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Red Star Seafood: An Afternoon of Dim Sum

Red Star Seafood: An Afternoon of Dim Sum

One look at my "to-eat" list of dim sum joints and to my complete horror... Man, there are not many places left to try and most of them are in Richmond. Curse you! So I had the decision of heading into the land of driving confusion or do a return visit. I chose return visit... The place? Red Star on Granville. Hey, it is one of my favorites and we've not been there for dim sum since 2009. Now, what it lacks in traffic confusion, it makes up for it with congestion inside. Especially during dim sum, the traffic jam in the restaurant can rival anything out on the street. Just trying to make your way to the washroom and/or back to your table can be quite the exercise (especially if you really must go!).

Once we did get to our table, it was a tight squeeze as per usual, but at least we got a table. You see, they are super busy and if you do not make a reservation, it might be quite the wait. And yes, we got our table more or less at our requested reservation time. We started with a few kid favorites including the Shrimp Spring Rolls. I'm happy to report my son now eats the WHOLE thing including the shrimp (which makes us do cartwheels because it was a b*tch to remove the filling for him each and every time). As for the roll, it was crispy and full of whole shrimp, which exhibited an appealing snap. We would've liked to see less salt though since there was enough natural flavors including the ample amount of garlic. The kiddies loved the Loh Mei Gai (sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves) as it was full of ingredients. There was almost a 50/50 split between sticky rice and moist ground pork, shrimp, and shitake mushrooms.

Continuing on the shrimp theme, we had the Haw Gow (shrimp dumplings) and they were quite good. Unlike some other higher-end dim sum joints, these dumplings were pretty large. They were stuffed full of whole shrimp which had a beautiful buttery snap texture. However, they were too aggressive with the seasoning as it was on the saltier side as well as having too much sesame oil. As for the Sui Mai (pork and shrimp dumpling), they were equally good. It may not look it in the picture, but there was actually more shrimp than pork which made for a lighter, snappier texture. The pork itself had a nice bounce, yet was seasoned a bit too aggresively. Although, there was a good amount of shitake mushroom which added another layer of flavor.

On to one of my dim sum favorites, that doesn't include tripe or feet, is the Blackbean Spareribs. The one here was really well-prepared. The pieces were meaty (with very little cartilage and fat), properly tenderized and flavorful. There was a good bounce texture combined with a garlicky hit. Moving onto another dim sum classic, we had the Shrimp Rice Noodle Rolls which featured large whole shrimp with flowering chives. As with all the shrimp so far, these were crunchy. The noodle was almost the perfect thickness where it was soft while maintaining some elasticity. Despite his newfound love for shrimp, my son balked at the shrimp rice noodle rolls instead opting for his standby being the Soy-Fried Rice Noodle Rolls. Unfortunately, they really messed up this dish. As you can clearly see, the noodles were hacked up and broken from the careless stir-frying. Usually, to maintain their shape, the proper way would be to panfry them without tossing. Disregarding its appearance, the noodles were still nicely textured although a touch salty.

Trying to add some veggies into our meal, we got the Pea Shoots with Bean Curd Sheets. Arriving on a medium-sized plate, while being a really small portion, it really didn't look like a good value. I guess quality made up for quantity in this case where the pea shoots were cooked just enough maintaining a crunch. On the other hand, I didn't really like the salty starch-thickened sauce on top. Now a visit to Red Star is not complete without having their BBQ Duck. Why? Well, they have ducks that are specifically raised for that purpose. Therefore, these ducks have less fat which bodes well for Peking Duck as well as BBQ Duck. We ended up with the Lai Fun with BBQ Duck. If you look at the picture, there was very little fat underneath the crisp roasted duck skin. Furthermore, the meat was moist and tender. Probably one of the best BBQ ducks in town.

We had a few more items including the Bean Curd Skin Roll and Beef Meatballs. The bean curd rolls were big and loaded with tender ground pork, wood ear mushrooms, shitake mushrooms, and green onion. I liked the addition of water chestnuts as it added a nice crunch. Furthermore, there was enough starch-thickened sauce (which was mild) to keep the rolls moist, while not drowning it either. The Beef Meatballs were overloaded with baking soda as we could taste it in every bite. Hence the texture of the meat was too soft. We liked the hit of dried orange peel though. For dessert, we had the Egg Tarts where the crust was flaky and buttery. The filling was soft and just sweet enough. This was a nice end to another solid dim sum experience at Red Star. Albeit a bit expensive, it continues to offer up some of the best dim sum in town at its price point.

The Good:
- Generally well-prepared eats
- Portions are respectable for this class of restaurant
- Although hit and miss, service is decent

The Bad:
- Pricey of course
- Not that spacious for dim sum considering the class of restaurant
- A touch heavy with the salt

This post originally appeared on the blog Sherman’s Food Adventures.


8 Dim Sum Buffets In Singapore Under $30++ For Free-Flow Har Gao, Siew Mai And More

The sweet and savoury morsels at a dim sum feast make it way too easy to wipe out everything without feeling overly full until you’re down to the last bite. Singapore has plenty of dim sum buffet options, starting from just $22.80++, perfect for special occasions or just when you want to sort out your dim sum craving.

Here is a complete guide on where to get your dim sum buffet fix in Singapore.

