Oh man… looking back at these pictures makes me both happy and sad. Sad that I’ll never eat there again but soo happy that I did and I got these photos to remember it. Taking the photos was worth all of the strange looks we got.
There were a couple of meals that we had in Singapore that really stood out from the rest and are worthy of a blog post all on their own. Sometimes we were literally speechless – our minds blown. One such time was having dim sum at Crystal Jade Dining In. Located in a shopping mall, we didn’t really know what to expect. Another thing was that I’d only had dim sum once for lunch before in Canada and I didn’t really know how it worked.
“Dim sum refers to a style of Cantonese food prepared as small bite-sized or individual portions of food traditionally served in small steamer baskets or on small plates.” – wikipedia. It’s a great way to eat if you ask me. Lots of little dishes and choices. If you live in Ottawa do yourself a favour and to go T & T Supermarket on Saturday during lunch for dim sum.
We arrived at Crystal Jade Dining In one early afternoon before departing on a hike. We were tired and hot and quite overwhelmed when we were seated.
Leanna posing for a photo from my smartphone at Crystal Jade
The restaurant looked quite fancy but after a look the menu we were reassured that the prices were extremely affordable. Dr. Leslie Tay had blogged about Crystal Jade and his photos and descriptions were all we needed to convince us.
Crystal Jade Dining In
Beautiful Sentosa island views from the restaurant
The first thing we ordered from the menu, and one of the best decisions of my life, were the Steamed BBQ Pork Buns. Please understand that these buns were, without a doubt, one of the single best pieces of food I have ever enjoyed in my life. These buns will go down in the history of me as being a shining moment of taste perfection.
$3.50 Steamed BBQ Pork Buns
Look at that picture. Imagine those warm buns topped with the sweet glaze dropped in front of you at your table. The steamy sweet smell floating up to your face. You grab one and it’s so soft and warm that you can’t pinch it too hard or else your fingers will travel right into the centre where they’d find the gooey, sweet BBQ Pork filling. You take your first bite and you can’t even believe how soft and light and perfect the bun is and as you close your teeth you bite into the sweet meaty BBQ Pork filling. You hardly even have to chew it as it’s just making you so happy to have a perfect combination of flavour and texture. Leanna and I were just looking at each other in amazement. This is the Martyn Bootyspoon effect.
Our amazing lunch continued. We had steamed glutinous rice wrapped in a lotus leaf. The rice inside is sticky and infused with the smokey leafy flavour from the lotus leaf. Incredible rice.
We figured “well, we can’t have dim sum without some dumplings” so we ordered a basket of siu mai (pork filled steamed dumplings). So flavourful.
Our last dish was a bowl of Soup. I won’t talk about this soup. If you want to know about it ask me about it.
One thing worth mentioning was how amazing our service was. We were served by an older lady from Hong Kong who was really considerate of how unfamiliar we were with dim sum. She would come and show us how to eat things and if there was a little sauce, how much to add for example. She’d return often and our tea cups were never below half full. I told her we were Canadian and showed her pictures of the snow we had. She said we should have ordered the crispy pork belly (their most famous dish) but we were full.
After this wonderful dim sum experience we were obviously interested in trying more. Looking through my notes a few days later I saw that I’d jotted down references to Tim Ho Wan. Tim Ho Wan is famous for two things: Being the world’s cheapest Michellin starred restaurant and having an incredibly long lineup to get a table (you can expect to wait for hours at lunch time). We decided to visit early afternoon once the lunch crew was leaving. We timed it perfectly and only waited 20 minutes for a place to sit. The place was packed.
happy for more dim sum
The restaurant operation and layout kind of reminds me of going to Schwartz’s Hebrew Deli in Montreal – you have to wait a long time to get a table and then you get seated at long communal tables with other people next to you. Both places have something else in common too – good food.
Tim Ho Wan’s reputation is built on it’s four signature dishes which are known as the “Four Heavenly Kings.” [...]
It’s founder, Chef Mak Kwai Pui started the first Tim Ho Wan as a hole-in-the wall Dim Sum place in Hong Kong and won its first Michelin Star within a year in 2009 – ieatishootipost.sg
Of course we were planning on ordering the “Four Heavenly Kings”, but we decided to switch one of the four and also order an additional item.
Heavenly King #1 – Baked BBQ Pork Bun
These were quite unique. Sugary and crisp on the outside and juicy syrupy pork filling inside. They were crispy and different than the other buns at Crystal Jade because they were baked not steamed. They were very good.
Heavenly King #2 – Pan Fried Carrot Cake
I had to skip this one because the memories of being sick are unfortunately linked to this cake. It’s funny because there’s actually no carrots in this cake at all. It is made from radishes. Leanna liked it.
Heavenly King #3 – Steamed Egg Cake
Now we’re talking heavenly! A cake fit for the Emperor. Opening the lid the hot steam carried a soft cake aroma. The cake was soft and bouncy – it almost jiggled if you touched it. The flavours were nice and very subtle, just how it looks. We both agreed that this was the best dish we had at Tim Ho Wan, and I wanted to order another (it was $3.80) even. How good does that look!
Teochew Style Dumpling
We substituted the fourth heavenly king for these Teochew style dumplings. The fourth heavenly king was a vermicelli roll with pig’s liver (there are two foods Leanna and I don’t like: Coffee and Liver). The dumplings were not my favourite. They had water chestnuts and I’m never really a fan of those. The texture is like eating dry styrofoam and the flavour is like wood. They were gorgeous though.
Zongzi (Glutinous rice steamed through Lotus leaf). Perfectly infused and delicious.
We’re a big fan of zongzi. We’ve been eating them for years in Ottawa. If you’re lucky enough to be in our area (or make the trip even if you aren’t) then you gotta stop in at St Honore Bakery located inside the Green Fresh Asian Supermarket at 29 Selkirk Street (corner of North River and Montreal Road) in the Vanier neighbourhood of Ottawa. Go before they sell out for the day. They’ve got lots of zongzi and steamed buns filled with savoury meat or sweet coconut filling – they’re the real deal and they’re all dirt cheap.
Well, that’s the story of our Singaporean Dim Sum. I’m hungry now.