Siew Mai ($4.00)
If I eat one more sweet thing, my entire stomach will spontaneously crawl up my oesophagus.
And being in this state, I’m reminded of the dim sum lunch I had with Gushi last Friday after my SMU interview at 8.15am in the godforsaken morning. Maybe I should resume this post once I’ve chugged-a-lug of seawater (I somehow see salty as the opposite of sweet), or I might just chomp a hole in my computer screen for a taste of pixelated siew mais. I’ll take a megabyte (I’m sorry, I just had to).
We’ve been dying to have dim sum since…I don’t know when. All I know is that we’ve been dying. Yes. And my last dim sum meal at Crystal Jade at Toa Payoh with my family was such a let down that I would never want to eat at Crystal Jade ever again unless it’s someone’s treat. That and if I’m spending over $10 on a meal, I want it to be good. My emptying wallet demands it and I’m not getting fat on lousy food.
Char Siew Bao ($3.00)
By 11.45am, I’d finished my interview, frightened both the caucasian interviewers, tripped down to City Hall, wandered around Millenia Walk, found out that Suntec had a Starbucks, bought a cuppa to calm myself and sat down with my book to marvel at how royally I screwed up my interview (I now officially hate group interviews) and was about to head off to Imperial Treasure Nan Bei Restaurant to meet my fellow depraved dim sum friend. There, all that even before 90% of the working population have woken their brains. How’s that for a morning eh?
I’m usually not a boring person when you take me out to eat. I eat anything. Some of the most bizarre things I’ve put in my mouth would include sea urchin, eel intestines, puffer fish (I’m still alive!) and horse meat (bizarre to the regular Singaporean anyway. But then some people find the durian bizarre…which in turn makes me think they are bizarre cuz that’s the one fruit that I will organise orgies for consuming tens of kilograms of). And I love escargots. I have Andrew Zimmern as one of my idols. Dare me to eat anything and you’ll be on the losing side.
But when I eat dim sum, I want my usual fare. I want my char siew baos, siew mais, char siew sous, egg tarts and redbean pancake. You want me to try other dishes? Order those first then we’ll talk. No char siew, no deal. I eat the same things every single time I go for dim sum. Oh I’ll eat other stuff, but I’ll always will have had my essentials.
For all my dim sum experiences, I’ve never had a single time in which I feel passively neutral about the food. They have all been complete hits or misses. This one was a good ol’ hit in my gut – in a good way of course – right from the start with that pillowy Char Siew Bao and its pleasantly sweet filling. It felt like I was eating a cloud (Ok, so I’ve never had a cloud before, but I would find a way exacerbate the world’s water shortage crisis if teeny water droplets tasted like Char Siew Baos).
Char Siew Sou ($3.30)
I could let the picture speak for itself…or I could not. This was as flaky and buttery as it looks, glistening golden with honey glaze when it descended onto the table, a fantastic harmony of savoury pastry and sweet pork filling. If the Char Siew Pao was like eating a cloud, this delicate confectionary could easily be likened to eating the sun, because this was piping hot, so hot that we burned the tips of our tongues trying to gobble it up when it was fresh from the oven because it was so darn good.
I shall now stop my silly cosmic similes, although that would give you a good idea of how high I felt up there in gastronomic heaven.
Xiao Long Bao ($3.60)
Xiao Long Bao isn’t one of my essentials, and I’ve never understood its hype. We ordered one anway, after I marked bold, in-your-face ticks for all of my regulars. I liked it though, the skins didn’t break, so I always got a mouthful of soupy broth with my tender dumplings. Have you ever wondered how they get the soup in those tiny things? Gushi thinks they inject it with a needle and syringe (HAHAHA). I think they put frozen cubes of soup stock into the dumpling before steaming. What do you think?
Siew Mai, to me, is the quintessential dim sum. Mention ‘dim sum’ to me, and I think ‘Siew Mai’. Ask me to write about ‘dim sum’, and the first in-your-face picture I put up is Siew Mai. How can I not? There is something absolutely mystifying about the combination of its sticky yellow skin, that definite crunch of prawn, yielding softness of minced pork and diced mushroom that just holds it all together. And when something is as vibrantly coloured and demure as a Siew Mai, it can never go wrong. Unless it comes in the form of one of those mutant monstrosities I see selling at hawker centres or in Australia – the size of my fist (my small fist)!
Souffle Ball with Red Bean Filling ($4.50)
I feel like I must apologise to Gushi because I was so caught up in my frenetic ordering of dishes I’d conveniently forgotten that she hates red bean. I had ordered not one, but two red bean desserts, and I was gleefully hopping about in my seat for having done so. But she’s such a dear, and I think that on top of having converted her into a tea drinker, pineapple eater, rabid corn muffin consumer, and now having brought her over to the dark side of a red bean dessert eater, she’s still putting up with me. I’m a horrid influence, the kind that parents warn their children about. I make their precious kids ingest things they hate, and make them like it! Imagine the additional financial burden of having to head out for frequent dim sum lunches. I’m a wretch.
Red Bean Pancake ($6.00)
Or maybe it wasn’t me, and it was all the Souffle Ball’s fault for being delightfully chewy and luscious, mysteriously hiding a treasure trove of mild red bean paste and a hunk of gooey banana, and the Red Bean Pancake was it’s partner in crime, the fried batter outrageously fragrant with god knows what, crisp, moist and oozing with red bean goodness that I think Gushi would have fought with me over the last square had she not been deterred by my stare (which people have come to dub the Malicious Stare. I don’t know why. Do you? You silly buggers are just imagining things. I’m a very pleasant person to be around…I would like to think.)
And that was all we had and we were full, mostly of tea. Speaking of which, the service was very impressive and attentive. Our cups were always full, and the teapot refilled without our request. But what took the cake was when we had finished our last egg tart and they inquired whether we would wish dessert to be served. They proceeded to clear our table and gave us clean utensils and plates. I have never had such service at any dim sum restaurant, ever. I don’t even have to mention Crystal Jade’s shockingly rude waitresses.
Dim sum craving sated, we paid and left and learnt our first lesson:
Always take the damned wet towels even if you didn’t use them because you’re paying for them anyway.
Imperial Treasure Nan Bei Restaurant (Suntec City)
3 Temasek Boulevard
#B1-011 Suntec City Mall
11am – 10pm
Tel: 6339 3118