Dim sum-one say dim sum buffets?
Just like the English, who have macarons and cakes and pies for their afternoon tea, the Chinese have their own variation on a teatime snack – dim sum. Many people think that dim sum originated from Hong Kong, but its real birthplace is actually China.
Dim sum is known as ‘dian xin’ (点心) in chinese and ‘yum cha’ in cantonese. It refers to small, steamed chinese dishes in bamboo steamer baskets, although the purpose of the bamboo steamer baskets have long since given way to more modern counterparts.
The original meaning of ‘yum cha’ is to have high tea and share a variety of small dishes with one’s friends or family. During these occasions, tea is usually served together with the dim sum, courtesy of the head of the house. The flavour of the tea varies greatly with the dim sum being served; some people may feel that siew mai pairs better with black tea, while others prefer chrysanthemum.
To this day, dim sum places are still very popular when it comes to family gatherings or outings with your friends. Going in large groups also means getting more varieties, but be sure to cop your favourite dishes before they land in the mouths of your greedy relatives.
What started out as a breakfast tradition has now evolved to be a meal that can be eaten at any time of the day. You can visit Swee Choon (my favourite place) to fill your belly after a late night out, or Dim Sum Wen Dao Shi for dinner after work. Dim sum places usually operate during the evening hours, with Wen Dao Shi being open 24/7.
Traditionally, small baskets of dim sum are placed on a cart that’s pushed around by the waiters. You can just point out what you want from the cart and they’ll serve them to you. If you’re an impatient diner like me, you can walk up to the carts and take the dishes back to your table. Nowadays, it’s more common for restaurants to give patrons a printed menu and an order sheet instead.
Here are some of the commonly ordered dishes at a dim sum store.
- Xiao Long Bao (Steamed Soup Dumplings)
Can I just say that this is the best. Dish. Ever.
Xiao Long Bao is a succulent dumpling that explodes with hot soup when you bite into it. I personally prefer the wrapper to be soft and thin, though some places serve awfully thick ones. Having just the right amount of meat to skin ratio is also important, so that no one ingredient overpowers the other.
2. Siew Mai (Steamed Pork)
Traditional Siew Mai are made by filling wonton wrappers with minced pork. Some restaurants may include prawn fillings as well, which I absolutely detest because I’m allergic to them. Other versions may include crab meat.
3. Har Gow (Shrimp Dumplings)
Har Gow is another dish that I’ll very unfortunately not be able to taste for a lifetime. I can’t give any comments on this, but here’s what a dim sum enthusiast said: to know one’s true artistry, each shrimp dumpling should have at least 7 and preferably 10 or more pleats imprinted on its wrapper. I don’t know about you, but I’d still eat them even if there were no pleats.
Best dim sum buffets in Singapore
No dim sum lovers should deprive themselves of a dim sum buffet. You can play chubby bunny (a game where you fill your cheeks up with food and try to say the words “chubby bunny”) with dumplings and no one will care. Since there are so many of them in Singapore, why not take a look at our list of places to go for dim sum buffets?
|Price per pax: $26.80++|
Weekdays: 10:30am to 10:30pm
Weekends & Public Holidays: 9am to 10.30pm
Address: 20 Trengganu Street (Off Temple Street) #02-01, S058479
Yum Cha is nested in the heart of Chinatown, and is regarded as one of the most established dim sum places in Singapore. For an affordable price of $26.80++, the restaurant spoils its customers with more than 60 options to choose from. Don’t miss out on their exciting choices of food, such as their Squid Ink Dumplings, Deep Fried Wasabi Prawns with Kiwi Fruits, and Poached Prawns with Chinese Wine. Apart from dim sum, Yum Cha also serves meat, vegetables, and noodles.
The other outlet at Changi has a slightly different menu. Over there, they have a lot more meat options, ranging from roasted meat to beef noodles.
|Price per pax: $49++|
Weekends & Public Holidays: 11.00 a.m. to 2.00 p.m.
Address: 80 Collyer Quay, The Fullerton Hotel, S049326
The Heritage Dim Sum Brunch at The Clifford Pier offers a range of uniquely Singaporean delicacies. If for some reason, you’re craving local food at a dim sum store, you can go ahead and buy yourself some overpriced chicken rice. But let’s not waste your stomach space – the dim sum is the highlight for this restaurant. For $49++, you’ll get to pick the dishes from the traditional trolleys pushed around by waiters.
The restaurant prepares all its dim sum with top quality ingredients. Thanks to that, you get to relish in handcrafted dishes like Siew Mai with Tobiko Roe.
|Price per pax: $22.80 (weekdays), $25.80 (weekends)|
Mondays to Sundays: 11am to 3pm
Weekends: 9am to 11am (Teochew Dim Sum)
Address: Serangoon Gardens Country Club Heliconia Wing, 22 Kensington Park Road S557271
If you were to Google “what to eat at Serangoon Gardens”, there will likely be very few mentions of Swatow Seafood. This restaurant is an undiscovered gem for all dim sum lovers, and should be more well known. Even though it is a seafood restaurant, its menu also offers an extensive range of dim sum.
