virtues fare is inexpensive and delightfully light on the tummy. The restaurant upstairs is roomy and cozy, with a nod to the traditional yum cha house feel. Our top recommendations? The stewed vegetarian fish fillet and the eggplant in black bean sauce- both are scrumptious.
G/F & 4/F, JD Mall, 233-239 Nathan Road, Jordan; +852 3622 1888. Dim sum hours: daily 11AM-4:30PM.
A newer and more higher-end addition to the plant-based dining options in Kowloon, The Veggie offers both dim sum for lunch and a larger vegan menu for dinner. Think of it as Kowloon’s answer to Pure Veggie House. A large part of The Veggie’s charm is the focus they place on sourcing ingredients from small farms in Yunnan province. The 100% vegan menu focuses on unique, specialty veggies and fungus and stays away from relying too heavily on mock meat dishes. Also, they abstain from MSG. The dim sum menu has a large selection of steamed, pan-fried and fried delights with delicious vegan versions of fan favorites. The larger menu has vegetarian specialties such as Bamboo Pith and White Wood Fungus in Hot Chili Soup made with Sichuan spices imported from Chongqing.
Shop B, 1/F, COS Centre, 56 Tsun Yip Street, Kwun Tong; +852 3188 3094. Open Daily 11:30AM-10PM. Dim Sum Hours: Daily 11:30AM-4:30PM.
Image courtesy of: Pure Veggie House (lead image), Vegelink, Lock Cha Tea House, Chi Lin Vegetarian, Kung Tak Lam, The Veggie and Three Virtues Restaurant.