Who says dim sum is only appropriate as a brunch meal during the day? For the fifth edition of foodpanda's Good Food Tour, we hop across the harbour to TST to hit up some eateries that serve dim sum all day, every day. With a deep-seated history in Chinese Canton cuisine and the obvious plethora of dim sum restaurants in Hong Kong, we were eager to discover what would set these three eatery choices apart from all the others.
Our first stop sees us at Dim Sum Bar, a restaurant that serves up innovative, East meets West-style of dim sum. Nestled in the ambiguous shopping arcade cum office building that is both Gateway Arcade and Harbour City, this modern, moderately-sized shop already questions your preconception of dim sum by only serving it during dinner time.
King’s dumplings in lobster bisque
Baked abalone and chicken pastry
We started off with 龍蝦湯三皇餃 (king’s dumplings in lobster bisque), plump har gows swimming in fresh, rich soup. The dumpling itself was very supple and the tasty shrimp filling was firm to the bite, and a spoonful of the bisque provided a sharp, gingery taste. The 原隻鮑魚雞粒酥 (baked abalone and chicken pastry) was an immediate favourite, with its buttery flaky crust, piping hot and salty chicken filling, and a crown of juicy and chewy abalone.
Baked barbecued pork cream buns with minced ham
Next up, a twist on the regular ol' pork buns that we are so familiar with. Dim Sum Bar's version is oven baked as opposed to steamed, and the 雪影金腿叉燒包 (baked barbecued pork cream buns with minced ham) came in a pastry pocket that followed along the same lines as its abalone pastry: a little toasted on the top, crispy and airy, with light pastry layers that flaked apart at the bite. The chunky meat filling was soaked in sauce without being too gloopy or gooey, and was a well-executed, sweet, and balanced.
Steamed rice flour rolls with crispy rice nest and seafood
Our final dish at Dim Sum Bar was the 脆網皮海皇腸粉 (steamed rice flour rolls with crispy rice nest and seafood), also a dim sum classic. The texture of the rice nest was impressively delicate and crispy and the added seafood filling gave it a satisfying crunch, even long after it had been sitting untouched on the table for all of our phones and cameras to have a go at it first.
We moved on to our second destination on Hau Fook Street, Caterking. The relaxing ten minute walk was spent chatting about our impressions on Dim Sum Bar's offering and giving our food some time to settle in our bellies. Caterking's location is smack-dab in the middle of a street already chock-full of eateries; its low-key shopfront didn't stand out, and neither did its no-frills interior. But the first thing that did catch our eye (and our tastebuds) was the tea that they served; a rice-roasted genmaicha to whet our appetites.
Perigord truffle and scrambled egg white dumplings
Our theme of East meets West continues with our tasting, which began with perigord truffle and scrambled egg white dumplings; combining the overpowering truffle with lightly whipped egg whites and firm shrimp created a perfectly umami flavour pairing in a soft rice skin pocket.
Shrimp spring rolls with garlic and cheese
A snacky nibble came in the form of shrimp spring rolls with garlic and cheese, highlighting the perennial throne that these little decapod crustaceans occupie in dim sum cuisine. Caterking spices up the regular spring roll by elongating it like a stem and serving it alongside sticks of cucumber. The cucumber didn't have an effect, but the sesame sauce that accompanied it gave it an agreeable, nutty finish.
For all this talk of novelty dishes, what tasting can be complete without a siu mai basket? To be able to do innovative dim sum well, you have to do the standards well and have the foundation down, and Caterking served up a solid and tasty version that we found very pleasant.
Baked barbecue pork buns
We finished up with Caterking's rendition of baked barbecue pork buns, and their version is sweeter and also thicker in the dough section. The filling wasn't as dense and the sauce was sloppier, which we liked equally well.
Our last stop of the night was The Dining Room at The One, a hip restaurant decked out in polished wood accents, rustic decor, and a floor-to-ceiling window view of the TST streets. This one belongs to a chain of Shanghainese dumpling and buns restaurants spread out across Hong Kong, all under the same name, and the surprising volume of people that still frequented this TST location at the late hour that we arrived at The One attests to its popularity.
Pan-fried pork dumplings with a crispy golden net
With no time to lose, we dug into the menu and ordered a fan favourite, the pan-fried pork dumplings with a crispy golden net. The dumpling skin was a little too chewy and undercooked for our tastes and we wish it had been fried a bit longer to achieve an even crispier crunch, but the filling was piping hot and agreeable, with a rich soupy base.
Xiao long bao with black truffle
Of course we had to try the xiao long bao at a Shanghainese dumpling joint, so we opted for one with a black truffle twist, since it's all the rage. The skin of this particular dumpling was thicker than we expected, likely due to the heavy truffle paste, and was a lot juicier than other types of xiao long baos we've had.
Signature pan-fried crispy pork soup buns
A popular dish that we had to try at The Dining Room was their signature pan-fried crispy pork soup buns. The skin on the top was soft and pillowy, with a crispy bottom and a nutty flavour, with a delicious soupy and meaty filling.
Crispy rice dumplings with pomelo
Maltesers glutinous dumplings
Red bean paste sweet ball with crushed peanuts and sesame
We loaded up on desserts as a sweet finish and chose the crispy rice dumplings with pomelo, maltesers glutinous dumplings, green tea sweet ball with crushed peanuts and sesame, and red bean paste sweet ball with crushed peanuts and sesame. The crispy rice dumplings were oozing with a filling of glutinous sesame paste, and the skin wasn't overly sticky, which we liked. The maltesers dumplings were a curious invention, with incredibly gelatinous skin and a whole Malteser pellet in the centre. The texture of it was an adventure in itself, leaving a few of us trying more than one serving to relive the experience. The red bean paste and green tea sweet balls were delicious, and served their purposes as nibbles suitably as our hunger cravings ebbed and our evening came to a close.
Just when we thought we knew it all about dim sum, foodpanda proves that there's always more options and varieties to be explored. And just because we've spent a whole night sampling dim sum certainly does not mean we won't be back for more - in fact, with all the new suggestions we have up our sleeves, we are already looking forward to our next weekend yum cha.