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Ying Jia Dimsum and Seafood Restaurant, Happy Garden KL

Sometimes, restaurants have to be versatile and offer different items on the menu to entice customers – like Ying Jia Restaurant in Happy Garden KL, which serves dimsum by day and dai chow fare by night.

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The Moo and I had originally wanted to eat dimsum at Phang Kee, a popular stall just a few shops away, but since it was packed, we ended up here instead. The restaurant is very spacious, and even though it isn’t air conditioned, it does not feel hot thanks to the high ceilings and large fans. Orders are made on a chit.

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We got the usual favourites: har gao, chee cheong fun and minced pork meat with fish maw.

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Chee cheong fun with shrimp filling
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Har gao was sizable and tasted pretty good.
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The restaurant has a novel way of keeping their dishes ‘protected’ – by using a plastic bottle with the top half cut open to act as a ‘shield’.

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Shanghai siew loong bao are conveniently served on spoons for easy eating. The dumplings are steamed together with cabbage, which imparts the skin with the natural sweetness of vegetables. The broth is flavourful and the skin’s thickness is just right.

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Salted egg custard buns. The colour is lighter than the ones I’m used to from my favourite dimsum place, but they’re nice and fluffy. I think the inside could have used more custard, though. Tasty nonetheless.

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And last but not least, ‘salad prawns’ – essentially deep fried shrimp dumplings. These are my favourite and a must-order whenever I go to any dimsum shop. The version here is done well; crispy and flaky shell, juicy, bouncy shrimps enveloped within. Best eaten with mayonnaise and washed down with lots of hot tea.

Overall, I found the dimsum at Ying Jia pretty good and value for money. The owners themselves are out and about serving customers, and service is fast and friendly.

YING JIA DIMSUM & SEAFOOD RESTAURANT

1, Jalan Lazat 1, Taman Bukit Indah, 58200 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur

Opening hours: 7.30AM – 2PM, 5PM – 9PM (closed for dinner on Tuesdays)

*Opinions here are my own. Feel free to agree/disagree with my taste buds.

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Thong Kee Kopitiam, Puchong – One of Puchong’s Best Breakfast Spots

A classic Malaysian breakfast typically consists of toast with kaya and butter plus half boiled eggs, washed down with a nice cup of coffee or tea. You will find this and more at Thong Kee Kopitiam in Puchong. The shop also ups the ante with something you’d normally see in bakeries rather than kopitiams: croissants.

Video:

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Originally from Pahang, Thong Kee started off as a humble establishment in the small town of Bentong. Like many kopitiams, the fare served here has Hainanese origins (The Hainanese people emigrated to Malaya during the British occupation. Most worked as cooks for the British; hence the ‘Western’ style of breakfast ie toast with butter and jam + coffee that is often served at kopitiams today. It is a uniquely Southeast Asian thing which you will not find in the Hainanese community in China.) Eventually, the brand grew popular enough that they expanded to the Klang Valley, with an outlet in Seapark and another in Puchong.

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The early bird gets the worm, or in this case… the croissant.

All of their outlets enjoy brisk business, so it’s best to come as early as possible if you want avoid the queues. The fam and I came around 7.45AM on a weekend and the place was already quite packed. There is a huge open-air kitchen with dozens of staff preparing drinks and food.

Take note of your table number, give it to the cashier when you make your order, pay on the spot, and wait for your food to be served. Aside from toast with butter and kaya, you can also go for items like doughnuts, and croissants with various fillings (ham, ham and cheese, egg, otak-otak, etc.)

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The original Thong Kee is famous for its 1+1 – a blend of Hainanese coffee and tea – so I ordered a glass to try.

The drink comes served with a layer of foam on top, and the coffee is strong and fragrant. It is similar to Ipoh white coffee; ie sweet and aromatic. I think the tea helps to make the beverage smoother, but the coffee is pretty strong so I barely tasted any tea.

Trivia: Unlike Western coffee, making Hainanese coffee usually involves roasting the beans with salt, sugar and margarine, imparting it with a rich, robust fragrance with a distinctly caramelized flavour. The coffee is then filtered through a long sock-like cloth multiple times.

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Not forgetting the star of the show, we ordered a few croissants to share. The texture is superb – crispy, flaky, buttery and soft on the inside. The fillings are deceptively simple – ham and egg, or a slab of butter and kaya spread – but everything comes together perfectly.

