A couple of months ago, I wrote about Ramen Seirock-Ya, an up-and-coming halal ramen chain that specialises in toripaitan (chicken ramen) – and how it might just be the best halal ramen that I’ve tasted. Well, my opinion hasn’t changed – but this time, I’ve made a vlog about it. And in Malay, no less!
The video clips have been in my folder for some time now, but I just couldn’t find the time/energy to edit them. But better late than never, right? PS: This was filmed before the Movement Control Order 3.0 came into effect, when dine-in was still allowed. Fret not, though – you can order from them online here.
BTW, this is the first time that I’ve vlogged in Malay. Language gets rusty if you don’t use it often, which is the case with my Malay, and that’s why I wanted to at least practice it a bit in my vlog.
“But aren’t you Malaysian?” my non-Malaysian readers might ask. “You should be fluent in Malay, since you live there.”
Well, technically, I am fluent. I learned it for 10 years in school. I even got a “Best in BM” award in high school, which is a pretty good achievement if I say so myself, seeing that I’m Malaysian Chinese.
Here’s the thing though. It’s complicated. Malaysia is a pretty odd country. You have all these different races living together in relative harmony, but racial (and religious) polarisation has been on the rise in recent years, and it’s no longer surprising to find people who aren’t that fluent in Malay, even though they are citizens. My parents, for example, can speak in Malay relatively well. But they tend to mix English words into their conversations, and if you asked them to speak purely in Malay, they would find it difficult. Would that be considered ‘fluent’?
As for myself, well, being stuck at home means I only speak Cantonese and English (my first language) most of the time. And to be honest, my Malay has been on a downward spiral ever since I graduated from high school, because I don’t have that many Malay friends (or friends in general *cough cough*) who speak to me in Malay. The only occasions where I have to dig up my long-lost BM vocab are when I have to visit a government office.
Anyway, I hope to make more vlogs in Malay. I’m already an outcast when it comes to Chinese (I can’t read Chinese characters and I’m not fluent in Mandarin. Third culture kid problems), so I don’t want mastery of my second best language to go down the drain.
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Despite having a sizable community here, Filipino cuisine is still (imo) underappreciated in Malaysia. Unlike Thai or Indonesian restaurants, which are ubiquitous all over the country, Filipino restaurants are a bit more difficult to find, and their patrons are usually Filipinos, rather than Malaysians. There is one thing to be said about that, though – it usually means that these are the places that serve authentic food for those who crave a taste of home.
One of these restaurants is The Narra Filipino Resto Lounge, tucked within Dataran Millennium in Petaling Jaya. When searching for the best Filipino restaurants in KL, The Narra regularly tops the list – and for good reason. They have a wide variety of dishes from different parts of the Philippines, service is good, and prices and portions are fair. I’ve been here several times, and even celebrated a birthday here with the Hubs. Since my parents have never tried Filipino cuisine, I thought it’d be a good idea to bring them here for dinner on Sunday.
The decor is pretty much the same from my previous visit: neat, with clean white tables and chairs, and a small stage where a live band performs on weekends. There is a display of baked goods and cakes at the counter, as well as a couple of shelves stocked with Filipino treats and canned goods. It was quiet during our visit, so we didn’t have to wait long for our food.
Bro and Pops ordered Calamansi juice while I went for Gulaman, which is a syrupy sweet brown sugar drink with a jelly like substance, similar to cincau or agar. It was a tad too sweet even for me, so you might want to skip this if you don’t like sugary drinks.
Of course, I had to get my favourite order, Sisig, consisting of chopped pig head with onions, chilli peppers, calamansi and egg, served on a sizzling hotplate. The parts of the pig’s head create a medley of interesting textures: you get the crunch from the cartilage, and soft and fatty bits from the jowls and cheeks. It’s definitely not a healthy dish, what with the fat and grease, but it’s oh-so-sinful.
I usually come here alone, so I haven’t had the chance to try dishes like the Pininyahang Manok, which is chicken braised in coconut milk, pineapples, carrots, potatoes and bell peppers. My parents found the flavour ‘very odd’, but I liked it because it reminded me of Chinese-style buttermilk, albeit with a slightly sour aftertaste. Not a fan of bell peppers in general, but I don’t think the taste was very pronounced. The chicken was cooked well, and the carrots were done just right; soft without being mushy.
