Tag Archives: yum cha

Hoorah – I’ve found the best dim sum in Singapore!

Roasted belly pork

I have been on an ongoing quest to find the best dim sum in Singapore since I arrived here five years ago. And for sure, there are plenty that I haven’t visited, but I don’t think I need to look much farther than Lei Garden on Orchard Road.

Prawn rice rolls 

The quality of the food there is exceptional. With dim sum, there always has been a few things which showcase the true skill of the chef. One is the dumpling skin/rice rolls. These are made by hand – I’ve watched chefs do this and the speed in which they roll out individual dumpling skins (and if you think that they can serve up to 700 of just one type of dumpling in one seating) is a delight to watch. So to be fair, anything they can produce like that is amazing, but we are spoiled creatures of choice, so thick, doughy dumplings are indicative of a lack of true skill. The rice rolls at Lei Garden are thin and smooth and so slippery you could almost swallow each mouthful without chewing.

In fact, everything they do with flour – be it rice or wheat, is light and airy and just makes you want to order more (which is exactly what we did).

Their char siu buns were fluffy pillows of soft, steamed buns filled with sweet barbequed pork. And they really select the best pork – their roast pork is probably the best I’ve had in Singapore. The belly pork has the fat thinly and evenly layered and the skin is divinely crisp.

Pan-fried radish cake

Their radish cake – finely shredded radish and rice flour, cut into squares and pan-fried was not oily, but crispy on the outside and melt-in-your-mouth soft inside.

I’d suggest making a reservation because it was full by midday on a Saturday and it’s not a huge restaurant. The quest is never over, but for now, I’m absolutely thrilled that I can get the same quality of dim sum that I have missed so much from Sydney.

Lei Garden Orchard
#03-00 Orchard Shopping Centre
321 Orchard Road
Singapore
Tel: 6734 3988

Open for lunch: 11.30am – 3.00pm
Dinner: 6pm – 11.00pm

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Dim Sum @ Victoria Peak

Quail’s egg and pig’s trotters stewed with black vinegar and ginger 

Orchard Central is a really odd shopping centre. In a city where shopping is a heritage and a true pastime, you would think that whoever is going to develop a shopping centre on prime location at Orchard Road, would be in tune with the psychology of shopping – make it easy for shoppers to spend. Mind you, Ion just down the road is also a similarly horrendous labyrinth of shops and that’s always packed, but perhaps it’s the type of stores they have there (for example, flagship stores of high-end brands) that draws the crowds.

Char siew pork steamed rice rolls

Anyway, I digress. On the difficult-to-get-to-if-you-don’t-know-that-the-lifts-to-level-11-are-only-on-some-of-the-floors (phew!) is Victoria Peak, presumably named after the famous mountain of the same name in Hong Kong.

Steamed BBQ pork buns

Recommended by a friend, we went today and we were impressed that at not only the range of the food available was, but also the quality. Restaurants that serve dim sum here in Singapore usually also have a la carte items available, and the actual dim sum menu is fairly limited. Victoria Peak is no different, but the range of dishes available on their dim sum menu was broader than the usual three types of dumplings, one rice roll and steamed BBQ pork buns.  Having said that, this is  dim sum, after all, so we did order the three types of dumplings, two types of rice rolls (ooh!) and the steamed BBQ pork buns 🙂  We also ordered some specialities like quail’s eggs and pig’s trotters stewed in black vinegar, soy and ginger, and fried salmon skin, which I have only ever had at one other dim sum.  The overall quality of the food was excellent.

Attentive waiters, an impressive selection of fine wines, should you fancy it (maybe at dinner time rather than with dim sum), completed the circle of good. Just remember how you got there or you might struggle to get out on to street level again.

Victoria Peak
Level 11, 181 Orchard Road
Orchard Central
Tel: +65 6238 7666

Opening Hours
Mon–Sat:11.30am–3pm, 6pm–10.30pm
Sun & PH:11am–3pm, 6pm–10.30pm

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


Friendship Attics – strange name, great place for a special birthday

Steamed egg in tomato

Cantonese restaurants are everywhere in Sydney.  And the standard of most of them are pretty damn good.  So what is it that makes one more of a favourite for me than others ?

My dad recently turned 70, and my mum organised a surprise birthday bash with 70 of his oldest and closest friends.  And she organised it at Friendship Attics.  From Singapore, I was left wondering what on earth is Friendship Attics, and why there ? When I got to Sydney that week and we went to recee the place, so we knew how to set up etc, I found out why.