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If you’re not in the mood for bread, there are other stalls at the kopitiam as well, selling dishes like nasi lemak and pan mee.

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If you’re looking for a quick bite to go, or something you can bring home, the shop also sells freshly baked loaves, homemade kaya and curry puffs.

The croissants are priced around RM7.90 +, depending on filling.

THONG KEE (PUCHONG)

G-01 Puchong Square, Jalan Layang – Layang 5, Bandar Puchong Jaya, 47170 Puchong, Selangor

Opening hours: 7.30AM – 4.30PM

thongkee.com.my

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Bug’s Paradise Farm, Puchong – Organic Farm and Cafe by BMS Organics

Organic food has risen in popularity in recent years, as more people adopt a healthier lifestyle – but farm-to-table experiences are still relatively rare in Malaysia, as is awareness to the concept. BMS Organics, a popular local organic food and cafe chain, is aiming to change that – by bringing the experience to urban dwellers.

Video here:

Located within a quiet spot in Kampung Pulau Meranti Puchong, Bugs Paradise Farm is a relatively new endeavor, having opened in the later half of 2020. The compound houses a spacious open-air shop selling organic goods, next to a cafe and a plot of farmland where organic vegetables are grown. There is also an enclosure with small animals like rabbits, chickens and ducks. The cafe serves fusion dishes by day, and steamboat (hotpot) by night. PS: This is a vegetarian cafe, so most of their products are plant-based.

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Parking is free, but note that the parking area is not paved and spots are limited.
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The fam and I visited on a weekend and the place was not too busy. Most of the visitors were families with young children. There is plenty of space, so definitely a better option than crowded shopping malls. The cafe itself is a simple structure with attap roofing, which gives the place a rustic feel. The ceilings are high, so even though there is no air-conditioning, it’s quite cooling even in the afternoon.

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Kiosks serving hot cocoa and drinks, although these were not open during our visit.
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The menu has a variety of dishes, including rice and porridge meals, noodles and spaghetti, poke bowls and appetisers. Prices range from RM15-RM25 for mains.

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Visitors can go on farm tours, where a guide will share knowledge on organic farming and take visitors on a stroll around the farm, followed by lunch at the cafe. Pre-bookings are required. (RM38 per pax)

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Organic food lovers will be thrilled as there are lots of products available at the shop, from organic soybeans, quinoa and tri-millet, to fresh vegetables, kombucha, sauces, jams, and more. There’s also a frozen food section where you can buy pre-packed food that you can cook at home.

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As for the cafe, we had a hiccup during our visit. Orders are made by scanning a QR code, but for some reason, they did not register in the system. We ended up going to the counter, where the staff manually keyed in each dish into the computer.

Even so, there was still a mix-up, and all the dishes that came to our table were the wrong orders. The kitchen had to make our dishes again from scratch, and we had to wait about 50 minutes to an hour for them to arrive. It didn’t help when other people who arrived to the cafe later than us got their orders first. We inquired with one of the waitstaff, who took the receipt we had and disappeared to the back of the resto for a long time.

I think it was genuinely a computer error and miscommunication, as the items printed on the receipt were correct, but the orders came out wrong. Still, it would have been nice if they had communicated the situation/updated us on the status of our dishes, rather than have us wait for an hour unsure if we should remind them again in case they had forgotten our orders.

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Mom’s Herbal Soup with Yee Mee (RM16.90), which came served in a claypot. The soup had a good amount of red dates and wolfberries in it.

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Pops’ Herbal Soup with Multigrain Rice (RM15.90). You can opt to change to cauliflower rice at an additional charge.

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I ordered the Lion’s Mane Mushroom Wrap, which is essentially a vegan burrito. Inside was fresh lettuce, carrots, purple cabbage and mushrooms plus a creamy sesame sauce, which bound all the elements together. I don’t like vegetables in general, but these were fresh, sweet and crunchy, and the mushrooms had a nice meat-like texture to them.

Also got two half-boiled asthaxanthin eggs (not pictured). Asthaxanthin is an antioxidant that is present in many types of sea creatures like salmon, crabs, lobsters and shrimp, and is purported to have health benefits such as boosting the immune system and cardiovascular health. Chicken feed is mixed with it to get eggs rich in asthaxanthin – which is a good option for vegetarians who can’t consume seafood.

