Singapore: Who doesn’t love dim sum? If you don’t, I wonder what’s wrong with you (it’s the same thing I think of people who cringe at the thought of sashimi). Anyway, I love these steamed vegetable and prawn dumplings, the other savoury items as well as those wooden dim sum baskets. Enjoying a dim sum meal was a problem when I was based in Bekasi, Indonesia, because the one dim sum place at Metropolitan Mall was a huge disappointment. The dumplings were bland and soggy, and the place wouldn’t rate an A for cleanliness.
Back in Singapore, Crystal Jade is tops for me when it comes to indulging in dim sum and noodles until I discovered another place in Geylang, Singapore’s red-light district and food haven, called Mongkok Dim sum. Don’t look for ambience because it’s a simple set – up: tables inside and al fresco and by al fresco I mean the kerbside of Kallang Road fronting the restaurant, red plastic chairs and waiters in casual bermuda shorts, or jeans, and an orange t-shirt. The MO: you’re given a sheet of paper to peruse and write down the quantity you want next to the food item/s then you give it back to the waiter who’ll deliver everything within minutes.
Mongkok Dim sum’s menu has a variety of items to choose from. For dumplings, I’m partial to the crystal chives, vegetable, spinach and prawn (it’s Mongkok’s speciality). They’re not over steamed and are bursting with flavour and crunchiness. No need for dipping sauce, too (at least for me). I have yet to taste the chicken pau (steamed bun) because they ran out of it when I went there for dinner one time.
For the other delectable treats on the menu, you will not go wrong with the yam pastry with chicken, steamed chicken with mushroom (with or without rice), soft shell crab (nothing like the ones at Thai Express), prawn chee cheong fun and century egg congee. It’s a feast you dig in over and over again because the flavours and textures are rich like the ginger and garlic of the steamed chicken and the crunchy-yet-soft yam pastry.
To end the meal, a medium-size plastic tub of grass jelly with longan topped with shaved ice is a winner. It’s refreshing to the palate after the heady taste of dumplings.
That the popularity of the place is undeniable – people flock to chomp dim sum delights even around almost two in the morning. The steaming doesn’t stop until 5am so satisfying the cravings for dim sum that come knocking in the wee hours of the morning is a cinch.
Over at another part of Singapore, at Telok Blangah, is another dim sum place, which doesn’t really compare to Mongkok Dim sum except for one item that Mongkok Dim sum doesn’t have on its menu. I’m referring to the custard pau, which isn’t cloying to the taste, sold by Hong Kong Dim sum alongside other affordable dim sum delights. Split the bun into two and bite into custard goodness. The custard is a balanced combination of egg custard and corn that makes for a splendidly sweet ending to a dim sum repast.
Mongkok Dim sum
214 Geylang Road (Lorong Eight) Singapore 389274
Tel: +65 6841 5133
Hours: 4pm – 5am Monday to Friday
10am – 5am Saturday, Sunday and Public Holiday
Price: About $27 for two (with dessert but no drinks)
Hong Kong Dim sum
Telok Blangah Food House
Block 12 Telok Blangah Crescent
Price: $0.70 for a custard bun