Dumplings Plus

Name: Dumplings Plus
Location: 269 Swanston St, Melbourne, VIC 3000
Cost: $15-25 per meal, but dumplings and small eats are under $10
Cost rating: 4/5
Taste rating: 8.5/10
Overall rating: 8.5/10

Another rainy night and late dinner with some friends from my local strategy board games club  (A strategic board game called Go/Weiqi/Baduk, it’s  played on a grid with black and white stones.) We wanted a quick hot meal, and walked into Dumplings Plus hoping they would have a table for 5.

They did.

Taste: 5/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Stories have a start/ And so do meals. Have some tea./ And then will we start.

We all know what tea looks like. But I like this photo so I thought to share it with you. Hot jasmine tea is just one of those things I have to order at chinese restaurants.

Taste: 10/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

My fav'rite dumpling/ Do you dip them in soy sauce?/ Or eat them as is?

Let me think of something to say. Nope, nothing. They’re really good.
Taste: 9/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

No snail shapes here/ 'round and round it unravels/ Alas, not tonight

I liked these spring onion pancakes better than the ones at China Red. The main difference is the texture of the dough. China Red’s spring onion pancake was deep fried snail-shape with a less chewy dough. Dumpling Plus is thin and flat like a biscuit, pan fried and has more chew. As more fun it is to unravel the snail at China Red, I like the crispy crunchiness from panfrying.
Taste: 9/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Lovely in Summer/ Cool respite from muggy days/ Or from spicy food

Simplicity is underestimated. This is just cold silken tofu cut thinly, and a chopped century egg with some seasoned broth for flavour. It’s a cold dish, but the flavours were clean and it was refreshing after all those hot dumplings and wontons in chilli sauce.
Century egg is a pickled egg. Unlike those terrible vinegar-pickled eggs, century eggs don’t have a strong taste. It doesn’t even taste of egg anymore. It’s just a cola-coloured egg with forest green oozy goo where the yolk was. The colour puts people off, but it is very mild and the texture is delightful. It’s like aspic with just-congealed yolk inside.

Taste: 8/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

'They are cold noodles'/ Leaps into the taste abyss/ '...made of jellyfish'

Yes, jellyfish can be pickled and eaten. They don’t really have a taste of their own, so it is eaten mostly for its texture and ability to soak up the flavour of the dressing. It’s crunchy like any other pickled vegetable. (But jellyfish aren’t vegetables.) Sometimes you’ll see pickled jellyfish on the side with roast suckling pig. But not with chilli sauce. The sauce is a spicy and sweet, but in no way crippling spicy. (It rates about a 5/10 on my scale.)

Sometimes I like to say they’re like noodles, just to get people to try it. Then tell them they’re made of jellyfish. I am a terrible person.

Taste: 9/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

They are so tasty/ Why are dumplings so tasty?/ Another bowl, please.

Instead of a chilli broth, it is boiled dumplings with a thick chilli sauce on the bottom. These were so good we had to order several bowls, and one more for the person who didn’t like spicy food but still kept coming back for more.
Taste: 7/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Potstickers are great/ Piping hot: don't burn your mouth/ Crunchy crispy base

Eh, they’re okay. I’d order them again because they’re potstickers, and everybody loves potstickers. It gives variety from wontons and dumplings in soup, and dumplings in chilli paste! They’re average for potstickers. The filling is pork mince, ginger, garlic and spring onions, which rarely goes wrong. The panfrying could have been better (some are barely golden, others are dark brown) but when there are a lot of dumplings to be panfried at a cheapish-eats restaurant, I can forgive them for the neglect of small details.
Taste: 7.5/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

As light as a cloud/ If only clouds were tasty/ Hm, hailing wontons?

Wontons in chilli paste with soup. The wonton skins are soft and the wontons are juicy. It is much the same as the dumplings with chilli broth but with wontons and more broth.
Taste: 8/10
Would I order it again?

Crispy and chewy/ It's odd, but enjoyable/ For your sweet tooth friend

Yes.I hadn’t seen anything like this before, so the novelty was great. It is red bean paste (seems to be from a can) inside a glutinous rice pancake, then panfried. The end result is a crispy but meltingly chewy pancake with sweet bean paste inside. They’re moreish.

