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Yum Cha Chinatown Restaurant, Singapore

18 May 2010 No Comment

Yum Cha Restaurant Chinatown

Spread across the globe by early Cantonese immigrants and popularized by the rise of Hong Kong as an international commerce hub, yum cha (‘drinking tea’ in Cantonese dialect) grew to be one the most widely known Chinese culinary traditions. Today one can easily find eateries offering yum cha in most of the world’s large cities. Singapore, with its fair number of Cantonese speaking population is no exception. The city is blessed with a wide selection of restaurants serving yum cha; ranging from hawker-style eateries to five star priced meal at the Royal China restaurant at Raffles Hotel.

In this review, we visit a restaurant in Chinatown area which is also called yum cha. For this reason alone we believe that they must have something good to offer. Tucked away in the upper floors of a restored shop house, they serve reasonable quality dim sum dishes – also at reasonable prices.

Yum Cha Restaurant Singapore

Fried radish cake

Cha siew bao at Yum Cha Restaurant Singapore

Cha siew bao (Roast pork bun)

The tea selection is pretty standard, not unlike those found in other yum cha restaurants. We find the fried items (such as fried radish cake and yam pastry) and the roast pork bun (cha siew bao) to be the best dishes around. One dish that we find lacking was the har gao. Its skin was too thick, completely overriding the taste of the prawn inside. We also find the yang zhi gan lu (a dessert item made primarily of mango puree and pomelo bits) tasty but overpriced. Other dishes such as siew mai and stir fried vegetables meet the standard but in general is nothing to shout about.

Yang zhi gan lu

Yang zhi gan lu.  Small serving with impressive presentation

Yum cha is a highly social event, often seen as an opportunity for extended families to meet up and have a meal together, something very important for Chinese families and their clan-based system. It is thus not surprising that yum cha hangouts are frequented by large crowds on weekends, a time where the families can set aside their busy schedule and meet up. To avoid crowds, come early for your yum cha or much later in the afternoon. Note: there is higher the chance that some items are sold out in the afternoon.

For those not familiar with this tea drinking tradition, in many yum cha settings there are waiters pushing cartloads of dim sum items. You may call these over to inspect the goods inside. In general, buns (bao) will be grouped together in the same cart, fried items in another, and sometimes there will be a congee cart as well. Tea pot is refillable in most restaurants. Sometimes the servers will help to pour tea, but more often than not yum cha participants must help themselves and others around the table. It is polite to pour for others before refilling one’s own cup, and when someone help to refill your cup, tap three fingers on the table as a sign of gratitude. This practice has its own interesting history. It is said that when a Qing Emperor went to travel incognito to Southern China, he stopped by a teahouse. To preserve his anonymity, he took his turn to pour tea. At a time when subjects must remain prostrate in the presence of the Emperor, this is a great honour for his travelling companions; yet they cannot kowtow openly for it will reveal the Emperor’s identity. So the creative Emperor told them to tap three fingers on the table instead, one finger to represent their head, and the other two to represent their arms.

Yum Cha Restaurant Singapore

Yum Cha Restaurant Singapore

Fried yam pastry at Yum Cha Restaurant Singapore

Travel Info

Yum Cha Chinatown. Address: 20 Trengganu Street. Open from: 11 am (Mon – Fri), 9 am (Sat, Sun, Public Holidays).
Price: Approximately SGD 25 per pax. Menu available on website.

Website http://www.yumcha.com.sg

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