Love Dim Sum? Check Out These Allergens

Last updated on August 26, 2021.

If you are like us at the Healthy Matters’ office, you’re crazy for dim sum. We would eat it three meals a day, 7 days a week if we could. But if you (or your family!) have a food allergy or suspected food allergy, do you know which dishes to avoid?

Every restaurant is likely to have a slightly different recipe so if you have an allergy, it’s important to check with each individual restaurant. What’s the best way to make sure your message gets across? Know the name of you or your loved one’s food allergy in both English and Cantonese, of course! For this article, we’ll consider the top eight allergens. Renowned Hong Kong Allergy Specialist Dr Adrian Wu is helping us this with guide. We hope you find it useful. Enjoy your dim sum!

Here’s how to express your food allergy:

  • “I have an allergy to…” ⇒我對(food name)敏感
  • “crustacean seafood” ⇒ 甲殼類海鮮
  • “chicken eggs” ⇒ 雞蛋
  • “cow’s milk” ⇒ 牛奶
  • “fish” ⇒ 魚
  • “wheat” ⇒ 小麥
  • “soy” ⇒ 大豆
  • “tree nuts” ⇒ 樹堅果
  • “peanuts” ⇒ 花生


Soy sauce

A lot of dim sum restaurants will serve soy sauce on the side – you should avoid that. Quite a few dishes contain soy sauce so make sure you let the restaurant know so you don’t order anything that will inflame your food allergy.

Hoisin sauce

Hoisin is also served on the side and sometimes in the filling of dim sum dishes. Hoisin contains peanut, soy and wheat.

XO sauce

Again, another delicious allergen-filled sauce… to avoid for many with a food allergy. Common allergens in XO sauce include seafood (dried scallops and dried shrimp), and sometimes soy and wheat (soy sauce).

Siu Mai / Shumai

Siu mai is usually made with pork and shrimp inside. Individuals with crustacean seafood (shrimp), wheat (flour in the wrapping and soy sauce is using for dipping), soy (soy sauce).

Har Gow / Shrimp Dumpling

Har gow is usually filled with shrimp and bamboo shoots. Individuals with crustacean seafood (shrimp), wheat (flour in the wrapping and soy sauce is using for dipping), soy (soy sauce).

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Cha Siu Bao / BBQ Pork Bun

These delicious little buns are usually filled with BBQ pork. Individuals with wheat (flour in the bun and soy sauce in the filling), soy (soy sauce in the filling), shellfish (oyster sauce).

Cheung Fun / Rice noodle roll

This delightful dish is made of thin sheets of rice noodles. On their own, sometimes the wrapping contains wheat – usually they’re just rice and a vehicle for sauce so keep an eye out for these common sauces: hoisin sauce (usually contains peanut, soy and wheat), soy sauce (soy and wheat), and sesame sauce (contains sesame and peanuts). Cheung fun can also be served filled with prawns, so our seafood allergy sufferers should watch out.

Spring roll

Lastly, you should know that in Cantonese/Chinese restaurants outside of Hong Kong and China, spring rolls 春卷 are often held together with peanut butter – an 8th and last allergen to know about!

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Content reviewed by Dr. Adrian Wu 鄔揚源醫生 and updated in April 2020. Dr. Adrian Wu 鄔揚源醫生 is a US board certified specialist in allergy and immunology currently in private practice. He is the director of the Centre for Allergy and Asthma Care, Hong Kong.
This article was independently written by Healthy Matters and is not sponsored. It is informative only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be relied upon for specific medical advice.