1) It’s not an enormous restaurant that can seat 700 guests.  It comfortably fit all of my dad’s friends and we got to book out the entire restaurant, keeping it cosy and intimate.

2) The staff were so helpful and so friendly and truly made having the event there a breeze

3) The food !  Typical Cantonese fare, but mum selected the menu and boy did she choose well.

First course of cold cuts

We started with the traditional banquet first course of a selection of cold starters: jellyfish, various cold cuts of pork and of course, crispy suckling pig.

broccoli with crab meat

The rest of the meal just seemed to be endless dish after dish, but the standouts for me were the lobster with ginger and shallots, the green green broccoli with crab meat (made eating greens a breeze), fish cooked two ways (deep fried head and tail with stir fried fillets, and steamed egg in tomato.  Sounds weird, looks weird, tastes terrific.

Of course there was “longevity noodles” – long strands of ee-fu noodles which are meant to signify long life.

Friendship Attics’ location is close enough to Darling Park on Sussex Street that there is no real need to make the trek to Chinatown to fight for carspace or the crowds to get a great yum cha as well.

Friendship Attics Chinese Restaurant
321 Sussex Street, Sydney
Tel: 9261 2177


Yum cha at Golden Peony Cantonese Restaurant

Siew mai – pork dumplings topped with whole prawn

I woke up with a craving for yum cha/dim sum today. D had recently been to Golden Peony and suggested we give it a go.

This award-winning Cantonese restaurant in the Conrad Hotel serves a-la-carte yum cha at any time, with some specials only available during Sunday lunch.

It lacked a lot of my yum cha staples – the only ones on the menu being fried carrot cake, steamed glutinous rice with chicken in bamboo leaf and char siew pau – steamed roast pork buns.

I understand that a restaurant of this calibre needs to up the ante to differentiate it from other restaurants, but the other items on the menu just didn’t appeal to someone like me who likes her staples.

Har gau – prawn dumplings

We ordered the har gau that did not appear on the menu, and they came with bright green dumpling skins – no explanation as to what it was, but the skin was a little too thick and doughy for my liking.

Diced duck in Portuguese sauce “puff”

Another order was diced duck in a Portuguese sauce in a crispy shell.  This was served to us in the shape of perfect curry puff pastry – lots of layers to be seen.  The filling was forgettable – a sweet goo with few pieces of duck to be seen.

The siew mai on offer was the traditional pork/prawn mix but topped with an enormous prawn.  Kudos to the chef who didn’t soak these in bicarbonate of soda so the prawns are not unrealistically crunchy.  This was lovely.

Fried tofu skin topped with pan-fried tofu skin and suckling pig

One special dish we ordered was a sheet of deep fried tofu skin, topped with thin slices of pan-fried foie gras and then covered with a square of suckling pig crackling – how could that go wrong??  Worked very very well, and the wasabi prawns that was also served were delicious as well.

Overall, I think this would be a terrific restaurant to have a business lunch at.  For someone that just wants good old fashioned dim sum, my search continues.

Golden Peony
3F Conrad Hotel
2 Temasek Boulevard
Tel: 6432 748


Jumbo Seafood @ SAFRA

Pork ribs in black bean sauce

I was bemoaning to my friend that I didn’t find the time to eat yum cha during my short trip to Hong Kong recently, and she promptly said that this weekend we would go and eat yum cha (or dim sum as it’s called everywhere I know other than Hong Kong and Sydney) at the SAFRA outlet of Jumbo Seafood.

Yum cha starts at 10am and the menu is limited but all the usual suspects are there in the menu – from prawn rice rolls to siew mai or pork dumplings and pan-fried carrot cake.

There are a few of the usual Jumbo Restaurant items that were on a separate menu – fried rice and noodles, and also salt and pepper whitebait and fried fish skin.  Now I wonder if your face when you read “fried fish skin” was the same as mine when I read it.  However, this is just another reason why you have to just take the plunge sometimes and try new things.  My friend actually arrived a little late as she was picking up her brother who had just run the Standard Chartered marathon, and ordered this dish.  It turned up exactly as you would expect it to, and there was absolutely none of the expected fishiness when you ate it.  Just crunchy, lightly floured and seasoned, thin pieces of wafer thin skin.  For those of you who have had the luxury of eating pork scratchings, it weirdly reminded us of that !  Go figure.

