Restaurant-Quality Siew Mai With Truffle, Abalone At Food Court Dim Sum Stall In Lavender - 8 Days Skip to main content

Restaurant-Quality Siew Mai With Truffle, Abalone At Food Court Dim Sum Stall In Lavender

The modern new dim sum stall is co-owned by a former chef at Majestic Restaurant.

1_fantastic_dim_sum

Jalan Besar is home to several affordable dim sum eateries (popular supper spot Swee Choon and Dim Sun Haus come to mind). And joining the enclave is Fantastic Dim Sum, or Da San Yuan in Chinese, which opened its second outlet at the Bgain food court at ARC 380 mall (where Lavender Food Square used to be) last month.

The stall, which serves up Hong Kong-style dim sum, is opened by former Majestic Restaurant dim sum chef, Deng Zhi Qing, 37, better known as Chef Kan, and 44-year-old Malaysian businessman Fong Chee Kong.

While their first kopitiam stall in Aljunied has a wider selection of dim sum, this one shines the spotlight on siew mai, offering six variants of the steamed dumpling. It also offers a small dessert menu of puddings.

All photos cannot be reproduced without permission from 8days.sg.

Other than Fantastic Dim Sum, Chee Kong (right in pic below) is also boss of Happy Congee, a chain of hawker stalls selling Cantonese-style porridge and chee cheong fun, and food wholesale and manufacturing business Vaner, which sells frozen food and supplies products like customised sauces and marinated meats to F&B establishments.

While he declines to reveal names, he tells 8days.sg that “many famous restaurants and hotels are [his] clients”. “To put it bluntly, we are like the brains behind the chefs,” says the Singaporean PR in Mandarin.

Chef Kan and Fong Chee Kong

As for Kuala Lumpur-born Chef Kan (left in pic), dim sum is in his blood. He grew up helping out in the kitchen of his family’s two dim sum eateries in his hometown of Selayang.

When he came to Singapore in 2006 aged 19, he landed his first job making dim sum at the now-defunct Fortunate restaurant in Toa Payoh, before joining Tung Lok’s Zhou’s Kitchen and then the swish modern Chinese Majestic Restaurant at Bukit Pasoh. Despite a promising career, Chef Kan, who’s now a Singaporean, left Majestic after five years as a dim sum chef to join a halal central kitchen as an operations manager when his first kid was born in 2013. “When I was at the restaurant, I used to work very long work hours, from 8am to 11pm. I needed a job where the hours were shorter, so I could see my kid. I didn’t have a choice,” he reasons.

Four years later, the opportunity arose for him to take over a cai png stall in an industrial canteen and kickstart his own dim sum production business. “The sole reason for taking over the stall was ‘cos I wanted to use the space to make dim sum to supply to businesses on the side. In the morning I would sell cai png, then when the canteen was deserted after 3pm, I would start making dim sum,” he shares.

When Covid-19 hit and many workers stayed home, he shut the stall and started a dim sum stall at a Bedok North coffeeshop. He got to know Chee Kong, who was a regular, and they became fast friends. After “monitoring” Chef Kan for more than a year, Chee Kong suggested they start a dim sum stall together.

“I felt his dim sum is quite good but just making dim sum in a coffeeshop would be a waste of his potential, so I suggested we work together. Furthermore, the food complements Happy Congee,” says Chee Kong.

They opened their first stall, which carries a limited selection of porridge and chee cheong fun from Happy Congee, in Aljunied in October 2021. And though they only just opened their second outlet, they are already planning for their third.

“We are in talks to open a kiosk in a mall in Orchard Road, hopefully by the end of the year. We won’t have things like bao and deep-fried snacks, but more elevated creations like our new-fangled siew mai which are made to look like hors d'oeuvres. We plan to offer more varieties of siew mai there,” shares Chee Kong.

“My goal is to open a cha chaan teng-style eatery offering the best of Fantastic Dim Sum and Happy Congee.”