I’d come back and order everything listed above. Yes, it’s noisy and not the cleanest restaurant I’ve been to, but the food is cheap and tasty, comes out fairly quickly, and hosts a fantastic har gao and silken tofu/century egg dish.
_Dumplings Plus on Urbanspoon


Instameal: Mian Ba Green Prawn ramen

Name: Mian Ba instant noodle green prawn flavour
Cost: $0.70
Contents: Wad of noodles, 1 soup base sachet, 1 dehydrated vegetable sachet, 1 garlic paste in oil sachet
Spiciness: 0/10
Taste: Noodles 6/10, Broth: 6/10
Would I buy it again? Yes

What's that character?/Search Chinese dictionary/ Huh, it means... tyrant?

 Classification of ramen packets according to brand is difficult when I can’t read the characters. I could file this series of instant ramen under “Lots of strokes in second character” but what if another Chinese brand has lots of strokes in the second character? Luckily nowadays the blogotubes is full of useful things like kanji dictionaries. The first character was simple enough, ‘mian’ means ‘noodles’. The second one wasn’t as simple, ‘ba’ meant tyrant or doing things through violent methods. Perhaps it’s not as violent as I think it is.

Of course, noodle wad/ Not enough space to show all/ All THREE flavour packs

Dried vegetables/ Always a soup case packet/ Plus garlic oil

What is a green prawn*?/ Hm, it doesn't taste too bad/ Whatever it is

I had been putting this off for so long because it didn’t look like something I’d like. But it turned out to be pretty tasty.

It looks insipid but the broth is actually interesting and I ended up drinking most of it because I couldn’t quite find the words to describe it. It’s sort of creamy, vegetable-y with parsley and dried coriander flavours. Then it tastes like what carrots smell like. I wouldn’t even call it a prawn-flavoured instant noodle because it doesn’t have that MSG prawn cracker taste. It’s seafood-sweet much like clams in broth. Maybe that’s what they meant by prawn-flavoured?
Normally I try to avoid the oil sachets, but I added it into this one because it seemed to important for the overall experience. The broth isn’t greasy, and doesn’t have a film of oil on top. How ’bout that.

*: ‘Green prawn’ might not be an accurate translation. ‘Green’ was made up of two characters, one meaning jade, and the other one …. also meaning jade/green/a type of green bird. Then ‘fresh’, then ‘prawn’. Green Green Fresh Prawn. Maybe the greens refer to the aromatic vegetable flavours.

Perhaps I will review the rest of this instant noodle brand, there are many more flavours. (More beef flavours than I thought was reasonable.)

Gold Leaf 02

Location: Level 1 Star Circus Harbour Town, Docklands, 3008
Cost: Last time it was $129 with 3 people, and this time it was $89 for 4 people. A la carte works like that.
Cost rating: 3/5, expensive side of yumcha, but the best yumcha in the city.
Taste rating: 9/10
Overall rating: 9/10

I’m back at Gold Leaf, and will be reviewing a la carte yumcha goodies that have been not appeared in the last post. The first post has more items in it, so I suggest you have a gander at the first post.

Score: ? (Eaten too quickly by my prawn-fiend lunch buddy.)
Would I order it again? Yes.

Fried wonton wrapper/ Looks especially golden/ Much like gold tael?

The prawn mince inside looks juicy, and the fried parcel is well-drained too.

Score: 10/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

A bun-shaped dumpling/ Masquerading as siumai/ But still delicious

Personally, I don’t think roe is necessary, but it does make a pretty orange spot.

Score: 6/10
Would I order it again? No.

pre-ground up rice grains/ boils down to be too smooth/makes terrible congee

Gold Leaf congee was a disappointment. The rice is ground up to shorten cooking time, but this sacrifices texture. Congee is a soupy rice porridge, a comfort food equivalent to chicken noodle soup. It’s usually eaten for breakfast, or as a meal when you’re ill.

Score: 8/10
Would I order it again? No.