Fried fish skin

And the other two outstanding dishes were the char siew pau – steamed pork buns, and the char siew soh – char siew in a sweet flaky pastry.  The dough of the steamed pork buns was light and airy and the overall taste wasn’t overpoweringly sweet or heavy.

Char siew pau

After lunch you can take a wander around the resort grounds.  All in all, a very relaxed way to experience pretty great yum cha.

Jumbo Seafood @ SAFRA
National Service Resort & Country Club
10, Changi Coast Walk, Singapore 499739

Tel: 6552 3435
11.30am to 3:00pm (lunch daily)
Last order at 2:15pm
6.00pm to 10.30pm (dinner daily)
Last order at 10:15pm


Our eating holiday in Sydney

I love Sydney. I love that it never seems to change and that its winters are full of brilliantly blue skies with crisp cold wind, and the food just always seems to be nothing short of fab. I do realise that there is a big difference between produce in Singapore and Sydney – simply put, nothing is fresh in Singapore, it’s all air-flown or imported. Sydney just seems to have access to seafood, meats and vegetables that always seem to amaze and delight.

There are the requisite “to do’s” of eating when I go home – yum cha and the fish markets, but D and I also managed to wander around the supermarkets and ate at simple bistros and loved it just as much as the dinner we had at Marque.

Let’s start with the supermarkets. Large, airy spaces make shopping a delight, and the produce is displayed in all their glory. Brightly coloured vegetables and fruits, an array of fresh seafood and meats at the deli counter, and the bread, oh, the bread. Crusty on the outside, soft and delicious on the inside and the choices are so many it’s almost confusing. The fresh meat all have a free-range option that does not make you raise your eyebrows at the cost – it’s all just brilliant.

Of course the restaurants/bistros etc get access to all of this (if not better as they would buy direct from the producers), so popping into Fratelli Fresh for a simple meal – the meat platter – meant we were served with this huge serving of freshly shaved meats – drizzled with a little olive oil, pepper and served with a wedge of lemon. Simple. Delicious.  And breakfast at Cafe Zoe on Bourke Street – buttery scrambled eggs cooked to wobbly perfection served with a hot cup of milky coffee.  I had food envy for the rest of our table with their omelettes and even simple sourdough toast.

The fish markets are pretty disappointingly grubby – apparently the crazy government turned down an offer by the owners of the markets to help refurbish the place. What a shame, it’s full of tourists and we should show a better game than just the seafood. The place is cold, dirty, poorly laid out. But again, the produce…I have always loved wandering around looking at the many many typed of fish available, all looking clear eyed and fresh, smelling like the sea. We ate so much there I can’t even recall everything but the standouts were the Sydney Rock Oysters – smaller than Pacific, but so so much sweeter, uni (by the container !) where the delicate taste of the sea just melted on your tongue, and good old fashioned crumbed and fried calamari.

Yum cha is still a bit hit and miss. I managed to squeeze in two – Sea Treasure up at Crows Nest which certainly deserves not to win “Chinese restaurant of the year” (and has not, since 2008) – just blah, really. For simple ease of getting parking on a weekend, we went to the Greenwood Restaurant at North Sydney on our last day. The food was much better than Sea Treasure, but the dumpling “skin” (which also meant the rice rolls) was too thick for my liking. I like it thin and slippery.  You could probably get better in Singapore, but it’s the hustle and bustle and simply being able to see the food in the trolleys that for me make yum cha the experience that it is.

All in all, I ticked all of the boxes for food that I wanted. And all in all, being back in Singapore, I am grateful that I managed to squeeze it all in a week.


Yum cha at Crystal Jade Golden Palace (Paragon)

In the seemingly never-ending search for good yum cha in Singapore, I think we finally hit the jackpot at Crystal Jade on the weekend.  When I say “good”, I have to admit that my search is to find the best replica for Sydney yum chas, so perhaps my idea of perfection is a tad skewed.

Yum cha is definitely better enjoyed with more than two people.  D and I have tried to go a few times (just the two of us) and it just means you don’t get to order the variety of food that makes yum cha so perfect for people like he and I who cannot make up their mind and basically want a bit of everything.

The restaurant is airconditioned to Arctic temperatures, which I never understand in Chinese restaurants (maybe they want you to eat faster so the turnover is high ?  Then again, this doesn’t look like the sort of place that relies on turnover, so who knows) and the menu limited, but consists of firm favourites – har gau, siu mai, carrot cake – and each one is done to Sydney-grade perfection.  My only comment was that the other yum cha staple – char siew pau – was a bit doughy and the char siew a tad too sweet.

