While a dim sum meal is traditionally a porky affair (siu mai, char siu bao and chee cheong fun are all typically non-halal), that doesn't mean you can't enjoy the popular small bites without the pork. Head to these restaurants the next time you're looking for a halal or pork-free dim sum brunch.
RECOMMENDED: Guide to 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.
In the larger world of dim sum, Lai Po Heen’s selections may not impress, but as a pork-free alternative, they can certainly please. These aren’t your usual big flavour dim sum; rather, expect refined restaurant-style dim sum that’s cleaner and lighter in flavour, with some featuring premium ingredients like abalone and truffle.
Highlights include the prawn and seafood dumplings that are elevated with a salty spicy Szechuan chilli paste, and the steamed chicken feet, its skin suitably wrinkly and crunchy, drenched in a sweet soy broth that’s brightened with hints of five-spice powder. The prawn cheong fun is made just right that the rice sheets maintain their silky form without turning lumpy (the accompanying dried shrimp chilli, with fragrant kam heong-like flavours, is addictive), just as the barbecue chicken buns are decent and filling. If you’re looking to turn this into a fine dining experience, pair your meal with one of the double-boil soups and end with the restaurant’s signature durian crêpe.
Dolly Dim Sum’s accessibility (it has outlets in Avenue K and Nu Sentral) has made it the unofficial dim sum place for people who don’t usually eat dim sum; visit either outlet on a weekday past noon and you’ll see every table occupied and a line forming at the entrance. Its contemporary take on a modern teahouse is partly to thank for its growing popularity (everything from the birdcage lanterns to the Dolly ‘mascot’ on the wall is an Instagram opportunity), and the restaurant serves up decent pork-free versions of dim sum classics. Don’t leave without ordering the salted egg custard buns, but be warned that the rich custard oozes out uncontrollably upon first bite.
If you have guests to impress, soak up the traditional aesthetics at Luk Yu while nibbling on dim sum. Despite the absence of pork, the dim sum menu sticks to classics like fried radish cake and glutinous rice plumped up with abalone. Meanwhile, the teas here are sourced from China, Japan and Taiwan with precedence going to the Lily Jasmine, a soft white tea infused with jasmine.