My enchantment with egg tarts, pineapple buns, and my new favorite place to have dimsum.
I’m back in Hong Kong with my Bin and this time, Boo too. My Bin and I want to relive our last trip here (see links below) and share them with our foodie-in-training.
For our first meal in the city, dimsum is an absolute necessity. I’m loathe to wait in line for more than an hour like what I did before at Tim Ho Wan and City Hall Maxim’s Palace. Some diners see the wait as part of the experience and it is but I have my limits. I’m determined to drive through the hype and do dimsum elsewhere.
Tsui Hang Village is a multi-awarded restaurant renowned for their Cantonese cuisine. It’s possible to have a full-blown lauriat here but we’re dead set on dimsum. Every table appears to have an order of these Pineapple Pork Buns and it’s no wonder – they’re divine. Contrary to its name, the bun is devoid of pineapple. Its crusty crown, golden and cracked in spots, is buttery. Every bite sends shards of it showering onto the table. Ensconced within are bits of barbequed roast pork lavished in a smoky-salty-sticky glaze. It’s a transcendent experience to eat the bun while it carries a memory of warmth from the oven.
It seems redundant to have an order of the Honey Glazed Barbecued Pork since we already have the buns but this is one of the restaurant’s specialties. A perfect example of succulence on a plate, the pork is a balance of fat and lean, luscious and dry, contrasting with the surprisingly addictive honeyed soy beans.
The rest of our meal is relatively straightforward. My Bin loves Chicken Feet so there’s always an order of it and everything else is excellent – the Steamed Pork Dumplings Stuffed with Prawns, Steamed Barbecued Pork Buns (truly fabulous – we have two orders), Crab meat and Sesame wrapped in a fascinating Black Rice Wrapper, and Fried Rice scattered with Pork floss, Conpoy (dried scallops), and Egg White.
To finish, we have egg tarts. They’re not particularly memorable and when I find out that that the gelatinous bits are bird’s nest, I feel guilt. There are a few delicacies I stay away from and bird’s nest is on that list. Shoot, even my mind is on vacation.
Tsui Hang Village
Somewhere in the streets of Tsim Sha Tsui, liquid nitrogen ice cream in Crunchy Sea Salt Gelato with Caramel Sauce and Tiramisu. Spectacular show, well-executed flavors, but decidedly rough textures.
Egg tart enchantment
Every visit to Hong Kong is all about engaging my love for egg tarts. I think I might subsist on them if I could but on this trip, I’m decided on one thing: I prefer the flaky version (first photo above) over its shortbread counterpart (photo directly above).
Sometimes, purely by chance, things happen that make me believe the food gods are watching out for me. I’m standing by the side of the road somewhere in MongKok scarfing down one flaky egg tart after another as my Bin and Boo look on aghast. In between bites – okay fine, greedy mouthfuls – I’m scanning the pastry display (photo above) debating over what next to stuff into my maw. Suddenly, the door of the bakery swings open revealing a man heaving a large tray of pineapple buns (boh loh baau). Scurrying towards the man, I frantically ask “Boh loh baau? Boh loh baau?” The man chuckles at my pathetic but admittedly plucky attempt at speaking Cantonese. He says something equally cryptic but simultaneously rubs his stomach and gives a thumbs up motion. Then in one deft movement, he slides the tray onto the rack and sidles back inside the bakery.
I immediately buy two pineapple buns, seemingly unable to get my money out fast enough to pay for them. The heat pervades the paper wrapper the bun is packaged in, it permeates through my fingers. I feel my heart warm and I inhale a deep buttery fragrance. The insides of my nose tickle and my teeth sink into the pillow-like dough. My body responds similarly, going slack, my spine slumps. My palate is awash in butter and heat, the painfully deliciously synergy of freshly baked bread has me under its spell. I lean on my Bin and in my reverie, I hear Boo ask, “Papa, why is it called a pineapple bun when there’s no pineapple in it?” To which my Bin replies, “I guess because the top looks like a pineapple, hon.” That it does. I buy a bun for my Bin and Boo but they don’t love it as much as I do.
My new favorite dimsum place
It has a remarkable name – DimDimSum Dim Sum – a staccato ditty of sorts that makes me feel like I’m rapping. Its exterior and interior are proudly plastered with mentions in Newsweek, CNN, TimeOut magazine (various countries), and Where Chefs Eat, a book I highly recommend you get. The place even has an Instagram account!
The food here is impeccable. Under no circumstances should you miss out on ordering the Crispy Rice Flour Rolls with Shrimp. My Bin is more restrained than I am when it comes to expressing ardor for food, but upon first bite of this, he emits a loud “Oh my god!” Delicate shrimp are steamed as if with the gentleness of a breath and the aroma of rice wine. Done now – carefully, oh so carefully, the shrimp are wrapped in what reminds me – texturally – of taro puff casing, but in reality is probably an ethereally light sheet made from rice flour. Now a whole roll, the lot is then rolled again, this time in a pliant wrapper, translucent with a perfect bite, and every bite is a textural wonder. Succeeding layers of soft bite to crisp-crackle descend into the perfection that is the shrimp. We enjoy it with the light soy sauce, admiring the seeming simplicity of this creation that is anything but. This dish is a triumph and we marvel and eat it with a vengeance.
It’s relatively easy to order at DimDimSum Dim Sum. There’s (thankfully!) an English menu on which you tick off your orders. The “highly recommended” are ostensibly those with the red stars. I lament that I’ve stuffed my face too much with the egg tarts and pineapple buns so this is a light(er) lunch.
The various dumplings are exceptional: Har Gow (steamed shrimp dumplings) and Pork Dumplings with Crab Roe both boast of wrappers strong enough to carry their treasure but yield to the bite of teeth.
I especially fancy flaky things, as I make all too clear here so it’s love between me and the Fried Pastry with Portuguese Chicken and Pineapple Filling. Again, no pineapple here (why is that?) but a distinctive curry note rings through the meat, flavors unfurling like the pastry that contains it.
At the Mong Kok location that we visit, the restaurant is but a hallway, literally. Shortly before noon, it’s empty but quickly fills up. If you come here, I strongly suggest you do so at an off hour. I have it on good authority that the Pineapple Buns hide a cache of custard with real pineapple bits, so order that and the reputedly name-forgetting Dumplings With Black Truffle. Wash everything down with Soy Milk, cold or hot, it’s a most worthy representative of this beverage.
DimDimSum Dim Sum