Eating curds and whey/ you are not lil' miss muffet/ get back to tofu

The tofu is the tofu dessert is different from the firm blocks of tofu. Dessert tofu is much softer and lacks structural rigidity. In a way, it is similar to silken tofu but less homogenous. Unless silken tofu, tofu dessert will separate into whey and tofu (bean curd) over time. (Or if you stir it and break up the slices of tofu into smaller pieces.)
The tofu dessert at Gold Leaf doesn’t have that soy bean flavour and doesn’t have that silky smooth texture that’s prized in tofu dessert. It’s grainy and sticky (two words I never thought I’d use to describe tofu), but only slightly.

Score: 10/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Siumai alternate/ Not easier to pick up/ But tastes much the same

Pork dumplings should be pork and very little else. The pork filling is juicy, and crunchy? The texture is crisp, which just means the pork mince hasn’t been overminced into a textureless paste.

Score: 6/10
Would I order it again? No.

Needs less rice filler/ and more of everything else/ miser's replica

This was even more disappointing than the congee. Taro cake is similar to radish cake. (replace grated white daikon radish with cubes of taro.) It’s panfried well, so it has golden edges and it slightly crunchy on the outside. But the taro cake itself is a let down. There needs to be more taro, and cured meats and more of everything that isn’t filler paste. The filler (rice flour) is important because it holds everything together and absorbs the umami flavours of the cured meats.

Score: ?
Would I order it again? ?

Did you say shark fin?/ Hm, where is the attraction?/ It's just cartilige

This disappeared in a snap. Apparently it needs more shark fin. (Don’t they always?)


Score: 10/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

A taro croquette/ Delicate batter netting/ savoury insides

Here’s a more appetising picture of taro puffs. (The first Gold leaf post’s taro puffs were slightly blurry) Taro is a tuber, much like the potato or sweet potato. It is very starchy and is often complemented with star anise. I don’t know how they make the crispy batter netting around the taro puff but it is a delight to look at, as well as eat.

My favourite items this round were the egg tarts and original prawn dumpling (not in the post, but appears in the first post). I was disappointed with their radish cake, congee and tofu dessert.

Gold Leaf on Urbanspoon

China Red

Name: China Red
Location: Shop 6, 206 Bourke St, Melbourne VIC 3000
Prices: Meals $15-25, Drinks $3-5 (more for wine)
Cost rating: 3/5
Taste rating: 8.5/10
Overall rating: 8.5/10

China Red specialises in dumplings, but Chinese side dishes are also available. There is a kitchen at the back, and you can watch the chefs prepare dumplings in the window. Also, how many restaurants do you know of where you can make orders via a touchscreen computer? Yes, you can do that at China Red. It is lots of fun, but it becomes easy to order more things than you can eat because it is so much fun. (Who doesn’t like touchscreens? Beep boop, hey presto, food.)

Who scrolls over these pictures?

Not a TV screen/ Sit down, and watch food programme/ Press button, receive food

Ginger: also called/ Zingibar offinale/ Good for many things

Impressive ginger julienning. While this isn’t difficult to prepare, so many dumplings places neglect to place out finely sliced ginger. Instead, the ginger comes pre-steeped in vinegar. Or forgo ginger altogether.

Score: 9/10
Would I order it again? Yes

Like dumplings in soup/ But the other way around/ Shanghai shao long bao

Unfold wheat wrapping/ Somewhat like a boxed present/ Find pork broth inside

Shanghai dumplings (also known as ‘shao long bao’) are a steamed dumpling, but unlike most other dumplings it is more ‘bun-shaped’ (bun-shaped things are ‘bao’.). The bao should be able to hold its hot meaty juices when you pick it up with chopsticks, but the skin should not be so thick that it is chewy. I daresay that balance has been reached at China Red. Inside the bao is pork mince with a rich pork broth formed during the steaming process. The idea is to bite off the top of the bao so that the soup inside remains inside the bao, but now you have a little opening to drink the soup from. Or if you prefer, to let the soup trickle out onto your spoon so it cools down more quickly, drink the soup, and slowly nibble around the bao taking care not to burn your mouth. Addition of julienned ginger makes it even tastier.