PS: When we made payment, the cafe gave us a free packet of veggies as an apology for the mix-up with our orders, which was a nice gesture.

Bug’s Paradise Farm is a good place to visit, especially now that interstate travel isn’t yet allowed due to the pandemic. Aside from the issue I mentioned above, which I think they tried their best to rectify, I enjoyed my time there. The food is slightly more expensive, but that is to be expected for organic ingredients. The location isn’t ideal, since it’s in an area surrounded by factories, but the fencing around the plot helps to block out the view.

Bookings for farm tours can be made here. Tours are in Mandarin or English.

GETTING THERE

Bugs Paradise Farm is located at Lot 46692, Jalan Pulau Meranti, Kampung Pulau Meranti, 47120 Puchong, Selangor. It is a 20 minute drive from the Puchong city centre (IOI Mall area), and about 20 minutes from Cyberjaya. Opens 12PM – 10PM from Wednesdays to Fridays, and 10AM – 10PM on weekends. Closed Mon – Tues.

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Strangers at 47, SS17 Petaling Jaya – Sweet and Savoury Crepes

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Living in the Klang Valley, there are plenty of cool and chic cafes to check out every other week. But competition is pretty fierce, and if you don’t have something to draw in the crowds (like good food, impeccable service and an Instagrammable interior), you’re likely to fold just as quickly as you set up shop.

Strangers at 47, though, has been a long-time stalwart on the cafe scene. As one of the pioneers in the SS17 area, the shop has a stable fanbase, who come for their delicious crepes, and it has even expanded from a single shop lot to include two adjacent spaces, providing diners with a comfortable and more spacious dining experience.

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My last visit here was in 2015. Yes, I am aware that it was 6 years ago lol. The signature mural of a fox and a bear upon entering the restaurant is still there.
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Although the space is much bigger now, the theme has not changed much, and still features a minimalistic look, with communal-style long tables for larger groups, cosy booths, wooden tables and warm yellow lights.

Stringent SOPs are in place before customers are allowed to enter the shop for dine-in. At the entrance, aside from scanning your temperature and registering yourself via MySejahtera, a staff member will also explain the house rules, such as wearing masks while moving around the cafe (except when you’re eating/drinking). You are also allowed to stay for a maximum of 1.5 hours only. It’s a good thing we came early, as the line started building up after 11.30am.

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For hygiene purposes, there are no printed menus. Diners scan a digital menu using a QR code scanner.

You can view their menu here.

My Hot Cappucino (RM11) was nice and milky, but not too sweet.

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The Moomins is trying to eat less meat these days, so we ordered Lethal Shrooms (RM19.50); one of the cafe’s signatures that has been on the menu since they opened. An assortment of sauteed mushrooms such as portobello, shimeji and baby king oysters mushrooms, plus sauteed baby spinach and caramelised onions are wrapped in a thin savoury crepe, then topped with tomato relish, poached egg and a balsamic vinaigrette dressing. I recommend ordering this if you’re not sure what to order; it never fails to disappoint.

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If seafood is more your thing, there’s Miss Dory (RM22.50), comprising breaded and deep fried to golden perfection fish fillet, battered squid, citrus-cucumber onion salad, potato pumpkin mash, roasted cherry tomatoes and homemade sriracha mayo lime. All the flavours and textures — the crunchy from the fish and squid, the soft and smooth pumpkin mash plus the tangy cherry tomatoes and mayo lime — come together wonderfully.

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Aside from savoury crepes, Strangers at 47 has a selection of sweet crepes as well. Unfortunately we were too stuffed to order any.
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The cafe offers cakes too. The Cendolier Cheesecake (RM14.50 per slice) is a house specialty. You can also take home homemade kimchi, kaya and homebrewed kombucha.

Service here is excellent, albeit a little slow as the crepes are made to order. If you’re here over the weekend, come early to avoid the crowd, or be prepared for a wait.

STRANGERS AT 47

45, 47 & 49, Jalan 17/45, Seksyen 17, 46400 Petaling Jaya, Selangor

Opening hours: 10AM – 9PM (Closed Tuesdays).

Phone: 03-7498 1034

facebook.com/strangersat47

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How To Gain Weight: CNY Edition

Happy Chinese New Year!

This year’s festivities are much more subdued due to the pandemic, but I still had an enjoyable time bonding (and eating!) with the family over the weekend. To save on the hassle of preparing an elaborate meal for our reunion dinner night, we decided to have hotpot/barbecue out on the porch. We bought most of the ingredients in advance so we wouldn’t have to rush to the market on the few days leading up to CNY.

