By Meredith Pakier and Bridge Ho | Photos by Meredith Pakier
This season, to celebrate the Lunar New Year, I teamed up with my friend Bridge Ho, who grew up in San Francisco and went out for dim sum nearly every weekend with their family. It wasn’t just for the food. These outings were an important time for their family to connect outside of the demands of everyday life. Luckily for me, Bridge has extended this tradition to their friends.
Enjoying dim sum—colloquially known in Cantonese as yum cha (to drink tea)—is a leisurely activity, where diners snack on endless small plates and sip on cup after cup of hot tea. Here’s a short list of some of our East Bay favorites and their standout dishes. Each of these spots brews a perfect cup of tea, from floral and crisp chrysanthemum to dark and earthy pu-erh.
Locals never get enough of gazing out at the stunning bayside view through Hong Kong East Ocean Seafood Restaurant’s floor-to-ceiling windows, but that doesn’t keep the velvety rice porridge served with fried dough sticks and the cloud-like steamed buns stuffed with barbecued pork from stealing the show. Don’t skip the lunch menu offerings like fried rounds of salt-and-pepper tofu. 3199 Powell St, Emeryville
While the bustling crowd at Pearl Bay Tea House can signal a long wait, patience is rewarded with their baked egg yolk buns, our favorite of the genre from all the places we visited. Their version of this sweet and savory snack features a crosshatched crust similar to a pineapple bun. Biting in is pure ecstasy as the tender mound of dough gives way to a luscious egg yolk filling. 13762 Doolittle Dr, San Leandro
Some of our favorite steamed dishes can be found at East Ocean Seafood Restaurant. Their har gow, a plump shrimp dumpling draped in a thin, translucent wrapper, topped our list, as did the pork and shrimp dumpling (siu mai) and the pea shoots and pork dumplings. All of these are even more divine when eaten with a dab of the restaurant’s zingy tabletop hot sauce. 1713 Webster St, Alameda
The dim sum menu at Kitchen of Alameda is small compared to others on this list, but we enjoyed classic favorites like crunchy ham
sui gok (fried glutinous rice balls) and steamed chicken feet smothered in an umami-rich sauce. Thanks go to other diners, who tipped us off to the black sesame rolls, which are at once toothsome and light. 1727 Webster St, Alameda
For the grand, banquet hall–style setting, we head to Peony Seafood Restaurant, known for their signature flair. Their pig-faced egg custard cream buns are almost too adorable to eat. It’s also where we can find one of Bridge’s childhood favorites––the “humble” bun of plush dough wrapped around a Chinese sausage––simple and comforting, just how they remember it. 388 9th St, Ste 288, Oakland ♦
Born and raised in San Francisco, Bridge Ho has called the East Bay home since 2010. You can often find them tinkering in their kitchen or doting on their dog named after a beloved dish, Cha Siu Bao (Bao for short).
When Meredith Pakier is not writing as part of the Market Hall Foods marketing and communications team, she’s hiking with her dog, Nico, and dreaming about starting a garden.