Have you had yum cha yet? For those who’ve missed savouring those delightful little parcels of pure yumminess, you are in for a treat! FARIDA MASTER accompanies Peter Young, Howick Local Board member, Botany, and a yum cha regular, on a tiki tour of the best dim sum restaurants and must-have dishes in east Auckland.
11 Dim Sum Chinese Restaurant:
Don’t be surprised to find punters queuing up way before the restaurant opens its doors at 345 Chapel Rd. The first rule is to arrive early, preferably by 11am so that the food is fresh, and you can get a table without a big crowd on the table beside you.
Soft and melt-in-the-mouth Prawn Rice Noodle Roll bathed in sweet soya sauce is a must-have as the waiting staff expertly navigate their food trolleys packed with a variety of dim sums in bamboo steamers.
For the more seasoned palate, Peter Young suggests Soup Dumplings that requires a certain amount of expertise to prepare. And it’s even topped with caviar! Filled with a delicious broth and minced pork, these little parcels of heaven are a taste explosion. Make sure you don’t burn yourself with the piping hot broth within. Young recommends Chicken Congee, a lightly seasoned and mushy rice porridge, best described as a nourishing bowl for the soul. Served with croutons and a sprinkling of spring onions there is also a veggie and beef option to choose from.
Another speciality is the signature Prawn Red Rice Roll. The contrasting textures and taste of crunchy shrimp wrapped in red rice noodle roll is the stuff culinary heaven is made of.
My personal favourite is the old-fashioned, steamed white sugar sponge cake that reminds me of something similar my grandma used to make.
Seafood Star Restaurant:
Located at the Botany Hub, the Seafood Star Restaurant is always packed with large families enjoying a yum cha brunch which is washed down with piping hot herbal tea to aid digestion and cleanse the palate.
A popular choice is the fragrant Jasmine Tea pronounced ‘heung peen’ in Cantonese. The teapot is regularly refilled with steaming hot water. Yum cha literally translates to ‘drink tea’, which in the last 200 years has morphed into a more elaborate affair with the focus shifting to bite-sized teatime snacks to be served with tea.
One of my go-to dishes is the Prawn and Chive Dumplings, this tried and tested parcels of deliciousness is a sure winner.
Steamed Pork Buns accompanied by a small serving of chilli oil and soya sauce in a tiny, compartmentalised dish is a big yes! The softness and fluffiness of the snowy white buns sits well with the salty-sweet bbq pork filling. Young recommends Sesame Balls, fried chewy morsels with a crunch on outside and all gooey inside.
Another staple is the Egg Tarts, a buttery pastry filled with egg custard. A sweet ending, indeed!
Lobster Place Restaurant:
Tucked away at 298 Ti Rakau Drive, this 200-seater is filled with hungry locals and tourists that arrive in busloads. The service is brisk as the waiting staff place a rectangular card on the edge of the table to tick off the small dishes ordered, and the number of people seated at the table. The staff work with efficiency as they have a kitchen-to-table-trolley laden with freshly made, fried and steamed dumplings. You can request them to lift the lid of the bamboo steamers to have a peek at what lies beneath.
The crispy fried Prawn Balls look sinfully delicious. It’s a test in restraint. On the upside, you get to share every small plate with others on the table. Meaning, each one gets just a tiny taster.
The purple dumplings, a healthier steamed option with minced chicken and herbs is equally delish! A butterfly pea flower extract makes the dough purple.
For the more adventurous, Chicken Feet are a popular option with tender gelatinous skin that tastes better than it looks.
Pork, Prawn and Coriander Dumplings that can pass off as little moneybags packed with minced pork, prawns and vegetables is another time-honoured favourite you just can’t miss!