Bro had Embosilog. The name comes from the dish’s three main components: Embotido (pork meatloaf), Sinangag (garlic fried rice) and Itlog (egg). Nipped a bit from his plate and was impressed. The fried rice was very fragrant and the meatloaf was tasty.
Grilled pork intestines for sharing. I know some people will find it off-putting but I actually enjoy the slightly gamey smell 😛
The chicken inasal (grilled chicken thigh) was humongous. Among all of the dishes, I think this was my least favourite. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t exceptional either.
PS: If you’re wondering why we didn’t order Filipino signatures like sinigang (a tamarind-based stew) and adobo (pork cooked in vinegar and soy sauce), it’s because my mom has intestinal and stomach problems, and she can’t take spicy, oily, or sour food. Which ruled out many options because a lot of Filipino dishes are sour, and some of the good ones are oily (lechon, crispy pata).
Having been to the Philippines many times, I think I have a good grasp of Filipino flavours – but I think my parents found it quite foreign and unlike anything they had tasted before. My mom commented that the food takes some getting used to, while my brother said, “I’m not sure what to make of it. With Thai food or Malay food, you get a distinct flavour profile that is easily recognisable. But these dishes are hard to identify.”
They both make valid points. The Philippines has a unique culture, being the only country in Southeast Asia that was occupied by the Spanish for well over 400 years. The cuisine has strong Spanish and Latin influence, which is why you’ll find dishes like adobo, chiccharon, flan, picadillo and empanadas gracing the dinner table in Filipino and Latino homes. At the same time, it also has distinct Malay influences, as evidenced by the Pininyahang Manok we ordered, which uses coconut milk – a common ingredient in Southeast Asian cooking. There are also dishes like the kare-kare (beef tripe cooked in peanut butter, influenced by Indian cuisine), and lumpia (spring rolls, from Chinese culture).
For me personally, I like some dishes, and some other dishes not so much. The hubs says I blaspheme because I don’t like the taste of Choco Butternut, but hey, you can’t expect every single non-Malaysian to fall head over heels with nasi lemak, right? (although I have yet to meet someone who didn’t like nasi lemak, lol).
The Narra also sells imported products from the Philippines, such as corned beef, banana ketchup (mom: WHAT?) and Mang Tomas (pork liver sauce).
I usually get Piattos (they call it Jigs here in Malaysia – although it’s super difficult to find these days), but the restaurant was out of stock, so I got some Lucky Mee Pancit Canton to take home instead.
Our meal (plus my snacks) came up to about RM120. I think we went a bit overboard – could have made do with 3 dishes instead of four – but the price was fairly reasonable given the portions.
If you’re Malaysian and curious about how Filipino cuisine tastes like, The Narra is a good place to try authentic Filipino food. If you’re a Filipino residing in Malaysia, the dishes and the atmosphere (the servers sing Filipino songs while they go about their work, and the resto is always playing OPM) will surely remind you of home.
THE NARRA FILIPINO RESTO LOUNGE
G001 Dataran Millennium, Jalan 14/1, 46100 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
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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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
Pops’ Herbal Soup with Multigrain Rice (RM15.90). You can opt to change to cauliflower rice at an additional charge.
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.
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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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.
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.
For hygiene purposes, there are no printed menus. Diners scan a digital menu using a QR code scanner.
My Hot Cappucino (RM11) was nice and milky, but not too sweet.
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.
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.
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
As we welcome the month of March, Hilton Malaysia presents an array of scrumptious dishes for everyone across its properties: from bento sets to high tea for two, and vacuum-packed meals to bring out the inner chef in you at home.
The Food Store, DoubleTree by Hilton Melaka – Bento Express
If you’re always on the go, fret not – your lunch and dinner meals are covered, thanks to the delicious bento boxes for takeaway and delivery offered by DoubleTree by Hilton Melaka. Indulge the taste buds with special chicken and beef-themed menus such as Golden Fried Chicken with Salted Egg Sauce, Roasted Chicken with Homemade BBQ Sauce, Daging Dengdeng Berlado, Daging Rempah Bakar Madu and more. Each set comes with a salad, ‘Chef’s cake of the day’, whole fruit and beverage.