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Aside from the quintessential pork belly slices (you can get these from the local butcher nicely packed), our hotpot ‘buffet’ also had all the other essentials: chicken and fish slices, pork balls and fish balls, needle mushrooms, squid, seafood cheese tofu, fried beancurd sheets, and for carbs, udon noodles. Moomins opened a celebratory can of mini abalones – they’re especially cheap this year due to a dip in demand.

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We bought a 2-in-1 BBQ/hotpot stove from Lazada, just for this.

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The soup base we used was from Hai Di Lao. We bought the shrimp flavour thinking it would be mild, but it was actually quite spicy. It also had preserved vegetables, which gave it a sour tang. Personally, I prefer something milkier and sweeter, so I will probably go for another flavour the next time around.

I know processed foods aren’t the healthiest, but seafood cheese tofu and bursting pork balls (above) are my favourites whenever I have hotpot. Seafood cheese tofu is usually made from surimi, so the texture is bouncy, and it has bits of creamy cheese within; while bursting pork balls are so called because there is hot soup in the centre, so caution should be taken whenever you bite into them so the juices within don’t spill everywhere and burn your tongue.

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My parents weren’t keen on the pork belly slices, so my brother and I ate most of them. I can safely say that I ate my fill lol. I prefer mine cooked in the hotpot, because they tend to get crispy and hard on the grill (I like mine to be soft so you can taste the texture of the fat and lean meat). Dip them in some soy sauce and chilli, and voila! Magic. We rarely have hotpot at home, so this was a very satisfying experience.

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By the time we finished dinner and the washing up it was nearly 10pm. We had initially planned to have our yee sang right after, but everyone was too full, so we watched Bad Genius on Netflix and waited for midnight.

Instead of the usual salmon yee sang, we got a fruits version this year. My cousin and his girlfriend are doing it as a part-time business, so it was our way of showing support (I also sent two sets to friends). It was basically a fruit salad consisting of green and red grapes, strawberries, mandarin oranges, carrots, pomegranates and dragonfruit (we didn’t add this in because it was too soft and watery), plus toasted pumpkin and sesame seeds. In place of plum sauce was honey.

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All in all, good, albeit on the sour side despite the addition of honey.

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After all that feasting on reunion dinner night, our first day of CNY was tamer affair. Traditionally, many families will observe a vegetarian meal after the extravagance of the previous night – we had a simple meal of udon and mock meat with fried egg for lunch. Also spent the afternoon playing mahjong. Everyone was rusty, because we only do this once a year lol.

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I received a nice surprise on the morning of Day 2: my friend H sent me a CNY package!

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Went out in the afternoon with Pops to Moon Palace Restaurant, to pick up our order of poon choi. For my non-Chinese readers, it’s basically a Cantonese dish comprised of a pot filled with luxurious seafood and meat items, which are then poured over with a rich sauce. Due to the large portions, it is meant to be shared, and you’ll often see it at festive occasions like Chinese New Year and weddings. I’ve only had poon choi once or twice during food reviews, never with the fam, so it was a first for all of us.

Our poon choi came with abalone, dried oysters stuffed with fat choi (a type of cyanobacteria with the appearance of human hair – it sounds gross lol but tastes like seaweed), roast duck, poached chicken, brocolli, huge shiitake mushrooms, abalone mushrooms, prawns, yam, scallops and roast pork. The oyster sauce that was to be poured over coagulated slightly from the cold, but otherwise everything was excellent. I especially liked the abalone mushrooms: they were thick and juicy. It’s no wonder people use them in making imitation meat – the texture is very similar.

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And finally, to round up our 2nd day, another round of yee sang; this time vegetarian.

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Bonus: Air-dried clay Mandarin Oranges my brother made for fun.

While this CNY lacks the cheer and pomp of yesteryears, I think I actually enjoyed it more. The weekend was spent bonding with the fam, playing Divinity 2: Original Sin, embroidering (new hobby!), and just eating. Like a lot. I think between Pops, the brother and I, we finished five cans of snacks and a dozen canned drinks. Also, I got no exercise in at all, so it’s not surprising that I gained 2kg.

It’s back to the grind tomorrow, and I’ll be getting back into my workout routine as well.

