Growing up, I was a very picky eater.
I was also extremely fat. Reason being that the only things I had absolutely no hesitation over eating was anything deep fried. If you wanted me to try something, you’d deep fry it. My parents tried deep frying a math textbook but I never even looked at that dreadful concoction.
One avenue where I would have non-battered items was at yum cha. I LOVE yum cha. My family and I would go every week, or whenever there was something to celebrate like it finally happened to be the weekend.
We liked going yum cha and my favourite place to go to has always been Zilver.
This is where I went today.
I haven’t gone yum cha during a weekday in a while and was shocked to find the place rather quiet. My experiences at Zilver have often involved an ocean of people similar to that of a blockbuster movie release or one of the rock concerts I performed in during my dreams. It was eerie, almost three quarters full but still.
My friend & I arrived on the opposite side of the lunch hour so the waitresses were a lot more talkative and keen to offload the food they had left over. I have absolutely no qualms with rejecting the advances of the multiple women as yum cha is the only place in which I can reject the advances of multiple women.
What I didn’t reject was the arrival of our first plate/basket/container:
Tangent time: My uncle used to be married to a former Miss New Zealand. She could never get a great grasp of Chinese but she did learn ‘har gao’ and ‘siu mai’ which I always found really cool. She also took me to see my first movie (Batman Forever) and used to spoil me.
Anyway, prawn dumplings are a staple at every yum cha banquet. If your yum cha restaurant can’t get prawn dumplings correct then that’s a gigantic red flag. Fortunately, Zilver has always nailed this traditional favourite with fresh prawns and dumpling skin that isn’t rubbery or tasteless.
My family absolutely LOVE prawn dumplings. They’d get so full on them that there’d usually be some left over siu mai in which I would happily finish off.
You know what grinds my gears? When there’s an odd number of dim sim on offer. Everyone knows that yum cha is best with an even amount of people and anyone who plates up a dish with an odd number of Chinese tapas clearly just wants to disrupt the balance of the universe.
Any who, the siu mai were enormous and that was probably why there were only three on offer….still…
To everyone who’s reading this and has a proper grasp of Chinese pinyin: I’m sorry.
I remember my initial skepticism when encountered with this dish. You mean that someone thought that fried bread sticks usually reserved for dipping in congee would be good encased in rice noodles and drenched with soy sauce?
Clearly, that person was a genius as this is easily one of the tastiest ‘modern’ Chinese dishes on offer at any reputable yum cha place. To nail this dish, you have to make sure the bread sticks within the rice noodles are still crispy upon serving. The difficulty of this task can be compared to stopping at just the one Game of Thrones episode even though you have work the next morning. I loved the sweetness the soy sauce added to the dish as it’s naturally salty so the extra dynamic was appreciated.
Tip to all future yum cha restaurant owners: White tablecloths make people who are feeling uncoordinated with their chopsticks very conscious of how bad they are. I was having one of those ‘drop everything on the table’ days and every stain is living proof as to why the spork is the best eating utensil.
Anyway, fried pork dumplings are something I loved as a kid and love now as an adult. The exterior is deep fried and is a lot thicker than one would infer upon first glance. The inside is actually rather hollow except for the small serving of pork. Whilst this sounds like a negative, the hollow exterior is actually incredibly tasty and the pork is more of a ‘you thought that was good, how about some more good stuff?”
Whenever I go to yum cha with someone who’s never been, I don’t tell them what this actually is and just insist they try it. They usually enjoy it and then quickly deny they ever liked it after I tell them the truth.
I guess it’s an acquired taste but I can’t help but love these. I was already incredibly full by the time these came to our table but I couldn’t resist them as they were afoot (heh).
The sauce is what makes the dish and it was a nice mix of chilli, soy and I think black bean. I much prefer the dark sauce version to the white version but as we all know this is all subjective.
To cap it all off, another yum cha classic:
In my youth, I preferred the non-flaky crust. Just another reason younger Isaac was a buffoon.
I love how the crust just breaks away with every bite of delicious custard. I know China does a lot of things well and is projected as the world’s next superpower, but I’m already patriotic as Hell just because we gave these to the world.
You’re welcome, Earth.
Here’s the TL; DR for everyone wondering if I could use chopsticks
– Yum cha dishes should always have an even amount of offerings.
– It’s forgiven if everything is tasty.
– Everything was tasty
477 Pitt St Haymarket, NSW 2000
Yum Cha available between 10:00am to 3:30pm 7 days a week
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