Score: 8/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

Dumplings or meat buns?/ Maybe both at the same time?/ No need to pick one

Inside a pork bun/ or a dumpling, as it were?/ Har gao cameo

These dumplings are a mixture between being a dumpling, and being a bun. The outer layer is more bread than the thin unleavened dumpling skin. I find this lends itself better for panfrying because it is more textural than the thin dumpling skin. It is crunchy on the bottom, but fluffy and has more chew from leavening.

Score: 7/10
Would I order this again? No.

Brace yourself oh tongue/ Against the capsaicin tides*/ *I am no poet

It was not as spicy as I thought it would be, and I’m not a seasoned in the ways of chilli and szechuan cuisine. It strikes me as odd that eating something so spicy that it bludgeons your tastebuds and other sensory nerve endings into temporary(?) non-functionality would be enjoyable. While it’s not bad, it’s not particularly interesting or impressive either.The chicken is steamed separately from the sauce, then the sauce and garnishes are added at the last minute. The peanuts add texture, and spring onions add more visual appeal. If szechuan style spicy chicken is a dish you’ve a hankering for, then by all means order this dish. But there are better szechuan style spicy chicken dishes, one of them being from the szechuan restaurant around the corner.

Score: 7/10
Would I order this again? No.

Salt and pepper squid/ One of the seafood classics/ but why so much salt?

Rice not pictured, but imagine a big bowl of rice that would serve 2-4 people. Batter isn’t as thick as it looks in the picture, but there is a massive air bubble separating the batter from the squid. I am not sure what that would mean, but both batter and squid are crunchy. There are also slices of red chilli and some fried shallots. So far so good until you realise how salty it is. So, so salty.

PRAWN & CHIVE DUMPLING ($6.50 / 4 pc)
Score: 10/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

Delicious har gao/ Addition of chinese chives/ Even more delicious

Prawn and chinese chive dumplings are one of my favourites. I can’t find anything to fault.

Score: 10/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

Spinach-green dumplings/ Is it Pantone patented?/ I don't see why not

Go on, take a bite/ See for yourself, what's inside?/ I... am not quite sure

Usually I find vegetarian dumplings to be dull and tasteless after eating dumplings with pork or prawn inside, but China Red’s vegetarian dumpling was surprisingly tasty. I think the difficulty with vegetarian dumplings is finding things with an umami taste and making sure the overall taste and texture of the dumpling is balanced. The major components of this dumpling is shiitake mushroom and finely diced chinese cabbage (moisture squeezed out to ensure that the filling doesn’t get too soggy). There seems to be wood-ear fungus (Auricularia auricula-judae) in there too.

Score: 10/10
Would I order this again? Yes

Spring onion pancake/ Misnomer! Not a pancake/ Eh, but close enough

It was piping hot when it arrived onto our table, the outside was an even golden colour and crunchy in a way that can’t be achieved by shallow frying. The inside was soft, the layers were very thin and elastic. The spring onion was finely sliced and added a delicious sweetness to the layered pancake.
To say it’s a pancake is a bit misleading. It is a sheet of very thin dough, much like phyllo pastry, with salt and finely sliced spring onions sprinkled across it, then tightly rolled up like a swiss roll. Then the long roll is rolled around itself to make a snail-shape. Then fried (or panfried). Then consumed.

Score: ?
Would I order this? No.

Drink and ice in bowl/ Ice won't fit into vessel/ A psuedo chem flask

I could pop outside to he bubbletea place and order a milk tea for the same price, and larger volume. But the presentation is interesting.

Score: ?

Whole sweetened red beans/ Similar to ais kacang/ But no green cendol

Sweetened red beans, ice and condensed milk (?). This’ll fill you up. It’s not a particularly refreshing drink, but it seems tasty as a dessert.

China Red on Urbanspoon

Dragon Boat lunch buffet (Lonsdale St.)

