As we head into the new year, we’ve asked our friend and dim sum connoisseur Carter Chen (@ritzcrakca) to round up his top dim sum recommendations in Winnipeg. Below, he highlights five spots to find the best siu mai, har gow, rice rolls, eggplant in black bean sauce, mango pudding and more.
While you can't dine in at the moment, all the spots below are currently offering takeout.
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If you're not familiar with dim sum, it originated from the Chinese imperialist days when the emperors had breakfast in the morning and needed "a few snacks" to accompany their tea to start the day. Today, you'll find dim sum restaurants in every major city in the world (at least the ones I've been fortunate enough to visit), and I can confidently say that - in my opinion - Winnipeg is on par with these cities in quality and taste.
Dim sum is one of the most popular forms of Cantonese cooking, with Cantonese Chinese namely represented by Guangdong and Hong Kong. The Cantonese Chinese population in Winnipeg was huge in the 80s, but has since declined over the years. Nowadays, the Chinese community in Winnipeg is mostly Mandarin Mainland Chinese. Dim sum could have easily been extinct in Winnipeg in the 90s, but it's the Winnipeg dining community - particularly the city's Filipino and Jewish community - that have kept it alive.
My family is from Vietnam and my dad is Cantonese Chinese. I've been enjoying dim sum in Winnipeg with my family and friends for over 30 years. Here are my top picks:
This is the OG spot in Chinatown and if you're looking for an authentic dim sum experience, this is it. Waiters in bow ties refill jasmine tea and dim sum carts roll down the aisles between tables with hot, heaping steamed baskets of goodness—essentially you see it, you eat it. The decor is totally decked out in red and gold, and prime ministers have been hosted here in the past. My go-to order is the fresh stir fried noodles (the cart lady cooks it in front of you), the Chinese pastries (steamed custard and pineapple buns, mango pudding), and of course, the dumplings.
A longtime staple near the University of Manitoba. Here, they pay attention to the finer details of their handcrafted pork and shrimp dumplings—they're huge in portion and so are the rest of their dishes. Trust me, you won’t leave hungry. Another thing I absolutely love about North Garden are the housemade sauces, especially the creamy peanut sauce in the Chinese doughnut rice roll—a must try. And if you're looking for Sriracha, you won't find it here. They make their own hot sauce with a good amount of heat.
Bonus: they have a bubble tea shop, which makes for a perfect dessert on-the-go.
Tucked away in River Park South is Tang Dynasty, a true gem for diehard dim sum lovers who make the trek to dine here. Every dish is made fresh to order, so be patient because it's worth it. The dishes to try: the deep-fried shrimp seaweed rolls and the stuffed eggplant.
I'll also give Tang Dynasty the nod for having the best siu mai (pork dumplings) in Winnipeg. They're massive, incredibly juicy, and come crowned with a big shrimp. If you're going with a large group, I recommend each person order this dish for themselves.
Pro tip: call ahead and make a reservation as there's not many tables and people will often wait an hour—it’s seriously that good.
Sam Po and Noodle Express
When time is money and you're looking to book a business lunch meeting that'll have you in and out within the hour, I highly recommend Sam Po in Chinatown. They're quick, expedient, and there's even free customer parking on the side of the building (a rare gem for downtown). The building has been around for more than 40 years and was recently renovated with a lovely modern interior.
The crowd favourites here are the deep-fried shrimp dumplings with a side of mayo (I love how crisp they are!), along with the steamed bao buns filled with a sweet, creamy custard and the golden buns (this is the only spot in Winnipeg where you'll find these). If you need a veggie dish, the eggplant in black bean garlic sauce hits the spot.
Across the street is Noodle Express, which is under the same ownership and staff. If a chill, laid back atmosphere is more your style, this spot is for you.
Like Sam Po, dim sum is the main attraction, but as the name suggests, they have an excellent noodle soup menu as well. My go-to order here is the curry beef perogies (I love the mild spice), and the shrimp stuffed tofu.
Pro tip #2: they also sell frozen pork and shrimp dumplings for home cooking. I took advantage of this during lockdown—simply steam them to get the Noodle Express experience.
This is Momma Chen's favourite dim sum spot in Winnipeg, and where she always insists I take her for Mother's Day. It's her favourite because of the artwork inside—it makes you feel like you're in Hong Kong, while really you're in St. Vital.
Victoria Seafood is run by a small family and has a cozy, quiet atmosphere. We love the sticky rice here—my favourite way to experience dim sum is to start off with sticky rice as it acts as your base and vessel for the other items you’ll order.
Take your time with dim sum and sip on tea throughout the meal. You’ll find a great selection here of bo-lay, chrysanthemum, and oolong teas. Don’t forget—it's custom for the youngest person at the table to pour the tea.