One of the most adorable creations of Swatow Seafood has to be their Gold Fish Dumplings – which, thankfully, aren’t made using real goldfish. Their cute shape and size ensure that they will be a hit with the younger kids.
Other dishes featured on the menu include Fresh Scallop Dumplings, Teochew Five Treasures Crystal Dumpling, and Mini Pork Buns with Crabmeat.
As much as I disapprove of the trade, I feel like there’s a ‘bonus’ of this restaurant that I should point out: each diner is entitled to a bowl of Shark’s Fin Soup with Crab Meat. If you don’t particularly enjoy eating shark’s fin, please consider skipping this dish.
Disclaimer: I do not benefit from the eradication of the shark’s fin trade, nor am I a shark.
|Price per pax: $24.80 (weekdays), $27.80 (weekends)|
Mondays to Sundays: 11:30am to 2:30pm
Address: 1 Maritime Square, #04-01 HarbourFront Centre, S099253
With over 30 items on its All You Can Eat Dian Xin lunch menu, you can grab your friends and family to slowly work your way through this HarbourFront dim sum buffet restaurant. If you find that the strong flavours of pork and shrimp are getting too overwhelming, you can pace yourself with food such as porridge and fried rice.
Desserts are also included in the menu – which is a little strange considering that dim sum isn’t usually eaten with desserts. But who am I to judge?
Even stranger is that each diner kicks off his/her meal with one complimentary French Cheese Cake. Now, that’s not to say that cheese and dim sum don’t work – they absolutely do; I’ve eaten cheese egg tarts that made me whimper in delight in the past. However, one has to wonder why they serve a dessert before you even start your meal.
If I were to hazard a guess, it’s because cheesecakes satiate you faster, making you feel full and eat less. But that would be slander, so I’m going to state up front that it’s my personal opinion and not a fact whatsoever.
5. Hai Tien Lo
|Price per pax: $60.80 (weekday), $68.80 (weekend)|
Mondays to Sundays: 11:30am to 2:30pm
Address: 7 Raffles Boulevard, Pan Pacific Singapore, Level 3, Marina Square, S039595
Hai Tien Lo is an award-winning restaurant that offers Cantonese cuisines with a contemporary twist. Oriental designs are used in their restaurant’s interior and platings, and their waitresses are dressed in cheongsams. Working there must feel like Chinese New Year all year round.
Almost every dish is geared toward strong, overpowering flavours, such as their signature Steamed Charcoal Barbecue Pork Bun with Black Truffles, and Shredded Jellyfish and Smoked Duck in Red Wine Sauce.
Their menus on the weekdays and weekends are slightly different. On the weekends, they have fewer restrictions and more varieties to choose from. In addition, you can top up more money for free flow beverages which include champagnes, beer, house wines, and soft drinks. Since there isn’t a huge disparity in pricing, my suggestion to go for the weekend buffet, so that you can make full use of your money.
If you love having traditional dishes created with a spin to them, Hai Tien Lo is the perfect place for an impeccable dining experience.
6. Yan Ting
|Price per pax: $128+|
Weekends & Public Holidays: 10:30am to 12:30pm, 1pm to 3pm+
Address: 29 Tanglin Road, The St. Regis Singapore, Level 1U, S247911
Yan Ting is probably the most extravagant dim sum place in Singapore. Its price alone makes it a place for events or special occasions, such as business meetings or anniversaries. It’s also a great place to go if you want to impress your girlfriend, or if your boyfriend wins the lottery.
At Yan Ting, the chefs turn even the most ordinary dumplings into something fancy. In this case, it’s the Trio Mushroom Dumpling with Black Truffle. Since truffle technically is considered a mushroom as well, they could have just gone for Quadruple Mushroom Dumpling – but it’s a smarter move to put ‘truffle’ in the name, of course.
Another inventive dish is called the Deep-fried Phoenix-tail Prawn with Salted Egg Yolk. Fortunately, these fancy-sounding dishes live up to their names and prices; many diners have praised the restaurant for its authentic Cantonese dining experience.
Apart from dim sum, the restaurant also serves other dishes such as Pan-seared Vegetarian Beancurd Rolls with Smoked Tea Leaves, and Marinated Beef Shank. They have plenty of vegetarian options too, so that vegetarians won’t miss out on their share of dim sum.
7. Man Fu Yuan
|Price per pax: $58 |
Weekends & Public Holidays: from 11:30am
Address: 80 Middle Rd, InterContinental Hotel, Level 2, S188966
In terms of restaurant decor, Man Fu Yuan is on par with Yan Ting Restaurant. Man Fu Yan’s white and gold accented interior decor brings out a sense of sophistication and classiness, making it fit for both business meetings and family gatherings.
The restaurant is also lauded by Singapore Tatler as one of Singapore’s best Chinese restaurants, and is a recipient of the Michelin Plate. That’s just one step below the famed Bib Gourmand, which itself is just below the Michelin Star.