1. Beng Hiang Restaurant

Beng Hiang Family Restaurant has over 40 years of history preparing Singaporean-Hokkien fare. This year, they have made a shift towards offering a weekday dim sum buffet menu as well, and this could well be the cheapest option in Singapore. Starting at $22.80++ per adult, choose from over 30 varieties of dim sum, including highlights like the classic Siew Mai, and Kong Ba Bao. One caveat is that the restaurant is located in Jurong East, but this is no issue for hungry, dim sum loving Westies.

Address: 135 Jurong Gateway Road, #02-337, Singapore 600135
Buffet hours: Mon-Fri 11:30am to 3pm
Tel: 6221 6695
Website

2. Tang Lung Restaurant

New kid on the block Tang Lung Restaurant fronts as a Chinese restaurant in the heart of Roberston Quay, but it also has a daily dim sum buffet available during lunch hours, starting at $23.80++ per adult on weekdays, and $26.80++ on weekends. The fare available combines traditional dim sum with some offbeat takes, including Pineapple Char Siew Tarts and Pork Siew Mai With Salted Egg Yolk.

Address: 80 Mohamed Sultan Road, #01-12, The Pier At Robertson, Singapore 239013
Buffet hours: Daily 12pm to 3pm
Tel: 6262 9966
Website

3. Peach Garden

Enjoy dim sum from a pushcart at Peach Garden at Thomsom Plaza ’s Weekend High Tea Buffet . Expect a variety of classic items including egg tarts and siew mai, along with other sides such as congee. Adding to the buffet are dishes like Peking Duck and Steamed Live Prawn, which are all free-flow as well. Dishes rotate on a weekly basis, so there’s always something new to try. Prices start at $23.80++ for adults with this high tea option. Peach Garden’s Chinatown branch has a dim sum buffet too, though prices there are steeper, starting at $38++ per adult. This is available on weekdays too.

Address: 301 Upper Thomson Road, Thomson Plaza, #01-88, Singapore 574408
Buffet hours: Sat-Sun 3pm to 5pm
Tel: 6451 3233
Website

4. Swatow Seafood

One might think seafood would be the specialty of Swatow Seafood Restaurant , but they are more commonly known for dishing out affordable dim sum. Drop by for their Dim Sum High Tea Buffet that’s available daily, at $25.80++ for adults on weekdays, and $28.80++ on weekends. Over 30 types of dim sum items are wheeled around in a push-cart, so be quick and grab your favourite items before they get snatched up by others.

Address: Blk 181 Lorong 4 Toa Payoh, #02-602, Singapore 310181
Buffet hours: Daily 3pm to 5pm
Tel: 6363 1717
Website
Menu

5. Yum Cha


Image credit: @joyjoycez

Tucked within Chinatown, Yum Cha offers traditional Cantonese dim sum. Order your favourite bite-sized delicacies off their dim sum menu during their Dim Sum Buffet , available on weekdays at $26.80++ per adult. If dim sum is not your thing, they offer other dishes such as Crispy Roast Pork and Prawn Wanton Crisp too, the latter being one of our favourites. Note that this is not available on public holidays.

Address: 20 Trengganu Street, #02-01, Singapore 058479
Buffet hours: Mon-Fri 3pm to 6pm (last order 5:30pm)
Tel: 6372 1717
Website

6. TungLok Teahouse

TungLok Teahouse is quite a popular option for an affordable dim sum buffet, given that they charge just $26.80++ for adults on weekdays, and $28.80++ on weekends for over 40 menu items. What’s better is that they are one of the few options for unlimited dim sum during dinnertime, standing out from the lunch and teatime crowd. Outside of dim sum, diners are entitled to premium items such as Braised Whole Abalone with Pork Soft Bone, as well as Crisp-Fried Soft Shell Crab, though each table can only order one serving. A minimum of two people are needed to book a table for the buffet too.

Address: 10 Sinaran Drive, #01-73, Square 2, Singapore 307506
Buffet hours: Daily 5:30pm to 10pm
Website

7. Ban Heng

As much as gorging on over 40 dim sum items during an All You Can Eat Dim Sum Buffet sounds like a good plan, Ban Heng charges extra for food wastage, so order only what you can stomach! Expect a wide range of dim sum items such as Double Joy Baked Char Siew Buns, as well as unique items like Deep-Fried Banana Tempura and Bacon Siew Mai. Diners also get complimentary items, such as a slice of cheesecake and bubble tea, limited to one per diner. Prices start at $27.80++ per adult on weekdays at the Ban Heng Harbourfront Centre outlet, but prices increase at the other Ban Heng restaurants, up to $32.80++ per adult.

Check out our full review of Ban Heng !

Buffet hours: Mon-Fri 11:30am to 2pm, 6pm to 10pm
Tel: 6278 0288
Website | Full list of locations

8. Red House

With over 50 items to pick from, Red House has one of the most comprehensive dim sum buffets around. Not only does the menu have all the dim sum classics, but the restaurant’s focus on seafood dishes means you get ample shrimp and crab dishes on the menu too. Guests get a list of one-time-order dishes, and these span specialties such as Fresh Clams with Ginger & Spring Onion, as well as Pumpkin Crayfish and Deluxe Seafood Fried Rice. Prices start at $28.80++ on weekdays per adult.

