March 22, 2015

Food Review: Dim Dim Sum Dim Sum (Hong Kong)

In continuation of my Hong Kong trip (this is long overdue, actually), I suppose I should actually put some effort into updating as much as I can about my trip since I am not traveling for the foreseeable future due to work constraints. I really like my new workplace, so food reviews may be reserved for work instead! );

When in Hong Kong, it's difficult to miss dim sum. It's practically Hong Kong's national dish(es), and the first time I had it, authentically, was of course in Hong Kong, way back in 2008. It blew my mind because of several reasons:

1) Price. Dim sum is ridiculously, obscenely cheap in Hong Kong. I'm saying this probably due to the exchange rates, and also because it is much cheaper in its own hometown.

2) Experience. This applies in two-folds, first being the actual experience of me eating in an actual cha zhan teng, or tea-house, surrounded by senior citizens sitting alone with their paper and a dwindling cigarette in their mouth while their tea seeps, waiting for their baskets of dim sum arrive. Second-fold being the experience of the servers. It doesn't matter which establishment you visit - they know their shit. You can be assured that they will serve you, know what to serve you and serve you fast. These ladies (and gents) have no time to dwindle or the food gets cold. Food gets cold, nobody is happy.

So, let's start this.

This is my second visit to Dim Dim Sum (DDS). In light of many recently opened, new dim sum outlets opening up all over the world (some particularly over-hyped) and particularly in Hong Kong, there remains the solid foothold of Dim Dim Sum. I could review the older tea houses but I'm not that generous.

DDS has no qualms reminding you of its crowning glory - that it made it into Time Out Magazine's top 101 places to eat in the world in 2012, and won the Best Dim Sum award in 2011, and was featured in 'Where Chefs Eat' in The Ultimate Insiders' Guide. 

Despite her accolates, DDS remains small in the branch I visited - which is in Mongkok. Tucked away next to other much bigger restaurants and cafes, she sits unassumingly, with her awards, advertisements, features and photos plastering what little glass is available at the entrance. She opens at 11am, but a queue will form at least 15 minutes before as her seating space is not plenty. 

Again, in many eateries around Hong Kong, I must warn - if the service is good, the food will be bad. That's all I will say about the service in DDS.

The standard ordering rules apply here, just tick off whatever you want on the placard provided and they will do a confirmation and let you know if any items are unavailable for the day. Most menus will provide an English translation within the menu, but there are photos available so just point if the menu doesn't work for you linguistically. 

Friendly advice: You will be sorely tempted to over-order. Stop and pause. The fact remains that dim sum here, or anywhere in Hong Kong will be steamed fresh-to-order (if you're lucky), so over-ordering only piles your table while you are still eating. This means, if you are a slow eater, your food will go cold and go cold fast. So don't. Order what you'd like to try first, the basics, if you will. 

Like Cheong Fun, or steamed rice flour rolls.  The DDS version, named Crispy Rice Flour Rolls With Shrimp, hold a crispy-hot hoard of Chinese cruller and further within, some sweet prawns. The accompanying light sauce adds a touch of saltiness which is not present in the dish, and the textures will be a lovely accompaniment to an otherwise standard dish.

My dad is partial to a good bowl of rice congee to start the day, and the family favourite is the pork and century egg congee. Lean minced pork, with pieces of century eggs, served in warm rice congee topped with light soy sauce and green scallions. Every country or city does this differently - in Hong Kong it's a pretty standard bowl with no extra stuff, but in Singapore sometimes we get pieces of crispy pork lard or chillis to go with it. 

Having this with some Chinese cruller dipped in is pretty great, especially in colder climates.

The two more standard dishes, of Har Gow, a steamed prawn dumpling and Siew Mai, a steamed prawn and pork dumpling topped with crab roe. The Har Gow is sometimes called a crystal dumpling, because they use a dumpling skin that is semi-translucent and it glistens a bit after it has been steamed. 

Siew mai is a pretty standard dim sum dish, and different versions can be found in countries like China and Singapore. Siew Mai is just called Shao Mai in Chinese, but the Hong Kong version strikes me as more delicate, lighter on the palate and not as heavy or greasy as the Chinese counterparts.

