When it comes to Chinese food, my husband and I tend to be rather conservative. We seldom check out new restaurants, and tend to stick to the tried and tested, which are either Imperial Treasure, the Paradise group of restaurants, or Din Tai Fung.
A couple of weeks ago, we were at Orchard road and wanted to get dinner. My husband saw a signage promoting rice dumplings from East Ocean Teochew Restaurant, and suggested we get a couple of them. (As a side note, the Chinese restaurants are offering rice dumplings for the coming dragon boat or dumpling festival, which falls on the 5th day of the 5th month on the Chinese calendar, which is 2nd of June.) I agreed to the dumplings sincd it would be a nice change from the usual food. Besides it’s only during the festival that special dumplings are available. We ordered a eight treasures dumpling, which is huge, and a Mui Choy (pickled vegetable) Braised Pork dumpling.
The wait staff offered sugar and light soy to go with them, but we declined the sugar. Seriously, how can you have sugar with the savory dumplings? We were told the light soy provides flavoring for the dumpling since they are not flavored. But we realized after trying them out, the soy is redundant. The dumplings are flavourful in themselves because of the ingredients, and they are really tasty. I like the Eight Treasures dumpling which has roasted duck, dried scallops, salted egg, roasted pork, among others. It has been a long time since I had dumplings with roasted duck. My mom used to make them since I don’t really take pork. This is one of the specialties that are only available for the festival. The Mui Choy braised pork dumpling, which we got for Buddy, is not bad, but pales next to the Eight Treasures. Buddy likes both though.
We like the East Ocean dumplings so much that we decided to try their dim sum. For the record, I had heard of East Ocean before, when it was still located at Shaw Building before moving to its current location at Ngee Ann City, that it’s a very established restaurant with good food. I was told that the baked custard buns with salted egg is one of the best in town. So a couple of months ago, I made a special trip there to get them, and indeed they’re pretty good. But strangely it never occurred to me then to try the dim sum. That evening, I made a brunch reservation for the next day, a public holiday. And luckily I did, because there was a long queue when we arrived. Even with a reservation, we still had to wait for about 15 minutes for our table. We returned to the restaurant again, last Saturday (again reservation is advised).
What we like about East Ocean is that the tables are relatively large and able to accommodate many dishes. Upon seated, the diners are served small cups of “Kung-Fu”tea. I don’t know what exactly this is, presumably to clear the palate, but this is really strong Chinese tea. Like in the usual dim sum restaurants, you marked the dishes you want on slips of papers, and there is a wide selections including cutesy dim sum in animal figurines.
One thing about the dim sum is that the presentation is not great, but the quality, in general, is good. We tried the usual dim sum dishes, and also ordered a peppery pig stomach soup as well as a congee with century egg and lean meat for Buddy. We love the Har Gao or shrimp dumpling, made with big, fat and fresh shrimps which is not usual. The cheong fun (rice flour crepe) with shrimp and BBQ pork are pretty good too. The sauce is not overly saltish and the dish comes with vegetables as well, which is a very nice touch.
My husband has to ordered the egg tarts, and fried radish cake. He’s not crazy over the former though, as he finds the custard rather thin. But the fried radish cake is pretty tasty and also not overly flavored.
He also order the wrapped glutinous rice with chicken (similar to the rice dumpling) and the peppery pig stomach soup. I find the glutinous rice a little too saltish, not as well balanced as the dumpling but the soup is really good. There is enough heat to have a kick but warms the tummy.
Of course I have to try the cutesy dim sums. The first time we were there, I ordered the “Mrs Butterfly” which has mixed vegetables for Buddy. He wasn’t taken in though; and prefers the congee. For me, I find it too bland. On the second visit, I decided to get something for myself, “Mr Penguin”, three cute penguin dim sum filled with lotus paste with a salted egg yolk core. The lotus paste is a little too sweet for me. Anyway I have to admit these are gimmicky dim sums which are not cheap by any standard, at S$6++ per plate of three.
We had to get the rice dumplings again; on top of the Eight Treasures, my husband asked for the Salted Egg Yolk and BBQ pork dumpling. We didn’t ask for them to be steamed, thinking that we would do that at home since it would be many hours before we would have them for dinner. It turns out that we should have requested because the Eight Treasures dumpling was over-steamed and the roasted duck was a little over-cooked. Even then, they are still pretty delicious, and Buddy enjoys them too.
Since we are in the mood for dumplings, we decided to try out those from Imperial Treasure. Imperial offers 4 different types of dumplings, one less than East Ocean, and other than the abalone dumpling, they are also cheaper (because of smaller sizes).
We tried the Traditional and the Dried Scallop dumplings, the latter being similar to the Eight Treasures. To be honest, I still prefer the one from East Ocean. I find the glutinous rice for the Imperial dumplings a little too sticky and not as smooth as the East Ocean’s. A turn-off is also the dried scallop dumpling, which has roasted duck as well, has bones in it. I don’t understand why they can’t debone the meat for the dumpling filling. Sure it’s cheaper (by S$2 only) but not better.