At Man Fu Yan, you get to relish in authentic Cantonese dim sum delicacies. There’s no hassle of picking your dishes off the cart too – diners can order directly from the waiters and be served piping hot dim sum at the table. Its other menu boasts a range of inventive dishes, including Deep-fried Pork Shoulder Dumpling, Smoked Kagoshima Pork Belly Char Siew, and Smoked Kagoshima Pork Belly Char Siew.
Apart from dim sum, the restaurant also offers a handpicked selection of quality wines and premium tea pairings. What’s dim sum without tea?
|Price per pax: $68|
Weekends & Public Holidays: 11am to 1pm, 1pm to 3:30pm
Address: 5 Raffles Avenue, Mandarin Oriental, S039797
It’s been said that you taste food first with your eyes, and this has resulted in many restaurants investing a lot in interior design. Cherry Garden emulates this as well, and has recreated what looks like the interior of an oriental palace.
Even the delivery of their food follows this concept. Their dim sum baskets are elegantly crafted with oriental designs, and the chefs combine all sorts of colours together to create eye catching dishes, like the ones in the picture below.
Their signature dishes include the Poached Chinese Spinach with Wagyu Beef and Egg White, Cantonese-style Roasted Pork Belly, and Steamed Pork Siew Mai with Baby Abalone.
To top your dinner off, Cherry Garden serves some of the most interesting desserts. Think black bean pudding with avocado and sesame ice cream, or cherries in cassia wine and served with lychee sorbet.
There are plenty of premium ingredients in their dim sum, which is fair considering I’m paying $68 for what should be a teatime snack. Cherry Garden would be a great alternative to Yan Ting if you’re looking to spend some money on your significant other, but not that much.
|Price per pax: Lunch buffet at $26.80|
Monday to Saturday: 11:30am to 3pm
Sundays & Public Holidays: 10am to 3pm
Address: 181 Orchard Road, #11-05, S238896
Although the name states that its a seafood restaurant, Tung Lok Seafood also offers an Ala Carte Dim Sum lunch buffet. With 45 different dishes to choose from, some may feel spoilt for choice – and they’d be right to feel that way. Tung Lok Seafood also serves a free flow of salmon sashimi. As part of their buffet. Yes.
This restaurant might not serve particularly mind-blowing dishes, but they do have their own selection of signature dishes. This includes the Crispy Fish Skin with Salted Egg Yolk, Boiled Pork Dumpling with ‘Tom Yum’ Soup and Spicy Sauce, and Pan-fried Carrot Cake with Sausage in Spicy X.O. Sauce.
And who can pass up on their adorable char siew baos?
|Price per pax: $38++|
Weekdays: 11am to 2:30pm, 6pm to 10:30pm
Weekends & Public Holidays: 10:30am to 2:30pm, 6pm to 11pm
Address: 10 Bukit Chermin Road, Keppel Club, S109918
If you’re working around Keppel Club, you may want to drop by Peony Garden for a relaxing meal with your colleagues. Starting from $38, you can enjoy a variety of dim sum ranging from pastries and steamed dumplings to barbecued meat. The chef’s signatures include Hot & Sour Meat Dumpling, Steamed Butterfly Prawns Siew Mai, and Double-Boiled Shark’s Fin Broth with Dumpling.
Although the setup looks like a traditional Chinese wedding banquet, the restaurant goes out of their way to cater to the adorable-loving side of mankind. They have the Gudetama Steamed Molten Lava, Tweety Birdie, and Steamed Piggy Char Siew Pau, which are some of the cutest food creations you can find anywhere in Singapore. If you think I’m exaggerating, check out their menu for yourself.
11. Si Chuan Dou Hua
|Price per pax: $32 (weekdays), $29.50 (weekends)|
Weekdays: 11:30am to 2:30pm
Weekends & Public Holidays: 11:30am to 1pm, 1.30pm to 3:00pm
Address: 181 Kitchener Rd, ParkRoyal S208533
For a fine dining restaurant, Si Chuan Dou Hua offers a very reasonably priced dim sum buffet. Each diner only has to pay $32 on weekdays, and $29.50 on the weekends. The only caveat is that a minimum number of 2 people is required for the weekday promotion, and it takes 4 people to claim the weekend promotion.
For the price that you’re paying, you’re entitled to premium dishes such as Siew Mai with Diced Abalone, Poached Sliced Beef with Bean Sprouts in Soy Sauce, and Double-boiled Chicken Soup with Abalone, SeaWhelk, Cordycep Flowers and Conpoy.
Tea is also served a little differently here. A Tea Master will serve you your tea after drawing it out through a kettle with an extremely long spout – similar to how older kopitiam uncles pull your teh tarik.
And there you have it, some of the best dim sum buffets in Singapore. Some of them are expensive, no doubt, but when you’re going for the top of the shelf, every dollar will enhance your experience even more. Alternatively, if you’ve read through all this only to remember that you’re Halal, or that you’re allergic to prawns, fret now – we have another list of Indian buffets that you can check out.