Address: 68 Prinsep Street, Singapore 188661
Buffet hours: Mon-Fri 12pm to 2:30pm, Sat-Sun 11am to 3pm
Tel: 6336 6080
Website


Tasty Dim Sum and Then Some

Canton Seafood Restaurant began serving diners two years ago at its Keeaumoku Street location and the eatery quickly became a popular place for authentic Chinese food. Then about a month ago, a second restaurant, Canton Dim Sum, opened at the Market City Shopping Center, featuring a selection of signature dishes from Canton Seafood, as well as a nice assortment of dim sum, and the eatery appears destined to become another preferred destination among Chinese food lovers.

And while dim sum is traditionally served through mid-afternoon, Canton Dim Sum offers it from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. On the dim sum menu are many local favorites, such as Pork Hash, Half Moon, Chives Dumpling, Crispy Won Ton, Potsticker, Deep-Fried Meat Dumpling and Fish Cake with Corn (all priced at $2.38, three pieces). You also can choose Shrimp Dumpling, Steamed Char Siu Bun (Hong Kong style), Crispy Gau Gee, Golden Egg Custard Tart, Deep-Fried Taro Dumpling or Fried Sesame Ball with Red Bean/Coconut (all priced at $2.98, three pieces), as well as Chicken Mochi Rice in Lotus Leaf ($2.98, two pieces).

There also are Steamed Char Siu Manapua, Steamed Vegetable and Meat Bun, Baked Hot Dog Bun, Baked Char Siu Manapua, Baked Egg Custard Bun, Baked Honey Barbecue Pork Roll and Malaysian Steamed Sponge Cake ($1.29 each). In addition to dim sum, customers can also enjoy a variety of lunch and dinner plates, house specials, noodle and chow funn dishes, and noodle or rice in soup.

Steamed Char Siu Bun Hong Kong Style ($2.98, three pieces) Rachel Breit file photo Chicken Mochi Rice in Lotus Leaf ($2.98) Rachel Breit file photo
Crispy Gau Gee Mein (on special for $6.99, regularly $7.99) Leah Friel file photo Deep fried flounder with lemongrass ($9.99 special)

While executive chef Sou Keung Wong oversees both restaurants, Canton Dim Sum is designed as more of a fast-food, take-out and catering eatery, while Canton Seafood is a nice, casual dine-in restaurant with a full bar perfect for parties, business lunches or dinner with the family.

“When Chinese people eat here, they say it’s almost the same as in China,” says Canton Seafood manager Peng Gong. “That’s why so many Chinese people come here. Our executive chef is from Canton, China and has more than 28 years of experience in Hawaii including at the old Dynasty Restaurant. And our dim sum chef has more than 20 years of experience as a dim sum chef.”

Canton Seafood offers an extensive menu that you would typically find at a Chinese restaurant. The food is primarily prepared Hong Kong-style, and seafood is what they’re known for most, including Live Crab and Lobster (prepared with ginger and onion or salt and pepper), Steamed Fresh Whole Fish, Shrimp Walnuts with Mayonnaise, Steamed Prawn with Garlic and Look Funn, Clams with Black Bean Sauce, Deep Fried Oyster and more.

Among the customer favorites are the Deep Fried Flounder (on special for $9.99 with purchase of a regular priced entree through the end of October, regularly $15.99), and the Crispy Gau Gee Mein (on special for $6.99, regularly $7.99) which is a noodle dish made with shrimp, pork, char siu, won bok, broccoli, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, carrots, water chestnut, four pieces of crispy gau gee and an original house oyster gravy sauce. The Crispy Fried Chicken also is on special ($4.99 with purchase of one regular-priced entree through the end of October, regular price is $12.99).


Red Star Seafood: An Afternoon of Dim Sum - Recipes

XO sauce is a spicy salty seafood sauce commonly used in Cantonese cuisine and is also a popular choice of condiment to go with dim sum. Some of the best XO sauces I ever had were from Super Star Seafood Restaurant 鴻星海鮮酒家 in Hong Kong and Rabbit Brand Seafood Delicacies at Circular Road, Singapore. XO sauce is made from dried shrimps, dried scallops, red chilli pepper and spices. It’s an excellent sauce for stir-fries like fried rice, noodles, tofu and seafood because it imparts an umami flavour to dishes which really enhances the taste.

For cooking at home, I like to buy Lee Kum Kee XO Sauce (Regular) from the supermarket (costs about $20 per 220g bottle). It comes with generous bits of dried scallops so it is worth every cent because it’s so easy to whip up different restaurant standard dishes with just one bottle.

Joining Lee Kum Kee’s signature XO sauce line-up is the brand new Seafood XO Sauce (S$14.50 from all leading supermarkets) which is currently only available in Singapore in the whole of South East Asia.

This Chinese New Year, I had received a Chinese New Year Gift Pack courtesy of Lee Kum Kee and in it, there were 5 different LKK products – light soy sauce, oyster sauce, spare ribs sauce, cod fish sauce and the new XO Seafood sauce.

I used the XO sauce to whip up a prawn stir fry dish and my family loved it because the XO sauce was just so tasty.

Stir Fried Prawns with XO Sauce Recipe

Ingredients
(serves 3-4)
12 large-sized prawns, shelled with tails intact
150g sugar snap peas
1 carrot, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 heaped tbsp XO sauce
1 tsp Chinese cooking wine
1/2 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp olive oil
Chinese lettuce leaves as garnish (optional)

Instructions
1. Heat oil in pan and saute the garlic till fragrant.
2. Add the sugar snap peas and carrots and briefly stir fry for 30 seconds.
3. Add the prawns, XO sauce and wine and stir fry till the prawns turn opaque.
4. Season with fish sauce and serve atop lettuce leaves if desired.