From left: Thousand Shredded Shrimp Roll, Fantastic Dim Sum, and Deep-Fried Taro With Char Siew

The menu

Fantastic Dim Sum offers 33 varieties of dim sum, including some unique items like Thousand Shredded Shrimp Roll (left in pic) and Deep-Fried Taro With Char Siew (right in pic), handcrafted by Chef Kan and his team. What’s new and exclusive to the menu here are the desserts and selected flavours of siew mai.

All the dim sum are prepared in their central kitchen, before being sent to the stall where they are cooked a la minute. Be prepared to wait around six to 30 minutes (depending on the crowd) for your food. Prices start from $2.40 for two Char Siew Buns to $10.80 for the Fantastic Siew Mai platter, and are around 10 per cent higher at this air-con food court branch than their Aljunied outlet. 

You won’t find porridge and chee cheong fun on the menu here ’cos Happy Congee (Chef Kan isn't involved in this brand) is situated at the stall next door, while oven-baked items like egg tart and char siew sou have also been excluded due to the lack of manpower. Things are so bad that Chee Kong tells us that they have temporarily halted sales of their egg tarts and baked char siew buns in Aljunied as they cannot cope.

Siew mai in interesting flavours and colours

The star here is their brightly coloured siew mai which comes in six variants: chicken otak, truffle, abalone, preserved vegetable, and yellow curry. The latter three are exclusive to this outlet. The stall sells around 2,000 dumplings a day with the most popular being the chicken and truffle.

A self-professed siew mai fanatic, Chef Kan says he is constantly dreaming up new variants and has 30 creations in his repertoire. “It always starts with what I like to eat, then I will try to incorporate it into siew mai to give it a new spin. I like to create food that surprises you when you bite into it. I didn’t create these siew mai just for the stall, I have been R&D-ing for many years,” he says. 

The colours, obtained from natural food colouring like butterfly pea flower and red dragonfruit, are not just for aesthetics. “When we were doing R&D, I told Chef Kan we need to find a way to differentiate them ’cos some of them like the truffle and preserved vegetable siew mai, which both have black specks, look quite similar and workers might mix up the orders. This is why we decided to give them different colours,” says Chee Kong.

Chicken dilemma

Interestingly, all their siew mai and char siew are made with halal chicken, not pork. Even the lup cheong they use is halal. The only pork item on the menu is the Black Bean Pork Ribs.

Chef Kan first tried making chicken siew mai when he was working at the halal central kitchen, and never looked back. “I didn’t touch pork when I worked there for four years so when I started my own business, I naturally used chicken. Compared to pork, it is easier to work with. If you don’t handle pork properly, it can be gamey,” he explains.

Another reason for using halal chicken is to tap into a wider market. The ambitious duo are working to get their siew mai and other dim sum products into supermarkets and their ultimate goal is for them to be offered as part of in-flight meals on Singapore Airlines.

Though with Malaysia’s indefinite ban on chicken exports, they probably wish they did not feature so much of the poultry on their menu.

“We use frozen chicken from Brazil now, but we too are affected by rising prices. If I don’t have a stable supply of chicken in two weeks time, I will have to close shop temporarily,” laments Chee Kong.

“We cannot raise the prices of our food, but we will lose money if we continue selling it [at this price]. My suppliers have already raised prices from $3 for 1kg of chicken to more than $5, it’s almost doubled. And I distribute frozen chicken, so I already get it a lot cheaper than most other people.”

Fantastic Siew Mai, $10.80 for 6 pcs (8 DAYS Pick!)

We got the rainbow Fantastic Siew Mai platter, a sampler of the six kinds of siew mai on offer, and were recommended to have them in this order: chicken, abalone, otak, preserved vegetable, truffle, and yellow curry. The different flavours are also sold individually in portions of three. Prices start from $3.30 for the chicken to $6.80 for the abalone. 

All the dumplings feature the same base filling consisting of chicken thigh chunks and diced prawns, with different ingredients mixed in for the flavour variations.