Makan Kitchen, DoubleTree by Hilton Melaka –Street Food Dinner
Miss hawker food? Inspired by the diverse culinary elements from the street food scene, you can embark on a gastronomic journey with DoubleTree by Hilton Melaka to discover an array of authentic street food from Malaysia. The all-you-can-eat assisted buffet comprises lip-smacking favourites such as Fried Kuey Teow, Nyonya Curry Laksa, Satay, Tandoori Chicken and many more that are too delicious to miss.
From 2 Feb 2021 onwards | Every Saturday, 6:30pm – 10:30pm
RM69 nett per adult | RM49 nett per child & senior citizen
Prior reservation is required. | Standard bank discounts are applicable
The Food Store, DoubleTree by Hilton Johor Bahru – Weekday Lunch Box
Perfect for a quick fix-up at work or fuss-free meal at home, DoubleTree by Hilton Johor Bahru’s lunch boxes are your go-to options. Perk up your palate with awesome flavours in this month’s highlights: Szechuan Chicken and Lamb Kofta Curry. Available for dine-in or takeaway via TABLEAPP.
Axis Lounge, DoubleTree by Hilton Johor Bahru – High Tea for Two
Whether it’s an afternoon with your friends or an intimate tea treat with that special someone, Axis Lounge is the place to go for a pot of tea and dainty delicacies. Diners can look forward to Strawberry Truffle, Pink Blondies, Salmon Mousse on Brioche, Pizza Margherita and more. Choose from a selection of premium Dilmah tea or coffee to pair with the high tea set.
Waterfront Café, Hilton Kuching – Bring Hilton Home
From appetisers to mains and desserts, Waterfront Cafe offers all-in-one bento meals. Expect a nutritious and flavourful meal like Wok-Fried Beef with Onion and Ginger Bento, Fish Fillet with Thai Kerabu and Kampung Fried Rice Bento and Pan-Fried Chicken Chop with Rosemary Jus Bento. All delivered straight to your doorstep.
If you are looking for ways to have a fun and delicious affair at home, check out the pre-cooked meal packs from Hilton Kuching that are sure to make your next meal a guaranteed flavour-some experience and a breeze to put together. Be your own chef and cook tasty dishes like Beef Rendang Tok, Lamb Curry, Creamy Mushroom Soup and more.
From RM15 nett per pack
For reservations, call +608 2223 888 or email KUCHI_FB@hilton.com
They certainly don’t sound like something you’d put in a burger – but that’s exactly what McDonalds did with their new Spicy Chicken with Apple Slices Burger. Available for a limited time only, it’s described as a sweet and spicy blend with ‘real apple slices paired with crunchy spicy chicken patty, topped with black pepper mayo sauce, all tucked between a warm bun’.
So I went to the drive-through and got a set for brunch.
I thought the set would come with Prosperity fries, but they turned out to be regular fries. Not sure if you’d need to request for it specifically or top up a certain amount to get the curly ones. Also included in the set was orange juice.
I was feeling pretty hungry since I skipped breakfast, so I got the double patty(RM24+ per set).
One thing I like about McDonalds, which I’ve mentioned before, is that their products always look true to size, or at least close to the appearance of what is advertised – and this burger was no exception. Even if I hadn’t ordered the double patty, it was still sizable.
There was a good amount of apple slices on top, slathered with sauce.
The patties that they use are the same as the ones used in the Spicy Chicken McDeluxe, but the addition of apple slices was a nice touch, as there was a sweet, fruity burst to balance out the saltiness, and the apples were also fresh and crunchy. The ‘black pepper mayo’ didn’t really have a black pepper taste (maybe it all went to the Prosperity burger? lol); and was a tad on the sweet side. Like dessert kinda sweet, which tasted weird when combined with the chicken. But other than that, the buns were nice and fluffy, and the chicken patties were good; fried to golden perfection, crispy on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside.
Overall, I think the Spicy Chicken with Apple Slices isn’t bad, but it feels like a #rehash of the Spicy Chicken McDeluxe and doesn’t offer anything special, unlike some of their other creations like the Nasi Lemak Burger, which I really liked. So, if you’d like to try this, it isn’t bad, but it’s nothing phenomenal.
But definitely better than the Prosperity Burger lol.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
“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.
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.
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.
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