Hong Kong warns citizens off 'unhealthy' dim sum

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The Independent Online

Hong Kong's national dish of dim sum, literally translated as "dot hearts", may be heart-stoppingly unhealthy.

Hong Kong's national dish of dim sum, literally translated as "dot hearts", may be heart-stoppingly unhealthy.

The Hong Kong government has taken the step of issuing a health warning after researchers from the food and environmental health department analysed 75 dim sum snacks. They found the dumplings, pork ribs and squid with garlic, shared in restaurants and teahouses with family and friends, were so high in fat and sodium that they may cause obesity and cardiovascular illnesses.

Dim sum is a culinary staple throughout China, Hong Kong and Malaysia, and is popular in Chinese restaurants in the West.

Dr Ho Yuk-yin, a consultant from the food and environmental health department, said some dishes were up to one-third fat. "You definitely cannot have a dim sum meal every day because it's not possible to get a balanced diet," he said.

He warned that it was not only fried dim sum but also steamed dishes such as minced beef balls, which many dim sum lovers believed to be less fatty, that posed a health risk.

"Excessive intake of saturated fat in the long run will increase the risk of having chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases and certain types of cancer," Dr Ho said. "Foods high in total fat may increase the risk of obesity."

The Hong Kong government suggests people should opt for the more healthy noodles and rice dishes in restaurants and recommends eating boiled vegetables with dim sum to balance their diet.

But the news has failed to deter some fans. Yeap Chun Hock, 63, from Penang, in Malaysia, said: "I have been taking dim sum every day for 20 years and have not had any trouble. I usually order har kau (steamed prawn dumpling), siew mai (steamed minced meat dumpling) and pau (steamed dumpling). She said drinking Chinese tea washed away the fat and oil.

Jackie Chin, from Kuala Lumpur, believes that because the snacks are traditionally shared between diners, the health risks could not be so severe.

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