Hope you all had a good celebration!

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KFC Malaysia Released A “Zero Chicken Burger” – But It’s Not Vegan / Vegetarian-Friendly

You know what KFC is without the chicken?

Just KF.

…. Okay lame.

In all seriousness, woke up today and KFC’s icon on Facebook had turned green. Malaysians being Malaysians, there were many ‘mak kau hijau’ and ‘bila masa KFC dah join PAS ni?’ jokes. But it’s actually in conjunction with the launch of KFC’s new Zero Chicken Burger, a ‘chicken’ burger that – you guessed it – has no chicken. Singapore released theirs in January, so we’re a little late, but better late than never, right?

A collaboration between KFC and the meat substitute brand Quorn, the burger’s meat-free patty is ‘made with the original recipe of the 11 herbs and spices we know and love, topped with a slice of cheese and a splash of tangy BBQ sauce.’

Here’s the catch though: it’s neither vegan nor vegetarian. According to Singapore’s Today Online, the reason is because although the patties are plant-based (they’re made from mycoprotein from fungi) they’re fried in the same oil as some of KFC’s chicken products, and the mayonnaise is not vegan, since it’s made from eggs. It also has cheese.

Which begs the question: who is KFC targeting? They’ve made a meat-free burger, but people who don’t eat meat can’t enjoy it. The only answer I’m left with is people who think of it as a novelty. Because the only reason I go to KFC is, well, for the chicken. And if I wanted to eat vegan food, I’d go to a vegan resto.

Still, I think it’s a good attempt to introduce mock meat to the masses. When Beyond Burgers made headlines a couple of years ago, I was genuinely confused as to why it was such a big deal – Chinese restaurants have been making mock meat for ages; some of which taste almost like the real thing. But then I realised that there aren’t many people beyond the Chinese community who are actually aware of its existence. Especially in Malaysia, where there aren’t many people who adopt a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle (those who do usually do so for religious reasons > health reasons).

So for curious diners, you might want to give the KFC Zero Chicken Burger a try: the burger costs RM12.99 ala carte, and is available for a limited time only, while stocks last. The set goes for RM15.99.

As for me, I think I’ll stick with my chicks.

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Make Your Own Restaurant-Level Reunion Dishes At Home This CNY with Recipes by Professional Chefs

Reunion dinner is a long standing Chinese New Year tradition, and while some among us might not be able to dine out this year due to movement restrictions, we can still keep the spirit of the celebration alive in our homes.

Abalone and Oyster Phoenix Rolls
Abalone and Oyster Phoenix Rolls

MAGGI® Professional, in collaboration with Malaysia Selangor And Federal Territory Ku Su Shin Chong Hung Restaurant Association, has released a mini recipe book – dubbed the MAGGI® Prosperity Reunion Menu Recipe Book – featuring 10 outstanding chefs and their signature dishes.

The culinary experts share classic dishes with their own twist for this special occasion, plus helpful tips on how to create one’s own signature dish using MAGGI® Professional’s wide range of Culinary Aids, including the all-time favourite bouillon range, which comprises MAGGI® Concentrated Vegetable Stock, MAGGI® Concentrated Chicken Stock, MAGGI® Concentrated Chicken Stock with no added MSG, as well as the essential MAGGI® Chef’s Master Stock.

Prosperity Yee Sang
Prosperity Yee Sang

These mouth-watering recipes include the traditional Prosperity Yee Sang which gets a fresh, fruity makeover, Colourful Abacus Yam Seeds to brighten the table, the decadent Abalone & Oyster Phoenix Rolls, succulent Jade Shrimp Roll with Cherry Blossoms Rainbow Chicken and more. The full book can be viewed and downloaded at this link in PDF form, free of charge.

Not keen on cooking yourself? You can still support these chefs and the local food industry by ordering reunion dinner via takeaway:

  • Restoran Green View (Chef Lim Kin Lee, Head Chef)
  • M Cuisine (Chef Kam, Executive Chef)
  • Sun Gourmet Kitchen (Chef Sun, Kitchen Production Director and Executive Director)
  • Restoran Seafood Chiem Choo (Chef Freddie Tan, Executive Chef)
  • One Seafood Restaurant (Chef Sam Tan, Chopping Chef)
  • Restaurant Peninsula Chinese Cuisine (Chef Choong Yau Wai, Executive Chef)
  • Restaurant Kwong Chun (Chef Wong Kou Chiew, Owner and Head Chef)
  • Imperial China Restaurant (Chef Thomas Chau, Head Chef)
  • Kajang Fei Chui Restaurant (Chef Loh Chiew Heoon, Owner and Executive Chef)
  • Ku Su Shin Chong Hung’s Pastry Master (Chef Ng Meng Loong, Hotel’s Executive Pastry Chef)

For more culinary inspirations, visit www.nestleprofessional.com.my or www.facebook.com/NestleProfessionalMY.