That’s how easy this stir fry dish is. The XO sauce is so flavoursome and goes really well with the prawns, sugar peas and carrots. I suggest to serve extra XO sauce on the side so you can have it with rice too.

In addition to the in-store Chinese New Year promotions, Lee Kum Kee will also be giving away weekly prizes and cash ang pow to customers.

Here’s what you need to do:
1. Snap a photo related to the theme of “Reunion” with any Lee Kum Kee product
2. Write a caption for the photo
3. Hashtag #LKKReunionSG
4. Upload through Instagram or the LKK website


12. Swatow Seafood ( 汕头海鲜)

Good ol’ Swatow Restaurant at Toa Payoh is a reliable place for dim sum. Located within walking distance to our office, I’ve been there on a few occasions to grab a bite and they didn’t disappoint. Their Dim Sum Hi-Tea Buffet ($19.80 on weekdays, $22.80 on weekends) is pretty good, and even includes one serving of Shark’s Fin Soup with Crab Meat per person.

Served on traditional pushcarts instead of via an order sheet, you gotta be quick to snap up your desired dishes before other diners do.

Swatow Restaurant: Blk 181, Lorong 4 Toa Payoh, #02-602, Singapore 310181 | Tel: +65 6363 1717 | Buffet Timings: 3pm – 5pm (Daily) | Facebook | Website


4. Swee Choon 瑞春

One of Singapore’s oldest and most successful roadside dim sum place, although Swee Choon 瑞春has raised prices, the dim sum is still very affordable.

The beautiful thing about Swee Choon is that it only opens at night, which makes it a popular spot for young, midnight supper goers. Post-clubbing supper, anyone? (Maybe not during this COVID-19 pandemic.)

Most of the dim sum is above average, while the fried Swee Choon Mee Suah Kueh (S$2.40) is quite interesting. Do take note of the appetiser and napkin charges.

Expected Damage: S$14 per pax

ChopeDeals: Save 10% at Swee Choon Tim Sum Restaurant >

Swee Choon 瑞春: 183 – 191 Jalan Besar, Singapore 208882 | Tel: +65 6225 7788 | Dim Sum Hours: 6pm – 6am (Wed to Mon, Closed on Mon | Facebook | Instagram | Website


Red Star Seafood: An Afternoon of Dim Sum - Recipes

And very frankly, I think Red Star needs no further introduction.

Thywhaleliciousfay says:

And very frankly, I think Red Star needs no further introduction. When discussing where to head (off to) for dim sum, Red Star will always pop up.

Red Star does not accept reservation. So it will be good to come early cause some of their dishes run out by afternoon. Upon arrival, we immediately joined the queue which was on the immediate right after the entrance. Although the queue was long, it moved pretty fast and we were allocated a table within 20 minutes.

And because the restaurant was really busy on weekends, instead of waiting for the push carts to come to us, we were searching for the push carts that had the items we wanted. But a good thing about their order-card is that the dishes’ names were spelled out on it. So it allowed us to see the full range of dim sum offered, and one can always decide what new items to try too.

My colleagues' jaws pretty much dropped to the floor when I announced that I

CHINKYCHIEW says:

My colleagues' jaws pretty much dropped to the floor when I announced that I hadn't been to Red Star before. Within 5 mintues, I found myself in one of their cars on the way to the restaurant.

My first impression of the place? Huge, but old. This restaurant was probably one of the hotter venues for weddings back in the 80s but well, it's time for an upgrade, to be honest.

Experience wise, I enjoyed the fun of craning my neck every time a trolley passed by, and wishing that the cart with items we want would come our way. The food was decent, with a fair spread for vegetarians, but I would not find myself going out of the way to have a meal here.
Maybe for the novelty if friends from out of town would like some dim sum, but not for the dim sum itself.


5 /6 The Queen

FWD House 1881 is known for their afternoon tea, but western pastries and cakes aren&rsquot the only culinary delights you can enjoy in the former Marine Police Headquarters. Shaded from the summer heat and hustle and bustle of Tsim Sha Tsui is The Queen, a Chinese restaurant opened last June in the Chinese residential courtyard of the Victorian colonial building. Its traditional Chinese study room décor, brass tea pots and elaborately painted cyan porcelain teacups offer a nostalgic dining experience.

Here, head chef Chan Ki Pak, who previously led Macau&rsquos award-winning, Michelin-starred restaurant Wing Lei, specialises in Chuan cuisine which is known for the complex spice combinations, as well as seafood dishes and a vast variety of dim sum that is presented with innovative tastes, vibrant colours and a contemporary take of the classic recipes. The Queen&rsquos signature includes steamed Shanghainese dumpling with spicy soups, the pink jewel-like beetroot and wild mushroom dumplings, steamed rice rolls with crispy shrimp, kimchi radish cakes and pepper crisps with minced pork and shrimp. If that&rsquos not enough, The Queen also serves main courses made with typical Chinese ingredients and an international twist: the black truffle crispy chicken with chives sauce, Sichuan-style lobster and tofu, scallop puffs with crispy rice in lobster soup, deep-fried marble goby fish, and seasonal vegetables with geoduck.

