When it comes to workplace productivity, your average har kow puts in fewer hours a day than say, a combination roast platter that has to pull in two shifts for lunch and dinner. Whoever negotiated the tripartite labour agreement for dim sum certainly knew what they were doing. It’s so ironclad that any hopeful requests for char siew pao with your dinner set are often received with the same incredulity as if you asked your server for a complimentary parking coupon.
Why it’s considered anathema to have dim sum for dinner, we don’t know. So the one bright spot in the current ban on dining out is that some Chinese eateries wisely decided to deliver all the siew mai you want at any time of the day. Which leads to yet another conundrum, ie, what condition will these crystal-skinned layabouts be in, more than half an hour after leaving their steamers? Since we won’t be dining out until at least June 21, there’s still time to find out. Until then, get your dim sum dinner while it’s still hot on the menu.
Flashback to Circuit Breaker 2020, when the Michelin-starred Nouri showed it could make mee suah kueh better than its originator Swee Choon, which it had a brief dalliance with in a dimsum tie-up. This year, chef-owner Ivan Brehm and his team turn their attention to comfort food dumplings, inspired by traditional Sichuan wontons in chilli oil. With their crossroads cooking penchant for finding links between the food cultures of different countries, its current dumpling offering pulls together influences from Central Asia, Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean and pretty much their own imagination.
The result is an intriguing, multi-faceted party of nine slippery-smooth pork and chive dumplings (S$28) spiked with Brazilian chilli pepper for a more diplomatic kick than its Sichuan cousin. They arrive still warm, tossed with shredded leaves and peanuts, to which you pour over a spring onion oat broth that amalgamates with herb oil into a milky-savoury dressing, loosening the dumplings and giving them a nice velvety mouth feel. Like eating Chinese dumplings while watching an arthouse movie, this could come off as pretentious or refreshingly different and we would opt for the latter. Especially when it’s paired with a cold salad of shredded pickled vegetables similar to Szechuan preserved mustard greens and seaweed tossed in a bit of sesame oil. It’s a tasty, MSG-free take on wontons, and doesn’t differentiate between lunch or dinner. Top up with uni if you’re in the mood to splurge.
Available for pick up at 72 Amoy Street, or delivery. Order at shop.nouri.sg
There are still higher-end Chinese restaurants who won’t breach the lunch-only dim sum rule, but the more flexible ones like Taste Paradise aren’t precious about it. It also solves the delivery conundrum with its can-do attitude that if you can’t get freshly-steamed dim sum at home, then the steamer has to come to you.
It delivers very acceptable to good dim sum in a convenient mixed platter (S$68.80) that is a greatest hits list of 10 kinds of steamed and baked morsels, in its own two-level bamboo steamer. They’re still warm enough to eat when they arrive but for the finicky, the steamer does more than decorative duty. Just remove the baked pastries and pop the entire steamer on a pot of boiling water to reheat. The baked ones are a little beat up from the ride – a few minutes in a toaster oven help a little.
The selection is classic – two pieces each of char siew pao with good dough but salty filling; tender pan-fried carrot cake; cute piggy-shaped buns stuffed with lotus paste; acceptable baked char siew puffs and mini egg tarts. If you’re partial to pan-fried glutinous rice dumplings, the chilli crab versions are surprisingly good with the sweet-spicy crab mixture a natural friend of the chewy dough. The more familiar fried sesame studded balls stuffed with red bean paste are also a good chew. Meanwhile, a trio of har kow and siew mai don’t disappoint either.
Of course, you can very well order this for lunch, but if you want to break the stereotype simply because you can, it’s a fun break from the norm, especially since there’s another week of food delivery to go.
Available for pick up at #04-07 Ion Orchard, or delivery via its online store at tasteparadisedelivery.paradisegp.com/en_SG/ Tel: 6509-9660
(Related: 4 Asian restaurants to order takeaway from)
AH YAT KITCHEN
A relatively new opening and a member of the Ah Yat abalone family, Ah Yat Kitchen is an unassuming casual dim sum and family-style Chinese eatery at Far East Plaza which also happens to have a good and reasonably-priced dim sum delivery business.
Any dim sum with prawns is a good choice, because the plump chunks are busting their skins in the har kow (S$5) and siew mai (S$5). While the steamed char siew pao (S$3.80) passes muster, it’s the baked char siew puff (S$5) that’s a winner with flaky, crumbly and buttery pastry wrapped around chunky sweet filling. Pillowy salted egg yolk custard buns (S$5) are satisfyingly resilient to bite, and so is the molten lava filling that squirts out in a requisite mess.
Still, it’s a hit and miss bag, with mediocre steamed chicken feet (S$5) and ho hum cheong fan (5.50) dunked in a oddly sweet soy sauce gravy. A pleasant surprise turned out to be the roast duck (S$16 for a single serving that includes a drumstick) – fragrant, slightly herbal and very meaty and moist that you can dip in a sweetish gravy or the house- made chilli oil. Ah Yat Kitchen also has a very friendly staffer manning its WhatsApp, because multiple questions about unmarked sauces are quickly and cheerfully replied.
We would stick to the dim sum and roast duck (the soya sauce chicken is good too and the char siew is chunky but slightly dry and over-salted) rather than the other dishes on the menu, but given the reasonable pricing, it’s not too big a risk to explore what else it has to offer.
#05-36 Far East Plaza. WhatsApp 9170-8337 to order.
You don’t need to be sociable by nature to get a taste of Social Place’s quirky take on Chinese food. Apart from its squeamish jellied pigs that wobble in the most creepy fashion, we’ve always been partial to its inventive creations that are well-grounded in technique and proper ingredients.
It’s a good time to rediscover its menu with a lineup of polished and creative dim sum that is a level above Ah Yat and holds its own against Taste. You know that from the first bite of its yin-yang har kow (S$9.70 for four pieces) – thick but resilient, chewy skin folded around bouncy shrimp in the classic white version, and a mixed truffle-shrimp mixture encased in deep black skin.
Red rice rolls (S$11.90) are pink-tinged cheong fan wrapped around shrimp-stuffed dough fritters so you get an extra crunch before the slippery shrimp. Deep-fried lobster glutinous puffs (S$9.70) are mangosteen doppelgangers stuffed with a chunky lobster mixture. There’s still a bit of crunch left from the deepfried exterior to balance out the soft dough.
Glossy-surfaced, charcoal-hued salted egg custard buns (S$9.70) and shiitake mushroom buns (S$8.60) are familiar and good if you steam them first. With a consistent standard in general, Social Place is worth getting re-acquainted with.
#01-22 Forum The Shopping Mall. To order, go to socialplace.sg
This article was originally published in The Business Times.