Dim Sum, that tiny and delicate morsels of flavourful food that we usually have for breakfast, has evolved from the olden days into a full-fledged meal now, any time of the day. Incidentally, dim sum must be a Singaporean’s favourite too, for during our recent trip there, we were taken to 2 different dim sum restaurants for lunch, by 2 different Singaporeans. We were amused by how each of them proclaimed their love for their favourite dim sum restaurant, and were especially honoured to have the chance to try them out. The first place we went to was Red Star Chinese Restaurant, presumably one of the few restaurants in Singapore that still uses push carts to serve dim sum.
Char siew dumplings
One of the few in Singapore that still uses push cart
We were there around noon to find the place fully packed with no one in sight to serve us. Thankfully, someone attended to us after 5 minutes and our party of 3 managed to get a table soon after. The good thing about push cart dim sum is that we didn’t have to wait long for our food! There would be people pushing carts up and down the aisle while asking us if we wanted ‘har kow’ or ‘siew mai’ or ‘char siew pao’. Yes, yes and yes! Of course we wanted them. Since there were only 3 of us, we didn’t try much but I thought the har kao (prawn dumplings) had pretty succulent prawns. The skin was translucent and slightly chewy, although I personally fancy thinner skin texture.
Har Kau (Prawn dumplings)
One interesting item I found there was the deep fried cempedak! Yes, the same one that we’re so used to buying from the roadside stalls in Malaysia. Apparently, these deep fried babies are one of their best-sellers, always running out especially during weekends. Our friend insisted that we had to try it, so we did. These were deep fried to a crunchy finish, but somehow I felt something lacking with their batter. Perhaps a pinch of salt in the batter would do the trick?
Deep fried cempedak
We also tried the pan-fried radish cake, which I thought could use a little extra time on the pan because I’d like them to be more brown. The char siew pao was quite good, but I judge my dumplings by the amount of lean meat in it. I don’t enjoy pao with lots of fatty meat.
Pan fried radish cake
Char siew pao / Pork dumplings
Saucer ordered their porridge but him being the health-conscious one, frowned on the huge amount of crackers on the porridge. But I love crackers! No prizes for guessing who ate those in the end.
For desserts, we shared some egg tarts and guilingao. The tarts were served warm with wobbly egg custards but I’d prefer the pastry to be the light and flaky type.
Red Star Chinese restaurant dining environment
Overall, we thought the dim sum here were slightly above average, with extra points to the egg tarts and prawn dumplings. But what we enjoyed more was the atmosphere and the fact that push carts were going up and down next to us, tantalizing us every other minute or so. It definitely brought back memories of the good old dim sum days.
Red Star Chinese Restaurant
Blk 54 Chin Swee Road #07-23
Tel: +65 6532 5266
For our second dim sum adventure, we were brought to Lei Garden by a friend’s cousin. The restaurant was situated in the middle of the Orchard prime area, so it was more high class in terms of the outlook. For instance, the restaurant was not as crowded or as noisy compared to Red Star, which meant you could sit and relax while enjoying your Chinese tea with no one bothering you. We had the prawn dumplings here too, and I thought they were not as good as the one in Red Star. The size was slightly smaller and the skin thicker than the former.
Prawn dumplings / har kau
However, I did enjoy the char siew pao and siew mai here, both of which were prepared brilliantly. I have experienced too many incidents of overcooked siew mai, where the fish eggs on top would turn yellow instead of bright orange. The ones here though, were just perfectly steamed.
Char siew pao
But if I were to return to Lei Garden again, the two main dishes that I must order are Pan fried radish cake and Siew Yoke (roasted pork). They’re definitely one of the best that I’ve tasted. The radish cake was fried to a perfect golden brown with a slight crunch at the edges, while the insides remain soft and moist. Very good. The roast pork on the other hand, was presented so delicately in perfect cubes! Each piece was like a handicraft, a crispy layer of skin on top, a thin layer of fat in the middle and tender lean meat on the bottom. Lovely lovely!
Pan fried radish cake
Roast pork / siew yoke
For something sweet, we tried the Custard buns, which were presented in cute spiral buns. I was expecting the custard inside to spurt out in thick liquid form, but it didn’t. To me, it still lacked that extra oomph. As for the egg tarts, they’re exceptionally flaky and light with rich egg custard. Definitely much better than the one at Red Star. Finally, we each had a piece of the peanut mochi, which was filled with black sesame inside. I thought these were quite good, especially the thick and gooey black sesame paste inside. When you pop the whole mochi into your mouth, you’d experience a burst of flavors and texture – crunchy, chewy, sweet and savory all at the same time. Yum!
Thick custard within
Filled with black sesame
Lei Garden dining environment
Orchard Lei Garden Restaurant
#03-00 Orchard Shopping Centre,
321 Orchard Road, Singapore
Tel No.: +65 6734 3988
So which restaurant fared better? In my opinion, the quality of food in Lei Garden is better but at the expense of higher price. The food in Red Star was more down to earth and less fancy, in a more traditional environment. If you’re looking for a fuss-free dining option, then Red Star is the place for you. On the other hand, for a more relaxed, comfortable dining, choose Lei Garden (their roast pork is really to die for).
*Note: Read the rest of my Singapore Escapade here!