The Queen, G/F, FWD House 1881 Main Building, 2A Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui fwdhouse1881.com


How to plan a New Year’s feast at a Chinese banquet hall

There are many options to choose from if you’re looking to celebrate Chinese New Year, which begins on Feb. 5. You could head to Chinatown for Chinese-Canadian classics such as chop suey and chicken balls. Or hit a dumpling joint or a place that excels in congee and noodle soups as a salve for the bitterly cold winter. There’s also regional fare such as Yueh Tung’s Hakka cooking, Szechuan Legend Restaurant’s chili-laden dishes or Phoenix Restaurant’s Hong Kong-style cuisine.

But if you’re looking to do it up right, consider making a reservation where many Chinese families will be gathering for New Year’s: the Chinese banquet hall. You’ll be treated to giant sharing platters of suckling pig with crackling skin, silky whole steamed fish and stunning wok-fried lobster garnished with vibrant shards of ginger and scallions. For the uninitiated, it can be an intimidating experience, but with a few handy tips and knowledge of a few of the mainstay Chinese New Year dishes, you can have a dining experience to remember.

As its name suggests, a Chinese banquet hall is characterized by its ability to hold large parties, in particular, wedding receptions. That’s why these restaurants always look like Liberace did the decorating: giant crystal chandeliers a quasi-Renaissance or Baroque motif crisp white tablecloths draped over tables, which more often than not, seat parties of 10 rather than two or four. At the centre of each big table is always a glass turntable and extra pairs of communal chopsticks to pick food from the platters. Tanks containing lobsters, crabs, bass and geoducks are either on display or in the kitchen as a sign that the seafood is fresh. During the day, the restaurants serve traditional dim sum. But at night, that’s when the large family-style meals are served. Before any food arrives at the table, the server might ask what kind of tea the diners want: Jasmine (heung pin in Cantonese) or Dragon Well (longjing) are the go-to green teas, Iron Buddha or Iron Goddess (tie guan yin) is a more full-bodied oolong and pu’erh (bolay) is a strong, dark and bitter tea that is best for cutting through fried and greasy dishes such as dim sum. Alcohol doesn’t usually play a big part in the meal, but every Chinese banquet hall will have a limited offerings of beer, wine and spirits (XO cognac is particularly popular in Chinese culture), or a corkage fee for diners who want to bring their own.

Tell us!

“Chinese banquet halls usually have a larger kitchen staff and decor that’s on a higher level in order to hold events,” says Casa Victoria Fine Dining and Banquet owner Benny Huang. For the past decade the restaurant has operated out of the Markham Square plaza at the corner of Highway 7 and Warden Ave. “We have about nine chefs and cooks that do dim sum, another person that does our barbecue in-house, and then another nine people that do the dinner service.”

As these restaurants cater to large groups, Huang says a group of 10 is optimal, but it’s not uncommon for parties of four or five to show up. Just make sure to make reservations as tables fill up quickly, especially during holidays.

Since these restaurants require a lot of real estate they are often found in the suburbs which has the added advantage of situating them close to Chinese communities. In Markham, there is Skyview Fusion Cuisine (the wall-to-wall seafood tanks are a sight to behold), Grand Lake Chinese Cuisine and Banquet and Elegance Chinese Cuisine and Banquet. Yu Seafood in Richmond Hill is a ritzy option that also does Japanese sashimi at dinner. Downtown dwellers have a few options such as Dim Sum King in Chinatown, Crown Princess Fine Dining and Dynasty Chinese Cuisine in Yorkville, as well as the Western-fusion Lai Wah Heen.

When it comes to what to order for Chinese New Year, most of these restaurants take the guesswork out with a set menu of appetizers, meat dishes, rice, noodles and desserts. Chinese food expert Charles Yu, moderator of the Chow-Toronto Facebook group, an unofficial spinoff of the food-and-drink forum Chowhound, says that every New Year menu has to have the “holy trinity” of dishes: pork, seafood and chicken.

Pork is usually one of the first dishes served, typically in the form of an appetizer platter alongside marinated jellyfish tentacles, says Yu. The most common way for the pig to be prepared is roasted whole until the skin is crispy and develops a rich amber colour. If a whole pig is ordered, the eyes are often decorated with cherries, lit candles or in the case of Casa Victoria, glowing LED lights (a whole pig here costs around $200 and requires two days’ advance notice). “Pigs represent strength and growth in Chinese culture,” says Yu.

He also notes that many dishes eaten around this time have a reddish hue to them, and in Chinese cultures, red is a symbol of good luck.

After the pork, chicken is usually served, says Huang. Chicken is a staple protein in Chinese culture and represents auspiciousness and plenty. Keeping within the theme of reddish foods, a popular way to prepare chicken for Chinese New Year is marinating it, then hanging it to dry, then pouring hot oil all over it achieve a papery, crispy skin without overcooking the meat.

Seafood in the form of scallops, shrimp, abalone, bass and lobster round out the trio. “There’s a Chinese New Year greeting (in Cantonese) that goes leen leen yao yu, which means year after year, you’ll have abundance or a surplus,” says Huang. “Yu, the Chinese word for abundance, also sounds a lot like the Chinese word for fish. So eating seafood means having enough leftover for the following year.”

Wok-fried whole lobsters punctuated with the aroma of ginger and scallions is a staple dish at banquet halls, as Yu notes that this dish best exemplifies wok-hay (breath of the wok), a distinct smoky aroma and flavour found in Chinese cuisine created by the powerful heat of a restaurant’s wok, something that cannot be replicated on a home stove. Steamed green bass with an additively sweet and salty soy sauce is also a staple dish at banquet halls.