Our favourites are the chicken and otak siew mai. The chicken siew mai (yellow) is succulent and juicy, with a QQ consistency. Unlike pork siew mai, it feels less dense to the bite, and you can taste the chunks of shrimp that give the dumpling a better mouthfeel.

Otak Siew Mai (green)

The otak siew mai (green) tastes just like Muar otak in dumpling form. It is slightly piquant and bursting with aromatic spices. There is no fish paste in the dumpling, just rempah consisting of lemongrass, red chilli and lime leaves to give it the requisite flavours. It's paired with chicken chunks. We enjoyed it so much, we went back another day to tapow it.

Preserved Vegetable Siew Mai (blue)

This mei cai kou rou (steamed pork belly with mustard greens)-inspired siew mai is pretty good. We like that the taste of the preserved vegetable isn’t too overpowering, adding just a hint of savouriness and crunch to the dumpling.

Abalone Siew Mai (orange)

Chicken siew mai topped with a tender mini canned abalone. It’s nicely infused with briny flavours, but some might find it fishy.

Truffle Siew Mai (yellow)

Infused with truffle sauce, this siew mai is one of the stall’s bestsellers. The truffle flavour is pronounced and lends an earthy aroma to the siew mai.

Yellow Curry Siew Mai (pink)

Our least favourite is the yellow curry siew mai (pink), which has curry powder mixed into the filling. The strong turmeric taste and spices just didn’t pair well with the dim sum.

Deep-fried Taro With Char Siew, $4 for 2 pcs

Instead of pork, these yam puffs come with a chicken char siew centre. The delicately crisp crust contrasts beautifully with the smooth, creamy mashed yam and tender char siew chunks. The slightly sweet char siew kinda reminds us of those in Tim Ho Wan’s BBQ pork bun. Quite yum.

Durian Box, $4.50 for 3 pcs

The durian rolls are made with the flesh of mao shan wang which they get fresh from Pahang. MSW pulp is mixed with whipped cream, then bundled in a spring roll wrap and deep-fried till golden brown. We like that the creamy puree is not so pungent, and is sweet without a bitter aftertaste. Pity it wasn’t molten even when piping hot.

Crystal Shrimp Dumpling, $4.50 for 3 pcs

The plump har gao, which features a whole shrimp, is not bad. Though they use frozen shrimp, it is juicy and crisp. Our only gripe is the har gao skin, which was a little thick at the folds.

Carrot Cake With Chinese Sausage, $2.80 for 2 pcs (8 DAYS Pick!)

The carrot cake here is deep-fried instead of pan-fried, as this is how Chef Kan’s family’s dim sum restaurants make it. Grated white radish is mixed into rice flour with fried hae bee, mushrooms and chicken lup cheong and steamed before coated in potato starch and fried. It’s umami, creamy with a nicely crisp outside.

Thousand Shredded Shrimp Roll, $5 for 3 pcs

No, the stringy strands are not vermicelli but kataifi pastry, a finely shredded filo pastry. The strands are spread with a thin layer of sotong paste and wrapped around the shrimp. While the roll was shatteringly crispy on the outside, the shrimp was limp. It’s also a bit too oily for our liking.

Black Sesame Pudding, $3.20

Rich black sesame pudding drizzled with evaporated milk. Made from scratch using roasted black sesame seeds, the dessert is fragrant, earthy and not too sweet. We find the serving a tad small (about the size of a standard condiment dish used by hawkers), though.

Bottom line

Despite some hits and misses, Fantastic Dim Sum pretty much lives up to its name. The dim sum is rather refined and well-executed for a food court stall, and we are especially impressed by the creatively-flavoured siew mai here that tastes good despite replacing the traditional pork filling with chicken. Truly worthy of the steeper price tag.

The details

Fantastic Dim Sum’s new outlet is at Bgain @ Lavender Food Court, 380 Jln Besar, #01-11 ARC 380, S209000. Open daily, 7.30am-7.30pm. More info via Facebook.

Photos: Aik Chen

All photos cannot be reproduced without permission from 8days.sg.

 

Want More? Check These Out

You May Also Like