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Your Guide To Different Types of Dimsum

Growing up, my favourite part about weekend mornings was when my parents brought me out for a dimsum breakfast. I loved the hustle and bustle of the dining floor, filled with the chatter of patrons and the clink of plates and chopsticks. I loved the towering baskets of bamboo steamers piled up high on carts that were wheeled to each table, where diners got to pick out their favourite items. But most of all, I loved savouring the dimsum itself: delicious bite-sized morsels that are either steamed, fried or baked. It’s no wonder the literal translation for dimsum is ‘touch the heart’! 

As an adult, I still love dimsum, and even though the pandemic has changed the way we dine, I still find myself getting dimsum for takeaway every now and then to satisfy my cravings. 

For those unfamiliar with Cantonese cuisine, ordering dim sum can feel like a daunting task, what with the bewildering array of choices available. But fret not: here’s a handy dimsum guide that will help you to tell your siew mai apart from your siew loong bao (and perhaps impress your Cantonese friends while you’re at!) 

**Spellings may differ slightly depending on which country you’re from; I’m using the versions most common to where I live. Also, I’ve only listed 12 types; otherwise this would turn into a compendium lol. 

Har Gao 

Matt @ PEK, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You can’t go to a dimsum resto and not order a basket of har gao. These shrimp dumplings are distinguished by their slightly translucent wrapper and delicate pleats. The wrapper is made from rice flour, which gives it a slightly chewy texture that contrasts perfectly with the juicy, crunchy shrimps enveloped within. A good har gao should not stick to the bottom of the steamer, and the skin should be thin enough to see-through, but thick enough that it doesn’t break when you lift it with your chopsticks. 

Siew Mai 

Blenpeams, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Next to har gao, siew mai is another must-have at every table. Like the har gao, the siew mai is also a ‘dumpling’, but a different kind altogether. The filling typically contains ground pork and whole or chopped shrimp, sometimes paired with ingredients such as mushrooms, chives, bamboo shoots or water chestnuts (for that added crunch). The wrapper is made from lye dough and is either yellow or white; sometimes it has a slightly sweet taste. To garnish, crab roe or diced carrot is used to form a dot at the top of the dumpling. 

Char Siew Bao 

Takeaway, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

These barbecued pork buns are my husband’s favourite. In the Philippines, where the hubs is from, they are known as siopao, and the pork filling is usually red in colour. Here in Malaysia, a dark filling is more common; although tastewise, I think they are quite similar. The filling is savoury with a hint of sweetness, thanks to the marinade of oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar and roasted sesame seed oil. 

Although char siew bao looks similar to baozi (traditional Chinese steamed buns), the texture of the former is different, as the dough uses yeast and baking powder as leavening, making it dense but fluffy. 

Siew Loong Bao 

While the name means ‘mini basket buns’, siew loong bao (or xiaolongbao) are actually soup dumplings. Traditionally a dish from Jiangsu, it is often associated with Shanghainese cuisine. The dumplings are also very popular in Taiwan, thanks to brands like Din Tai Fung, who have also popularised it in the West, so much so that they are sometimes called Taiwanese soup dumplings. 

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So, how does one fill a dumpling with soup? Chefs use a solid meat aspic (sort of like a gelatin cube), which they stuff together with ground pork into the thin wrapper before steaming. The heat from the cooking process then melts the aspic, creating a savoury soup. There’s supposed to be a ‘proper’ way to eat siew loong bao; ie you poke a hole in the skin, slurp up the soup, put a couple of ginger slices on then dip it into vinegar before consuming whole – but I say food is to be enjoyed, so eat it as you like. Just don’t burn your tongue on hot soup! 