All of these: the fish, the lobster, the chicken and the pig (if a whole one is ordered) are served with the heads and tail intact. “It’s important that everything has the head and the tail to symbolize completeness and harmony,” says Yu.

Meat and seafood reign supreme at Chinese New Year as historically, most Chinese families could not afford to eat these luxury items during the rest of the year, so this is the time to go all out. Even vegetable dishes contain bits of seafood be it scallops or crab meat, says Huang.

Shark fin soup is more often than not, available at the majority of banquet halls as it remains a symbol of wealth in Chinese culture. If you don’t want it, ask to substitute it with another soup.

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After the meat and seafood comes the noodles (the long strands represent longevity) and rice dishes towards the end of the meal.

At most restaurants, desserts typically consist of sweet red bean soup, mango pudding, sesame seed cookie balls or almond cookies. At Casa Victoria, Huang brings out a plate of speciality cookies leftover from a wedding reception the day before. Delicate layers of golden puff pastry surround a ball of lotus seed paste to resemble peonies. It’s a step up from the red bean soup, says Huang, and while it’s not a typical Chinese New Year sweet the kitchen can make them with two days’ notice.

The cost of these meals depends on the restaurants, the number of courses and the extravagance of the dishes, but expect meals that include items such as seafood and suckling pig to start around $80 to $90 per person. It’s not cheap eats, but the portions are always generous and there are always a few takeout boxes by the end of the night. After all, one of the themes of Chinese New Year is abundance, and the traditional banquet hall doesn’t disappoint.

Other ways to celebrate the Lunar New Year

Pacific Mall Countdown

Those willing to brave the crowds at the giant Chinese shopping centre have a few days of free celebrations to choose from. On Feb. 4 the mall will be holding a countdown starting at 10 p.m. and then continue the party on the following afternoon at 2:30 p.m. with live entertainment. Those who prefer celebrating on the weekend can come the following Saturday when the festivities continue. Be sure to head to the food court on the upper level to get your fix of hand-pulled noodles.

Feb. 4, 5 and 9. 4300 Steeles Ave. E., pacificmalltoronto.ca

Chinatown Celebrations

The Chinatown BIA is hosting its annual free celebrations at the Dragon City Mall and the adjacent Chinatown Centre during the festival’s first weekend. Expect live performances such as lion dances and storytelling as well as children’s activities, and plenty of Instagram-friendly backgrounds in the form of red lantern backdrops.

Feb. 9 to 10. 280 Spadina Ave. and 222 Spadina Ave., chinatownbia.com

Fancy Afternoon Tea

The posh Shangri-La Hotel is hosting Chinese New Year Afternoon tea ($75 per person) throughout February at its Lobby Lounge with tiers of Chinese-inspired pastries such as egg tart with mandarin compote and vanilla, sesame and ginger balls, mango pudding and matcha scones with clotted cream and fruit compote. There’s also savoury offerings in the form of dim sum that includes siu mai, fried tofu, and barbecue pork and pineapple turnovers. On Feb. 5 at 3:30pm there will be a traditional lion dance.

Sweets to Go

Supplement the nian gao with additional desserts from Nadege Patisserie. The French cake and confectionary shop created a line of Chinese New Year treats such as gold or red pigs made out of chocolate ($35) individually sized and large mandarin-flavoured cakes ($11.50 to $45) bonbons in oolong, champagne and kumquat ($22 for a box of nine), and macarons in flavours such as red bean with matcha, caramel with sesame and mandarin. These will be available at all Nadege locations starting Jan. 25. Local chocolatier David Chow is also making Chinese New Year treats in the form of tangerine bonbons (box of 9 for $26) and large chocolate pigs ($38).


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The original meaning of the term dim sum remains unclear and debated. [27]

Some references state that the term originated in the Eastern Jin dynasty (317–420). [28] [29] According to one legend, to show soldiers gratitude after battles, a general had civilians make buns and cakes to send to the front lines. "Gratitude", or 點點心意 diǎn diǎn xīnyì , later shortened to 點心 diǎn xīn, of which dim sum is the Cantonese pronunciation, came to represent dishes made in a similar fashion.

Some versions date the legend to the Southern Song dynasty (960–1279) [30] [31] after the term's earliest attestation in the Book of Tang ( 唐書 Táng shū . [29] Written in the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period (907–979), the book uses dim sum as a verb instead: 「治妝未畢, 我未及餐, 爾且可點心」 "Zhì zhuāng wèi bì, wǒ wèi jí cān, ěr qiě kě diǎnxīn" , which translates to: "I have not finished preparing myself and ready for a proper meal, therefore you can treat yourself with some small snacks." [29] In this context, dim sum ( 點心 'to lightly touch (your) heart'), means "to barely fill (your) stomach". [29]

Dim sum dishes are usually associated with yum cha (Chinese: 飲茶 Cantonese Yale: yám chàh pinyin: yǐnchá lit. 'drink tea'), a Cantonese brunch tradition. [32] [33] Yan-kit So has described Dim sum as: [34] [2]

Literally translated as 'so close to the heart', they are, in reality, a large range of hors d’oeuvres Cantonese people traditionally enjoy in restaurants (previously teahouses) for breakfast and for lunch, but never for dinner, washed down with tea. 'Let's go yum cha (to drink tea)' is understood among the Cantonese to mean going to a restaurant for dim sum such is the twin linkage between the food and the beverage. The familiar yum cha scene at a Cantonese restaurant, which is often on several floors, is one of young girls pulling trolleys replete with goodies in bamboo baskets piled high or small dishes set next to each other. As they mill around the dining tables, they call out the names of their wares and place the baskets or dishes on the tables when diners signal their wishes.

