Cantonese dim sum is a traditional south Chinese tradition still very much alive in Macau and we love it! It’s a casual way to meet up for a bite with friends or family over flavorsome food. Not only are these delicate dishes wholesome, but the places where you can enjoy them are so stylish! Of course, you can eat dim sum all over Macau, Hong Kong, and other southern cities in China, but one of our all-time favorite tea houses is Long Wa. Look at the Mao Tse Tung posters on the walls, beautiful wooden bird cages by the windows, the actual windows and the balcony itself. Almost always wide open, they allow for a cool breeze inside the restaurant.
Set in front of the Red Market, this eatery is tucked in a big room up a narrow set of stairs. This is one of three remaining traditional tea houses in Macau, and it is like stepping back in time all the way to the 60s in town. From the green and yellow decor to the handwritten menu, every detail transports us to Macau of yesteryear.
Come early–that means around 11:00am or noon–to secure a nice window seat for yourself and observe the interactions between the locals in the morning. See old couples reading the newspaper, bird lovers gathering around, and also tourists checking out the antiques and Chinese calligraphy collected by the owner. Food also runs out pretty fast after 12:00pm, so be sure to get there earlier than that. The restaurant closes at 2:00pm.
Tea to go with your dim sum
First, choose your tea. Some of the most common options are jasmine, pu-erh, iron Buddha, and oolong. While jasmine and oolong tea are easy-to-drink green teas, if you want to try something different, iron Buddha is a nice option.
Pu-erh is usually a classic tea to have at this kind of place, but only suitable for real tea lovers: while some describe its scent and taste to be similar to dirt, others would say it tastes like raw fish. There are, of course, different types and qualities of tea, so keep that in mind. If you want it light and clearer, make sure to get the first few cups; it gets stronger and darker as it sits in the pot. Your tea will come with a bowl of boiling water too, but please don’t drink the water: this is meant for you to rinse the bowls, cups, and chopsticks with which you’ll eat.
What to order
There is a small menu on the table, but you can actually just grab any dim sum from the trolley next to the staircase. One of our go-to options is siu mai–steamed dumplings with pork and sometimes mushroom wrapped inside. Steamed meatballs are another one of our favorites. It is made with minced beef and water chestnut to give it a special texture that differs from Western meatballs. To prevent the bottom of the meatballs from sticking to the dish, there is usually a thin layer of tofu skin.
We also love their dim sum-style pork ribs. The way they steam the pork ribs here maintains the tenderness without losing any flavor. A dish that might be puzzling for some foreigners is chicken feet. In Chinese, they are often called “phoenix feet”, and it is one of the specialties of southeastern Chinese cuisine. Older locals believe that eating chicken feet will give you stronger bones and muscles. If you’re not into steamed food, there are other options: stir-fried noodles with beef and vegetables, rice noodles with curry, and different kinds of fried rice.
The unassuming-looking yellow steamed cake is actually full of fragrance and texture. In Chinese, some people call it the Malay cake, however, there isn’t much evidence to support the origins of its name. Some say that this dish was a variation of cake in a British afternoon tea set, brought after the colonization of Malaysia. Nevertheless, this cake is a great dish for your dim sum spread.
Located right next to the Red Market since 1962, Long Wa Tea House has long been a popular place for morning and afternoon tea amongst locals. Look for the pastel yellow building and follow the stairs up and step into 1960s Macau.
Also read: Great Places to Grab a Bite in Horta e Costa
Opening hours: Daily, 7:00am–2:00pm
Long Wa Tea House 3 Rua Norte do Mercado Almirante Lacerda, Macau, +853 2857 4456 (no booking is required)
This article was originally written by Avalyn Acland in 2017 and updated by Leonor Sá Machado in August 2020.