The firm favourite for both D and I was the roast pork.  A small, delicate perfect square of 9 crispy pieces, not too fatty, not too dry.  Delicious by itself or dipped into the accompanying mustard.

All in all, I’d be happy to back there again and again each time the urge for yum cha hits me (which is pretty often, actually).  Hurrah !

#05-22, 290 Orchard Road S(238859), Paragon Shopping Centre
Tel: 6734 6866


Chinese New Year at Jade

Much to my embarrassment, this year, my Western friend had to remind me that perhaps we should go out this Chinese New Year to celebrate by eating.  Shocking, I know.  I was quite keen to go back to Jing again, as D had not yet been, but that was closed for the new year, so we made a reservation at Jade at the Fullerton, which, to my surprise, offered the same buffet-style dim sum.

I didn’t have any real expectations, but I suppose I would have equated it to the level of Jing, and I was disappointed in both the quality of the food as well as the service.  It didn’t seem to me to be of the level I’d expect from the Fullerton.  The whole setup seemed like there was not enough staff to take the orders of patrons and serve as well – all the wait staff looked harrassed and stressed.  There was a very limited dim sum menu, and a fairly extensive non dim sum menu – all the food took a while to come, and was served luke warm to cold and the food itself was quite average.  Add to that, there are two seatings on Sundays, 11.30 – 1.15 and 1.45 – 3.00 which made it an even more rushed affair.

The one good thing was that we were able to order an extra dish which was not included in the buffet – yu sang, or loh hei, a fresh salmon salad made up of ingredients that each represent good fortune for the new  year.  The waitress who served it actually took the time to explain what each meant (which we did noticed was mostly about prosperity) which we happily tossed at the table, making a mess, and celebrating the beginning of the new lunar year.

Nothing much else to say other than Gong Xi Fa Cai ! (and happy Valentine’s Day !)

Jade

1 Fullerton Square
The Fullerton Hotel

Tel: +65 6877 8188


Jing at One Fullerton

There’s a small group of friends here in Singapore who have lived in Sydney and crave the all-favourite yum cha (dim sum here in Singapore).  I’ve tried a few here, from Crystal Jade at Paragon, to the two Lei Gardens (at CHIJMES and Orchard) and while the food is lovely, all seem to have a very upmarket feel to them, where dumplings are ordered by the piece from a menu.  For me, the experience of yum cha enhances the enjoyment of the food.  The hustle and bustle of people all trying to talk over each other as they tuck in to their bamboo steamers to grab the next siew mai or har gau, the trolleys trundling through the tables, where you get to see what’s on offer, allowing you to try food you haven’t tried before, it’s even the curt but ever-so-efficient staff, where turnover is their primary goal.

On a recommendation from Kelly, a small group of us decided to try Jing, at One Fullerton.  Jing is award winning chef Yong Bing Ngen’s second joint venture with hotelier Loh Lik Peng. Chef Yong is well known for serving up excellent modern Chinese food and made his name first at Pan Pacific Hotel’s Hai Tien Lo, and then at the Majestic Restaurant (where he won many many awards).

They have an a-la-carte menu, but on weekends, you can order off the menu, buffet-style.  A few items like desserts and the peking duck can be selected at a counter, where the skin is carved and served to-order.The restaurant itself is modern and warm, unlike the usual stark Chinese restaurants, and I think the whole making people get up and walking around in itself greatly relaxes the vibe of any place.  It’s a full house, and now we know why.

The variety of food available to you to order is dazzling.  Not all of them strictly yum cha, to be fair, for example you can get chilli crab.  I ordered the first round – usual staples of siew mai, har gau and pan-fried carrot cake and the like and all of them were well executed, especially in this buffet-style.  Sydney standards are pretty high, given that yum cha chefs in Sydney can earn up to $100K and are in high demand to serve the never ending queues of people waiting to be seated, and our table talk focused purely on how good the dim sum at Jing was.

Last orders are at 2.30, and by then, my friends and I were well and truly happy and full of dumplings and soft shelled crab.  A lovely way to spend a Saturday afternoon, I see many more visits to Jing with my friends.

JING
One Fullerton, #01-02/03
1 Fullerton Road
Singapore 049213

Tel: 6224 0088

Opening Hours
Lunch – 11.45am to 3pm
Last order – 2.30pm