Fung Jao (Phoenix Talons) 

A lofty name for chicken feet braised with black bean sauce. Some consider it a delicacy, and if you’re not used to eating parts like feet, this dish might be a tad … adventurous. The black bean sauce is savoury and sweet, masking any unpleasant odours. There’s not much meat on the feet, but plenty of skin, cartilage and tendons, so if you enjoy gelatinous textures, then dig in. If you’re really skilled, take a big bite – then elegantly spit out the small bones. 

Har Guen 

Since Canton (Guangdong) is close to the sea, a lot of dishes in Cantonese cuisine use seafood. Har Guen, or fried shrimp rolls, is one of them. Shrimps are wrapped with dried beancurd sheets (fu pei) into rolls, then deep fried to crispy perfection. To suit modern tastes, dimsum shops often serve them with dips like mayonnaise and garlic chilli sauce. 

Chee Cheong Fun 

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Many dimsum items are bite-sized, so if you’re looking for something more substantial, there’s chee cheong fun, ie steamed rice noodle rolls. The name actually means ‘pig intestine noodles’, since they look like pig intestines. Chee cheong fun starts off as a ‘sheet’: a mixture of rice flour, tapioca or glutinous rice flour plus water is poured over a special flat pan. The heat causes it to solidify;  it is then rolled into its signature long shape and sliced. The noodles are very versatile, and different places serve different versions, but the ones you find at dimsum shops are usually served plain and drizzled over with soy sauce, or stuffed with shrimp (no surprise) or barbecued pork. Here in Malaysia, dimsum restos often add sambal or chilli on top. 

Lo Mai Gai 

brown_colour, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

My dad and brother are typical Asians. Rice is a must have at every meal, which is why they always order this glutinous rice dish whenever we have dimsum. Traditionally, the rice, together with ingredients like mushroom, Chinese sausage and pork is wrapped in a lotus leaf and steamed, giving it a fragrant aroma – but modern versions use an aluminium foil bowl so that it’s easier to remove (sourcing for lotus leaves is probably an expensive endeavour too). The rice has a chewy texture with a sticky ‘glaze’ to it. 

Lo Bak Go

jasonlam, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

“Lo bak” refers to carrots, but these savoury ‘cakes’ are actually made from Chinese radish. Water, rice flour and starch is added to mashed radish roots to form squares, which are then deep fried. Sometimes ingredients like dried shrimp, dried mushrooms, Chinese sausage and jinhua ham are added to give it more flavour. The starch/flour gives the cakes a crisp, brown coating, whilst retaining a soft but solid consistency throughout. Chao lo bak go is essentially the same, but stir fried with vegetables like bean sprouts and chilli instead of deep fried. 

Lao Sar Bao 

My personal favourite, lao sar bao (molten lava bun) is a relatively new creation to grace the menus of dim sum restaurants. Popularised in recent years due to the salted egg yolk custard craze, these steamed buns are soft and fluffy with a sweet and creamy filling of mashed salted egg yolks. The filling is a wonderful balance between sweet and salty, and although it has a sandy texture on the tongue (due to the egg yolk mash), it still slides down your throat effortlessly. There’s almost a sensual quality when you tear the buns apart and watch as the filling oozes out. Hmmh. 

Wu Kok 

Haha169, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Deep fried yam puffs? Comfort food at its best. The pastry has a croquette-like texture, in that it’s flaky and crumbly rather than firm like other types of deep fried dumplings. At first bite, you get a light and crispy texture on the outside, before moving on to the smooth, paste-like consistency of the yam. Finally, there’s the juicy centre of moist pork and vegetables. 

Daan Tat 

Of course, we can’t round off the meal without dessert. Dan taat, or Cantonese egg tarts are inspired by English tarts and the Portuguese pastel de nata; a vestige of British colonial influence in Canton / Hong Kong, as well as Portuguese influence in Macao. While dan taat isn’t traditional dimsum per se (it was only sold beginning the early 20th century), it is a staple on many dimsum restaurant menus today, as well as in Hong Kong-style char chaan tengs (coffeeshops). Making the pastry is tedious process, as it requires multiple folding to get that flaky texture, and a careful baking process to ensure the custard is perfect. I can’t imagine a more fitting dessert to end a dim sum feast. 

And there you have it! This is by no means a comprehensive guide: there are literally dozens if not over a hundred different types of dimsum, some of which even I have not tasted before. But hopefully, if  you haven’t been to a dimsum resto before, this will give you a better idea of some dishes to order and make the experience less intimidating. 

Happy feasting! 

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