Tag Archives: dumplings

Din Tai Fung

xiao long bao – steamed pork dumplings

I’d never really understood the obsession with xiao long bao – steamed pork dumplings .  I’d only ever tried it during yum cha and I think it was the dough which I always thought was too thick.

Then I discovered that Din Tai Fung – the celebrated Taiwanese restaurant awarded one Michelin Star and ranked as one of the world’s Top Ten Best Restaurants by the New York Times – was in Singapore.

My friends back in Sydney used to trek to Ashfield to Din Tai Fung and always waxed lyrical about them – so I decided to visit the outlet at Raffles City.  And now I realise what the fuss is all about.

Everything is hand-made on the premises, from the dough to the filling(s) and I watched in wonder at the chefs all rolling out the individual dumpling skins to almost paper thinness but thick enough to hold the dumpling filling which is minced pork and soup (created by wrapping a piece of aspic inside the skin alongside the meat filling. Heat from steaming then melts the gelatin-gelled aspic into soup).

You have to time eating your dumplings well – too soon and the hot soup might burn your mouth.  Too late and the soup becomes too cold.  But at just the right time, when you break the skin in your mouth (you have to put the dumpling whole into your mouth) releasing all the ingredients and flavours to mix, it’s just heaven.

The “replacement” dumpling for the broken-skinned one from our original order (look carefully at the photo above, you can see it !)

I’ve been often enough now to know that the rest of the food on the limited menu is also very good, but go for the hero of the show.  They are clearly passionate about perfection – the last time I went they even sent over a single dumpling because one of our original order had a broken skin.

Be prepared to wait though, the place is almost always packed, to the point where at peak times they won’t even seat you unless your entire table are present.  I think it’s worth the wait though.

Din Tai Fung
Raffles City Shopping Centre
252 North Bridge Road
#B1-08 (there are 6 outlets in total throughout Singapore)
Tel: 6336 6369

A very short trip to Hong Kong

Crispy skin chicken

My mum, sister and I have been planning a girls weekend together for a while now.  With them living in Sydney and me in Singapore it was always going to be a bit of a challenge but a random opportunity meant that it managed to happen much sooner than we thought.  Destination: Hong Kong.

In between the manic shopping, being in Hong Kong, of course, we ate.

I grew up with Cantonese food in Sydney – it being the predominant Asian cuisine before Thai, Malaysia, Beijing and Shanghainese restaurants started to spring up around ten years ago.

In Singapore, Cantonese cuisine is either very good and high-end, or average and cheap.  I miss the rowdiness at the likes of East Ocean or Golden Century in Sydney where it’s casual and the food top-notch.  Here good Cantonese food (including yum cha) is ordered from the menu rather than just going in and ordering what you like or what is recommended.  It’s just so…formal.  Maybe that’s actually a good thing, but old habits die hard for me.

Problem is, with only 2 1/2 days, it’s hard to visit all the places you want to, with popular restaurants fully booked days ahead, and the appeal of somewhere local where we can refuel before heading back out to the dizzying array of shops was sometimes too great to travel far (or at all).

Won ton noodles “kon loh”

We ate “kon loh” wonton noodles, where the noodles are thinner than you can get here in Singapore and cooked perfectly al dente, simply served with some oyster sauce and the most tender kailan, accompanied with a delicious soup with soft pillowy wontons, topped with fried onions and fresh shallots.

Other typically Cantonese cafe food was one which I used to eat regularly for lunch with my friends back in Sydney.  It’s a calorie-buster – and takes a while to make – fried rice, topped with a deep fried pork chop, covered in a tomato-based sauce with fresh tomatoes, then baked.  I don’t know why it works so much better than ordering a plate of fried rice served with sweet and sour-like pork but when that casserole dish turned up, a big smile was on my face, not just happy that I was going to eat something yummy, but the fond memories of the three girls I used to eat this dish with.

Both of these were at a very busy, popular-with-the-locals, typical Hong Kong cafe in Causeway Bay – Tsui Wah.  Be prepared to wait a while for a free table during peak times, but it’s worth it.

Tsui Wah Restaurant
G/F, 493-495 Jaffe Road, Causeway Bay

Steamed whole garoupa with soya sauce

For dinner we went  just across the road from our hotel, on the 12th floor of the World Trade Centre, at the Dragon King Restaurant.  The evening we went we were treated to a less-hazy day, so we had a spectacular view of Kowloon (specifically Tsim Tsa Tsui) from our window seat.  We had wanted to go to Tsui Hang Village Restaurant for roast meats, but they were fully booked the entire time we were in Hong Kong.  Dragon King luckily still managed to hit the spot nicely.  Unfortunately we did go slightly later – 8.30pm – and the suckling pig AND the roasted pork had both sold out.  We ended up ordering crispy skin chicken – something we probably haven’t eaten in years, bean sprouts with egg and dried compoy, and steamed whole garoupa with soya sauce, a classic dish.

All three dishes were perfectly executed – not overly seasoned, MSG-free, the chicken skin crispy while the meat was moist, and the fish fresh and firm.  We even got chatting to the maitre-D who very kindly offered us a course of double-boiled soup to start the meal, and a jelly-dessert to end the meal.  All this surrounded by Cantonese families all having their Sunday dinners.  It’s not fancy for them – I guess because space is such a luxury in Hong Kong, small apartments mean that once a week the family get together to eat in restaurants.  So the vibe is friendly and happy with a good amount of chatter in the background.

Dragon King Restaurant
12/F, World Trade Center, 280 Gloucester Road, Causeway Bay
Tel: 2895 2288

Espresso custard tart from Lord Stow’s bakery

As Hong Kong is a bit of a late starter, we were often up and ready before anything was open.  Luckily for us, on the ground floor of our hotel was cafe EXpresso, that is the exclusive distributor for Lord Stow’s patisseries in Hong Kong.  You can read the history of his bakeries in Asia from the link.  Delicious classics like croissants and portuguese custard tarts were enjoyed on the first morning, and the next we went for wholemeal croissant and the best best best one, espresso custard tarts.  The custard not too sweet with a strong punchy coffee flavour and the tart pastry didn’t completely fall apart and crumble like a butter pastry.  It had layers with substance yet managed to be light as air.  The wholemeal croissant tasted surprisingly almost just like a normal croissant – delicious.

EXpresso Cafe
The Excelsior Hotel
281 Gloucester Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

All in all, the trip managed to satisfy most of my Cantonese food cravings, although I am looking forward to yum cha with friends on Sunday and on a mission to get some good three layer roast pork.  Any good recommendations in Singapore ?