Dim sum is part of the Chinese tradition of snacks originating from the Song Dynasty (960-1279), when royal chefs created various dishes such as minced pheasant, lark tongue, and desserts made from steamed milk and bean paste. [35] Guangzhou experienced an increase in commercial travel in the tenth century [3] At that time, travelers would frequent teahouses for small-portion meals with tea called yum cha, or "drink tea" meals. [4] [3] [5] Yum cha includes two related concepts. The first, 一盅兩件, translates literally as "one cup, two pieces". This refers to the custom of serving teahouse customers two pieces of delicately made food items, savory or sweet, to complement their tea. The second, 點心, which means "dim sum" translates literally to "touching heart" (i.e. heart touching). This is the term used to designate the small food items that accompanied the drinking of tea. [6] During the thirteenth century, when Mongols invaded China, the royal court fled to southern China, bringing a royal influence to the dim sum of Guangzhou. [35] Guangzhou was a wealthy, large port city that had international visitors, a temperate climate, and a coastline where fresh and tropical ingredients were grown, resulting in an ideal environment for food and entertainment. [35] In Guangzhou, street vendors and teahouses sold dim sum. [35] The practice of having tea with dim sum at tea houses eventually evolved into modern yum cha. [3] [7] While at the teahouses, travelers selected their preferred snacks from carts. [3] Visitors to tea houses often socialized as they ate and business people negotiated deals over dim sum. [3]

During the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644), the Tea and Horses Bureau was established to monitor tea production and improve tea quality. [35] The improvements in tea quality also led to teahouse improvements. [35]

Cantonese dim sum culture developed rapidly during the latter half of the nineteenth century in Guangzhou. [8] Teahouse dining areas were typically located upstairs and initial dim sum fare included steamed buns. [8] Eventually, these evolved into specialized dim sum restaurants the variety and quality of dim sum dishes rapidly followed suit. [8] Cantonese dim sum was originally based on local foods such as sweet roast pork called char siu and fresh rice noodles. [8] As dim sum continued to develop, chefs introduced influences and traditions from other regions of China, which created a starting point for the wide variety of dim sum available today. [8] Chefs created a large range of dim sum that even today comprises most of a teahouse’s dim sum offerings. [8] Part of this development included reducing portion sizes of larger dishes originally from northern China, such as stuffed steamed buns, so they could easily be incorporated into the dim sum menu. [8] The rapid growth in dim sum restaurants was due partly because people found the preparation of dim sum dishes to be time-consuming and preferred the convenience of dining out and eating a large variety of baked, steamed, pan-fried, deep-fried, and braised foods. [8] Dim sum continued to develop and also spread southward to Hong Kong. [36]

Although dim sum is normally considered Cantonese, it includes many additional influences. [8] Over thousands of years, as people in China migrated in search of different places to live, they carried the recipes of their favorite foods and continued to prepare and serve these dishes. [8] Many Han Chinese migrated south seeking warmer climates. [8] Settlements took shape in the Yangtze River Valley, the central highlands, and the coastal southeast, including Guangdong. [8] The influence of Suzhou and Hangzhou is found in vegetarian soy skin rolls and pearl meatballs. The dessert squares flavored with red dates or wolfberries are influences from Beijing desserts. [8] Savory dishes, such as pot stickers and steamed dumplings, include Muslim influences because of people traveling from Central Asia across the Silk Road and into Guangdong. [8] These are just a few examples of how a wide range of influences became incorporated into traditional Cantonese dim sum. [8]

By 1860, foreign influences had to shape Guangdong’s dim sum with culinary innovations such as ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and curry, all of which came to be used in some savory dishes. [8] Custard pies evolved into the miniature classics found in every teahouse. [8] Other dim sum dishes evolved from Indian samosas, mango puddings and Mexican conchas (snow-topped buns). [8] Cantonese-style dim sum has an extremely broad range of tastes, textures, cooking styles, and ingredients. [8] As a result, there are more than a thousand different varieties of dim sum. [8]

During the 1920s, in Guangzhou, the foremost places to enjoy tea were its tea pavilions, which had refined and expansive surroundings. [8] The customers were wealthy, and there were rather high standards for the privilege of enjoying tea pavilion service and dim sum. [8] Upon entering a tea pavilion, customers would inspect tea leaves to ensure their quality and to verify the water temperature. [8] Once satisfied, these guests were presented with a pencil and a booklet listing the available dim sum. [8] A waiter would then tear their orders out of the booklet so that the kitchen could pan-fry, steam, bake or deep-fry these dishes on demand. [8] Customers dined upstairs in privacy and comfort. [8] Servers carefully balanced the dishes on their arms or arranged them on trays as they climbed up and down the stairs. [8] Eventually, dim sum carts were used to serve the steamers and plates. [8]

People with average incomes also enjoyed tea and dim sum. [8] Early every morning, customers visited inexpensive restaurants that offered filled steamed buns and hot tea. [8] During the mid-morning, students and government employees ordered two or three kinds of dim sum and ate as they read their newspapers. [8] In the late morning, people working at small businesses visited restaurants for breakfast and to use the restaurant as a small office space. [8]

