Looking for a good dim sum brunch? Feast on egg tarts, steamed buns, glutinous rice dumplings and more at the city's best places for dim sum – pork-free options included.
RECOMMENDED: Guide to dim sum
For a satisfying yum cha session, there’s The Ming Room by The Oriental Group. The stylish Bangsar restaurant may be known for their Cantonese cuisine and variations on classic dishes, but their dim sum (all made fresh and steamed to order) – from the fried radish cake to the delicate prawn cheong fun with crisp filling – is top-tier.
Photo: Stacy Liu
One of the best executions of wonton we’ve seen so far is evidenced in their meat dumplings in wild mushroom soup – minced meat and shrimp (dipped in ice cold water for extra bounciness) encased in silky folds of thin wonton wrappers, served in a bowl of light broth with slivers of wild mushrooms and topped with a sprinkle of spring onions.
In addition to the usual sticky sweet sauce and garlic chilli sauce available at dim sum joints, The Ming Room adds the signature Oriental house-made dip (a wicked concoction of cili padi, parsley, ginger and garlic that’s freshly made every morning) to the condiment line-up. We say ditch the queues at their sister restaurant Oriental Pavilion and head here instead.
With eight branches across Klang Valley, Jin Xuan has come a long way from its humble beginnings on Jalan Kuchai Lama as Kam Hin Restaurant. As one of the most popular dim sum houses, Jin Xuan has even implemented a queue system (where queue numbers are passed out and then blared over loudspeakers when they’re up) to handle the crowds.
Dished up with impressive efficiency, dim sum dishes here are dependably good – pillowy soft char siu bao (which includes subtly fragrant coriander in the stuffing), sweet and sticky spare ribs, creamy lao sar bao and more. As a wildcard, go for the steamed ma lai koh, where two fluffy, sweet steamed cakes come in bamboo steamers.
All stuffing is prepared at Jin Xuan’s central kitchen at Kuchai Lama, then assembled and steamed at its respective outlets. Given the fair prices and consistent quality of its dim sum, Jin Xuan definitely merits a visit or two (or three).
You might be compelled to order Grand Harbour’s cutesy signature dim sums – quail egg dumplings that look like little sparrows, piggy lotus paste buns, and durian puffs in the shape of swans – but they can be hit-or-miss. The staples from Chef Chan Peng Wah’s dim sum kitchen, however, are brilliant. The har gao has a bouncy texture, the mark of all good dim sum. The siu mai is full, fresh and juicy. The lao sar bao, with its flowing salted egg yolk custard filling, doesn’t disappoint either. Don’t miss the crispy shrimp with red rice roll, where the prawns are encased in deep-fried vermicelli and then wrapped in silky cheong fun, or the buttery, flaky pastry with honey barbecue pork filling.
Another highlight would be the pan-fried shrimp wor-tip – pot stickers with a base of springy pork, shrimp and chives, with an additional crispy edge for texture and an aesthetically-pleasing effect. Yum cha here is a long but leisurely affair as your orders are steamed or baked only upon order, but that’s all right when they come fresh and piping hot.
At Xin Cuisine, everything conspires towards a perfect, traditional yum cha session, making it a great place to bring your parents.
First of all, the restaurant has the typical dim sum atmosphere of what the Chinese call ‘re-nao’: the space is imbued with lively chatter; waiters roam around with trolleys filled with steamed and fried, sweet and savoury specialties; while live string music (guzheng) is played on stage.
More importantly, the dim sum staples are stellar. The meaty siu mai wong, topped with prawn, is plump and moist with the pork’s natural sweet jus. The char siu bao has a sweet sticky pork filling that isn’t cloying – you can easily finish a whole basket of three by yourself. You know the chefs don’t skimp on ingredients when the har gao features two whole prawns wrapped in a thin translucent skin without any fillers, and when you can detect the yolk’s grittiness in the lao sar bao’s creamy filling.
Best places for pork-free dim sum
We have to congratulate Tai Zi Heen for making a pork-free siu mai that’s almost indistinguishable from the regular porky version. Sure, when it’s made with chicken, the siu mai is cleaner in taste, but the lack of pork is compensated by using mushroom to give it a richer, more robust flavour. And that’s what you can expect from Tai Zi Heen – a dim sum menu that’s packed with flavours. Also, they do modern, creative dim sum so well you’d forget there’s no pork on the menu.
The steamed bean curd roll with asparagus, truffle and sea urchin is potent in its earthiness but well balanced out with the lightness of the sweet and salty soy dressing. The crispy rice paper rolls with smoked duck and prawns are a joy to eat – the crunch is nice, but more so because the prawn’s sweetness is a perfect foil for the smoky, gamey duck. And while the otak-otak and cheese spring roll may sound bizarre, it’s actually quite good – though you’d have to love strong flavours to enjoy this.
This halal dim sum institution is one of the places that proved sceptics wrong by showing that yes, it’s possible to serve pork-free dim sum in KL, and delicious ones at that. The kitchen at Maju Palace makes up for the absent porcine factor with its emphasis on texture and flavour. For example, the siu mai is made with minced chicken thigh meat and shrimp for a springier bite, while the smooth and briny red crab porridge is a great replacement for the usual pork ribs and century egg porridge. The poached river carp medallions, served in a clear broth of ginger, mushroom and spring onions, are another testament to the focus on flavours at this dim sum house.
For the fried stuff, the deep-fried eggplant with chicken floss, pan-fried radish cake and fried enoki mushrooms are pretty addictive. If you need more incentive to head there for a leisurely weekend dim sum brunch, Maju Palace offers a 20 percent discount on weekends.
The dim sum basics at MinMax, an old favourite for affordable pork-free dim sum in the city, doesn’t disappoint. The siu mai (made with chicken and shrimp) is satisfyingly springy, the har gao delights with juicy shrimp, and the prawn cheong fun doesn’t threaten to have its fillings roll out off its thin, silky rice flour noodles. The lunch crowd swarms in at 12noon, so for the best dim sum experience, pop in at 11am when it opens. Dishes are made to order, so expect some waiting time especially if you’ve ordered quite a number of dishes.
More places for dim sum
Peninsula Chinese Cuisine’s dim sum chef is formerly of Oversea Restaurant. But that’s not all, this restaurant also features two opulent VIP rooms (complete with free karaoke), three private rooms, water features, and even a bar area.