Hong Kong Siu Mai Lovers Form Online Community for Iconic Dumpling

More than 200,000 Hong Kongers have formed an online community called Hong Kong Siu Mai Concern Group to rate and share tips about the iconic Chinese dumpling

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12:41 PM HKT, Thu August 4, 2022 3 mins read

Zeros and Ones is a regular series where we explore how technology and the internet impact everyday people’s lives in China and beyond. This month we explore the Hong Kong-based online community that has united around a specific food item: siu mai.

Covered in their canary-yellow flour wrappers, half a dozen fish siu mai, a classic Cantonese dim sum dish, sit in a paper bowl topped with sweet soy sauce and chili oil. Fresh out of the stainless steel steamer, with sauce mingling with water vapor, the dumplings are slippery to catch, just like mudfish in water. Any connoisseur of siu mai would tell you that the best way to tackle the dumpling is to spear it with a bamboo skewer before popping it into your mouth.

hong kong siu mai

Bowls of siu mai are a ubiquitous street snack in Hong Kong

This particular type of siu mai is unique to the streets of Hong Kong. Served in disposable bowls, fish-paste siu mai is a hassle-free snack that can be eaten while wandering around instead of being formally seated at a table in keeping with yum cha etiquette.

Furthermore, fish-paste siu mai’s affordability appeals to all Hong Kongers, from cash-strapped students to busy workers trying to squeeze in a quick bite between breaks, making it a quintessential element of Hong Kong food culture.

To declare their love for this local comfort food, more than 200,000 Hong Kongers have formed an online community called Hong Kong Siu Mai Concern Group (香港燒賣關注組) to rate and share tips about their beloved comestible.

Internet Food Cults in Hong Kong

Founded in late 2019, the Siu Mai Concern Group is a one-stop shop for all things centered around siu mai. Most active on Facebook and Instagram, its social media accounts are replete with siu mai memes, news, and reviews.

Members may banter under posts, arguing which siu mai is the best, or submit pictures of novel ways of consuming their favorite comestible, such as adding siu mai to traditional Cantonese festival meal poon choi or barbecuing the street snack.

In recent years, a wave of food-centric interest groups has swept across Hong Kong’s social media sphere. That said, many were short-lived fads or ‘three-minute passions’ (‘三分钟热度,’ san fenzhong redu) in Chinese slang, such as this Coriander Lovers Group, which seems to have given up on their crusade to fix the herb’s lousy reputation (the group has only posted once so far this year).

Regardless, various ‘food fan clubs’ have spurred a renewed love for classic local dishes like wonton noodles and satay beef noodles. Social media has served as a platform for Hong Kongers to unapologetically embrace and advocate their obsession with local delicacies.

The three founders of the siu mai group, who have chosen to stay anonymous, boast the ultimate superpower to recognize different siu mai stalls simply by glancing at their wares. See the provided samples below:

Sui mai online group chat

Sui mai Hong Kong online group chat

They have further demonstrated their devotion to the snack by publishing what is apparently the world’s first-ever comprehensive Siumaipedia, a comprehensive online encyclopedia explaining everything there is to know about the food.

Siu Mai Merchandise

The Siumaipedia is just one example of the group’s capabilities. It has taken less than a year for the online community to transform from a casual interest page for like-minded foodies to an established club, whose influence extends far beyond the Sinosphere.

Among other things, the group offers a 88 HKD (around 11 USD) lifetime membership that unlocks a plethora of benefits, including a complimentary siu mai whenever ordering from any of their 30-something partner stalls, one of which is located in Okinawa, Japan.

Should members wish to burn off a few calories, the membership card also grants them access to discounted fitness classes.

Welcome gifts, namely free siu mai and sauce, are also doled out to new members.

Members of the group like to joke that theirs is the most inclusive community: one only needs to name their favorite siu mai stall and brand to qualify as a member.

To some extent, they are right. Such clubs provide a safe space for food lovers to voice their honest critiques without going through any ‘middlemen,’ such as vendors, establishments, or media outlets.

hong kong food stall

Customers stand in front of Happy Fry Day, one of the Siu Mai Concern Group’s partner vendors

Although some may laugh at the idea of paying membership for a club solely devoted to a style of Chinese dumplings, the founders take it seriously. The group’s maxim reads:

“Siu mai is not just a food item. It symbolizes culture and reflects the essence of a person.”

Those who resonate with the above words on their website will certainly find value in becoming a paid member.

The founders have half-jokingly said that if siu mai ever ceases to exist, they would have to migrate to another planet (and presumably seek out the dumplings in the unexplored depths of our universe).

hong kong siu mai

A display of siu mai, which has been named a Hong Kong Intangible Cultural Heritage Item, at the Sam Tung Uk Museum in Hong Kong. Image via Facebook

The group has also collaborated with local food manufacturer Man Lok Yuen to produce their own vegan siu mai. It’s another attempt to broaden their inclusivity and reach by making siu mai accessible to individuals with different dietary requirements.

What is perhaps most moving is how these proud Hong Kongers are expressing their loyalty to local dishes and street food. It is comforting to know that despite there being thousands of other regional or international cuisines in the city, traditional food in Hong Kong is still loved and preserved.

All images courtesy of Tan Jia Ying unless otherwise stated

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