By the late 1930s, Guangzhou’s teahouse culture included four high-profile dim sum chefs, with signs at the front doors of their restaurants. [8] There was heavy competition among teahouses and as a result, new varieties of dim sum were invented almost daily, including dishes influenced by the tea pastries of Shanghai and Beijing, and the Western world. [8] Many new fusion dishes were also created, including puddings, baked rolls, turnovers, custard tarts, and Malay steamed cakes. [8]

There were also significant increases in the variety of thin wrappers used in both sweet and savory items: [8]

If we concentrate only on the changes and development in the variety of 'wrappers', the main types of dim sum wrappers during the 1920s included such things as raised (for filled buns), wheat starch, shao mai (i.e., egg dough), crystal bun, crispy batter, sticky rice, and boiled dumpling wrappers. By the 1930s, the varieties of wrappers commonly used by chefs included. puff pastry, Cantonese short pastry, [and so on, for a total of 23 types] that were prepared by pan-frying, deep-frying, steaming, baking, and roasting. [8] [37]

As the Chinese Civil War progressed from 1927 to 1949, many dim sum chefs left China and settled in Hong Kong, resulting in further refinements and innovation of the dim sum there. [35] Very large dim sum restaurants in major cities like Hong Kong, San Francisco, Boston, Toronto, and New York were also established. [35]

In the nineteenth century, Cantonese immigrants brought dim sum to the West and East coasts of the United States. [38] Some of the earliest dim sum restaurants in the U.S. still operating today opened in 1920 in San Francisco and New York City. [39] [40] The Chinese history in San Francisco is believed to have started about 30 years before the restaurant was opened. The Chinese preferred to live in the present Chinatown area because of its restaurants and theaters. [39] In the late 1930s, some early U.S. newspaper references to dim sum began to appear. [41] While some Chinese restaurants in the U.S. had offered dim sum for decades, it was not until the late 1980s when there was a broader public awareness of dim sum. [3]

Although there was increased awareness of dim sum, one chef from Hong Kong, who immigrated to San Francisco, noted that diners in the U.S. usually focused on the food itself, and not the communal aspects of eating dim sum. [42] Although dim sum is a Chinese meal, it is a communal dining and social experience that can span hours. [42] It is customary for large groups to enjoy dishes together as a leisurely social activity. [42] Diners go to restaurants early, around 10:00 AM, and rather than ordering a whole table of food, they order small amounts, have a cup of tea, read the newspaper, and wait for friends and family to join them. [42] As a result, a visit to a dim sum restaurant can last from the late morning well into the afternoon. [42] For some people in Hong Kong, dim sum is a daily routine and a way of life. [42] Since this dim sum tradition was not always present in some U.S. dim sum restaurants, however, approaches to generate interest and attract customers include customized seasoning and flavors of traditional dishes, as well as creating novel dishes with an emphasis on enhanced flavors and visual appeal. [42]

One food reviewer notes that there has been increased popularity in posting dim sum photos on social media feeds, and that dim sum has become so popular that every U.S. state has come to have at least one high-quality dim sum restaurant. [43] There is a restaurant, bar, and highly rated dance club complex in Las Vegas, NV, that features high-end Cantonese food (including dim sum), craft cocktails, dinner parties and prominent disc jockeys in a chic setting. [44] [45] [46] [47]

The dim sum restaurants in Chicago have been serving mainly traditional dim sum in Chinatown, but there has been recent growth in contemporary dim sum with new fusion dishes, as well as restaurants now located outside Chinatown. [48]

In Hong Kong, many chefs are also introducing variants based on traditional Cantonese cuisine, which generates interest and provides both Hongkongers and tourists with new, fresh dim sum dishes. [49]

There are over one thousand dim sum dishes available, [8] [9] [35] which are usually eaten as breakfast or brunch. [16] [17] Cantonese dim sum has a very broad range of flavors, textures, cooking styles, and ingredients, [8] and can be classified into regular items, seasonal offerings, weekly specials, banquet dishes, holiday dishes, house signature dishes, travel-friendly, as well as breakfast or lunch foods and late night snacks. [8]

The subtropical climate of the southeast quadrant of Guangdong partly influences dim sum's portion size. [8] It can cause a decrease in appetite, [50] so that people prefer eating scaled-down meals throughout the day rather than the customary three large meals. [8] Teahouses in Guangzhou served "three teas and two meals", which included lunch and dinner, and breakfast, afternoon and evening teas with dim sum. [8]

Many dim sum dishes are made of seafood, chopped meats, or vegetables wrapped in dough or thin wrappings and steamed, deep-fried, or pan-fried. [51] [9] [52] A traditional dim sum brunch includes various types of steamed buns, such as cha siu bao (a steamed bun filled with barbecue pork), rice or wheat dumplings, and rice noodle rolls that contain a range of ingredients, including beef, chicken, pork, prawns and vegetarian options. [53] [54] Many dim sum restaurants also offer plates of steamed green vegetables, stuffed eggplant, stuffed green peppers, roasted meats, congee and other soups. [55] Dessert dim sum is also available and can be ordered at any time since there is not a set sequence for the meal. [56] [57]

It is customary to order "family-style", sharing the small dishes consisting of three or four pieces of dim sum among all members of the dining party. [16] [17] [58] [57] Small portion sizes allow people to try a wide variety of food. [17]

Dim sum restaurants typically have a wide variety of dishes, usually several dozen. [10] [11]


Watch the video: Moon Palace is Torontos Cantonese spot for seafood dim sum and lobster (November 2021).