My folks are big fans of chicken feet, or as they called when translated, Phoenix claws, in Hong Kong. A lot of people get weirded out by chicken feet - the dim sum versions are often braised in soy sauce, and sometimes a redder sauce to give it a more 'Phoenix' colour. The meat is not plenty, but most folks eat this for the skin, which is delicious when paired with the sauces. Of course, if you look at chicken feet, you'll know that eating this is not an easy feat. 

As far as I noticed, a lot of senior folks love chowing down on chicken feet. Expertly chewing through the entire thing with nothing other a pair of chopsticks (never using their hands) and occasionally spitting out tiny bones, leaving behind nothing else. I eat this as well, but never as well or as cleanly as a lot of my older counterparts.

In quick succession, arrived our next three dishes - the essential Char Siu Bao (barbequed meat steamed buns), soft white buns filled with slivers of red pork. Different buns will have doughs of varying textures depending on their ingredients within. The Char Siu Bao commonly uses a beautifully white, soft dough, almost cake-like in texture, splitting open at their tops as they're steamed. 

Next up is the traditional steamed pork ribs. DDS does a great version of this, with a light sauce rendered from the fat of the pork ribs and sweetness of the added yams.

These little petri dish of meats holds a big deal of flavours - the pork ribs are chopped into bite-sized morsels so the steaming process can be quickened, and occasionally I get a treat of cartilage, which adds a delightful texture to the dish.

My personal favourite for dim sum is the Lotus Leaf wrap - a bundle of glutinous rice, filled with treats such as salted egg yolks, pork and chicken, mushrooms, chestnuts and scallops. Different countries cook this with different ingredients, but the Cantonese having these on winter days and often cook them in bigger bundles than the other variations. 

What happens is a delicious, savoury glutinous rice, scented and darkened through the cooking process with its hoarde of ingredients and almost reminiscent of tea from the infusion of the lotus leaves steamed with it. 

Crazy delicious and an absolute treat. Any version you have of this will not let you down in Hong Kong.

Rounding up the meal, are two of DDS's iconic sweet dim sums.

The first of which is the Liu Sha Bao, or salted egg custard buns.

The DDS version is not just adorable, but also delicious. The filling is a salty-sweet custard, that is more liquid than pudding and will be absolutely searing hot when you bite into it, so consider this both a recommendation and a warning.

To be honest, if you're served these in any establishment and they don't make you both happy and scared at the same time, you're doing it wrong.

The next of the sweet dim sum is the Polo Bun, which is a pineapple-custard filled bun, baked with a layer of sweet crumble atop its buttery bread dough. Now this, DDS does a spectacular job at - in Hong Kong, it's not difficult to find Polo Buns. In fact, many places will have specialised racks placed right outside their restaurant to sell their assortment of Polo Buns and other breads so anyone needing a quick bite or a takeaway doesn't cram up what little space they have inside the actual restaurant. 

DDS's come in a basket of three, all made with perfectly buttery rolls, holding pieces of tart pineapple and thickened custard. While the bread itself, or the filling is not particularly sweetened in anyway, its flavour is notched up with the addition of the crumble baked on top. The crumble is flakey-sweet, speckled with a sheen of butter and egg wash, and goes perfectly well with the Polo Bun in every way.

If you are ever in Hong Kong, I hope you skip the queue and head to Dim Dim Sum. I promise you, it's very much worth the visit. If it helps, they have stores in different parts of Hong Kong, making it so much easier to get your dim sum fix. 

So get your eat on! One more review coming up for Hong Kong - and who knows what else will happen.

點點心點心專門店/Dim Dim Sum Dim Sum can be located at: 

點點心點心專門店(佐敦店) Jordan Store :
21-23 Man Ying Street, Jordan, Kowloon
Tel/電話: 27717766

點點心點心專門店(旺角店) Mong Kok Store:
112 Tung Choi Street, Mong Kok, Kowloon
Tel/電話: 23092300

點點心點心專門店(灣仔店) Wan Chai Store: 
7 Tin Lok Lane, Wan Chai, HK
Tel/電話: 28917677

點點心點心專門店(沙田店) Shatin: 
Shop 108, 1/F, Citylink Plaza, Shatin 
Tel/電話: 2285814

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