Battle of the Dim Sum in Singapore

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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.

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Char siew dumplings

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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.

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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?

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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. :P

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Pan fried radish cake

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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. :P

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Porridge

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.

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Egg tarts

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Guilingao

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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

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Lei Garden

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.

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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.

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Char siew pao

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Siew mai

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!

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Pan fried radish cake

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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!

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Custard buns

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Thick custard within

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Egg tarts

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Peanut mochi

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Filled with black sesame

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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!

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30 Comments
  • March 15th, 2012 10:38 AM
    suituapui

    Just had dim sum here the other day with my blogger friends from KL and Ipoh. Of course, nothing as nice as these…but ok lah! As they say, beggars can’t be choosers…and one consolation, it should be much cheaper here.

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  • March 15th, 2012 10:52 AM
    Ken Wooi

    i loveeeee custard bunss!
    damn, wanna have dim sum again soon! :D

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    iamthewitch Reply:

    Go have dim sum for lunch!

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  • March 15th, 2012 11:06 AM
    Sean

    i wonder which one would win if there’s a battle of dim sum restaurants between malaysia and singapore! i guess i’ll be patriotic for once and bet on malaysia :D

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    iamthewitch Reply:

    Haha let’s not go there to avoid a real battle :P

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  • March 15th, 2012 11:07 AM
    David

    Those custard buns look interesting. The food looks simply delicious!

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    iamthewitch Reply:

    Well honestly I have had nicer custard buns where the custard filling just spurts out like hot liquid :P

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  • March 15th, 2012 11:09 AM
    claire

    The roasted pork is so neatly arranged.. just like the one I tried in KL the other day.. Grand Imperial.. they arranged the pork slices vertically too.. :)

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    iamthewitch Reply:

    I know! Looked so tidy that you don’t want spoil them right? :P

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  • March 15th, 2012 11:35 AM
    wyyv

    The radish cake and siu yok really look really good! So far, the Pearl City’s radish cake at Manchester is still on top of my list :)

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    iamthewitch Reply:

    Wow didn’t think that Manchester would have such nice radish cake :)

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  • March 15th, 2012 1:52 PM
    smallkucing

    wow…very nice looking dim sum. Uiks cempedak also have. The other day i saw in Pasar Malam SS2, 6 pieces of cempedak selling for rm8. I thought i heard wrong…asked again …really that price. shocked!

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  • March 16th, 2012 1:07 AM
    Chris Tremlett

    You have got me salivating . All those dishes are very very tasty.
    I will try and make a trip to this place.

    Thanks.

    -Chris

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    iamthewitch Reply:

    Glad you liked them! Let me know if you enjoyed their food too :)

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  • March 16th, 2012 1:29 AM
    [SK]

    yeah, i also think the dimsum lady pushing the cart shouting “har gao siu mai char siew bao” is something i would like to see in a dimsum restaurant, hahahaha.. but too bad, rarely see any now..

    [Reply to comment]

    iamthewitch Reply:

    Yea even in KL it’s quite rare. But you can definitely find them in Ipoh :)

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  • March 16th, 2012 1:47 AM
    tekkaus

    Custard buns looked delicious. :D Like the shell of snail.

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  • March 16th, 2012 1:49 AM
    tekkaus

    But the food that attracts me the most is….guilingao…it looked like UFO. Ha :D

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    iamthewitch Reply:

    Haha UFO??!! :P

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  • March 16th, 2012 10:35 AM
    Choi Yen

    The siu yok!!! so neatly cut!

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    iamthewitch Reply:

    One of the nicest siew yoke!

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  • March 16th, 2012 10:08 PM
    Katrine

    Wow! Singapore is truly beautiful place, in fact I want to spent my vacation in that beautiful pl;ace to discover and explore different things…

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    iamthewitch Reply:

    You should! It is beautiful with plenty of food to offer ;)

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  • March 16th, 2012 10:43 PM
    foongpc

    Drooling at the dim sum photos : )

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  • March 16th, 2012 10:44 PM
    foongpc

    How come nowadays don’t have the person pushing the cart of dim sum around?

    [Reply to comment]

    iamthewitch Reply:

    Yea I guess they want to make it more high class? :P

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  • March 17th, 2012 1:22 AM
    Rebecca Jones

    I never thought there’s dimsum in Singapore. When I went there last year I was looking for this but couldn’t find one. How much did you spend for the whole meal?

    -Rebecca

    [Reply to comment]

    iamthewitch Reply:

    The one at Red Star was around SGD60+ for 3 persons, while the one at Lei Garden was slightly more expensive. I guess expect to pay around SGD20+ per person? :)

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  • March 23rd, 2012 5:38 PM
    Jasmine

    These dim sum look really mouth watering. I want to dine in both Lei Garden and Red Star!

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  • April 4th, 2012 7:24 PM
    Liz

    Want to try the egg tarts, it made me hungry. Looking forward to it all of you’ve posted. Yummy.

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