Here’s Hakkasan Chef de Cuisine Jian Heng Loo’s Dim Sum Cheat Sheet

Plus: his favorite dim sum spots in Miami — and what to order, from har gao to chicken feet

February 21, 2023 6:30 am
Different dim sum dumplings
How to do dim sum like a pro.

Pancakes are nice, and we can get behind a good eggs benedict, but when it comes to delicious brunch offerings, it’s hard to beat traditional Cantonese dim sum. Not only is there the choose-your-own-adventure appeal of picking options off of the mobile carts, but with the built-in shared-plate mentality and panoply of choices, dim sum makes it easy to enjoy a wide variety of flavors and textures, from the sweet barbecue tang of pillowy char siu bao to the crisp, fairy floss appeal of taro-based wu gok, all accompanied by an aromatic pot of tea.

That said, with hundreds (and some say thousands) of dim sum dishes to choose from, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and return to the same safe options again and again. Luckily, chef Jian Heng Loo is here to help.

Loo is the chef de cuisine of critically acclaimed modern Chinese restaurant Hakkasan, located within the Fontainebleau Miami Beach Resort. Since the restaurant has recently brought back its beloved dim sum brunch, it’s prime time for some pro-level tips and tricks to get the most out of your meal.

For Loo, the best dim sum experience begins before you even set foot in the restaurant with an online search.

“I usually check menu specifications and mostly guest comments,” he says, noting that once he gets to the restaurant, “I also sometimes suggest asking the server for ingredients and preparations to understand what is done differently at this restaurant by the chef.”

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And he doesn’t just take advice from folks working in the restaurant. When it comes to dim sum, a little bit of spying can have a massive payoff.

“I know what I like, but in some cases I look over to surrounding tables to inquire about new items,” he says. “Most of the time, I end up ordering it.”

But no matter if a particular steamer basket has caught his eye, or if the server has indicated a chef’s specialty that can’t be missed, Loo does have a few time-honored classics he makes sure to order, no matter where he goes. 

Steamed shumai is one such dish, a dumpling typically filled with shrimp, pork, and mushrooms that, alongside egg tarts, bao and har gao is one of the “Four Heavenly Kings” of Cantonese dim sum. The latter, Loo says, is a shrimp dumpling he tends to use as his yardstick of dim sum quality.

“I typically order this to compare the taste, quality and texture,” he says. The pleated, translucent dumpling should boast the perfect balance of sturdiness and tenderness. 

“A good har gao is made with love, passion, an eye for detail and — I can’t stress this enough — fresh product,” he says. “That is what truly makes it great.”

In addition to these dishes, there are a handful of dim sum that he thinks “attract less people, but are delicious.” These include congee, a savory rice porridge, and chung fun, a rice noodle roll whose “different texture,” he asserts, may be why some neophytes balk. That said, he adds, since this dish can accommodate a wide range of fillings from roasted pork to seafood, “it can cater to different palates.”

Perhaps the dish he’s found most Westerners wariest of is dim sum-style chicken feet, and for the offal-averse among us, it’s understandable that the visibly talon-like offering could make some balk. But to hear Loo tell it, those who avoid this collagen-rich recipe don’t know what they’re missing.

“Dim sum chicken feet are full of flavors,” he says. “It’s soft, gelatinous, and it’s easy to eat.” (Just hold the chicken foot firmly in your chopsticks, and bite between each joint, one at a time, chewing and sucking the meat off the bone.)

Miami boasts a whole host of dim sum restaurants to choose from, but if you need help narrowing your search, Loo’s favorites include China Pavilion, Hutong and Tropical Chinese Restaurant, and, of course, his own Hakkasan.

“At Hakkasan, we use only the finest product to make our dishes,” he says. “Everything is measured to the highest quality to ensure the guest enjoys real Cantonese cuisine.”


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