Location: 149 Lonsdale St, Melbourne VIC 3000
Cost: $16.80 lunch buffet
Cost rating: 3/5
Taste rating: 6/10
Overall rating: 6/10

I’ve heard mixed reviews about the Dragon Boat lunch buffet, ranging from terrible food to terrible service (the usual complaints). Some people have reviewed that the yumcha dishes are cold and stale, some say there weren’t enough trolleys going around, others say that they’ve been handed the wrong bill at buffet time. But other people would say it was great fun and the food was worth the $16.80 they had paid. So here’s my review on the Lonsdale St Dragon boat lunch buffet.

I had lunch there with some Chinese relatives, at 11am. Why does this matter? Believe it or not, it does matter who you go with. The waitstaff are more conversant with your Chinese-speaking relatives and friends, so you can ask when particular items will be coming past. If you’re nice, they might even bring it straight to you from another cart. The earlier you go, the fresher the staff and food will be. Fresher staff mean they’ll be more attentive, bring food out faster and generally be more amicable. After a few hours on the floor pushing carts and bickering with the inevitable fussy ‘aunties’ (‘Give me a stack from the bottom, it’s fresher that way.’ While that is true, it is stacked that way for a reason: to make sure your dimsum is waiting for the least possible amount of time on the trolley.), it gets tiring.

Dragon boat lunch buffet ($16.80, a price hike from $16.50) is much more fun with more people. It’s not the best yumcha I’ve been to, and it’s reflected in the price. But there’s a good range of dumplings and dishes to sample provided you go at the right time. There are no ‘deluxe’ plate items during the lunch buffet, but if you intend to eat as many dumplings as you can, then that won’t be an issue. Also, this lunch buffet is filled with prawns. Almost everything has prawn, or prawn mince, or prawn paste in it.

Pork dumpling (yellow dumpling skin)
Score: 6/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Frilly, but no-frills/ Pork dumpling is mostly pork/ 2-bite meat morsel

Lots of pork mince and a couple of other things in tiny amounts (shiitake mushroom?) to make a meaty bite. (Or two.)

Spring rolls, with sweet chilli sauce
Score: 6/10
Would I order it again? No.

Children's favourite/ Always a hit at parties/ Adult's fav'rite too

The outer layers are crisp, but it needs another minute in the fryer for that golden yellow colour. The filling is a pasty mix-up of bamboo shoots, pork, and possibly some other things but you wouldn’t be able to tell. It’s mostly starchy paste flavoured with the pork.

Vegetarian dumpling (translucent rice flour skin)
Score: 4/10
Would I order it again? No.

Vegetarian/Yumcha mostly not vego/B-plus for effort

The skin is too thick for my liking, so it becomes too chewy and sodden. The filling is a mix of bamboo shoots, carrots, wood-ear fungus, mushroom and potato starch. They’re standard things to put into vegetarian dumplings, but the preparation feels heavy-handed and generally lazy. The ingredients weren’t cut evenly, and there was a lot of potato starch binder.

Prawn and chinese chive dumpling 1 (translucent skin)
Score: 6/10
Would I order it again? No.

There were three pieces/Ate one before taking pic/then there were two, awh

These ones have the same skin as the vegetarian dumpling. The filling is the same as below.

Prawn and chinese chive dumpling 2 (Har gao skin)
Score: 7/10
Would I order it again? Yes

Prawn and chive dumpling/ Often stuck to the paper/ Don't eat the paper

This has a slightly different skin from the above. This one is also known as ‘har gao’, your true prawn dumpling. These ones are better because the skin is a different texture, and thinner than the above. It’s not chewy, and melts in your mouth.

Fried calamari
Score: 7/10
Would I order it again? Yes

Fried calamari/ Combined with chips and seagulls/ Why at a yumcha?

Salt and chilli calamari. It arrived on your table fresh, so the batter was still hot and crispy. As you can see in the picture, it’s not an even coating of batter, nor is it the lightest batter. It’s still tasty, and the chili gives it an extra kick. The downside is that it is very salty, and the squid is a tad overcooked. (Not so much it is chewy)

Oysters with cheese
Score: 2/10
Would I order it again? No.

Cheese-seafood debate/ This is a point for against/ No cheese on oysters

Ack, oysters with cheese. The cheese has a film of bright orange oil, and beneath that is a paste of some sort of starchy substance with ham cubes. The oysters themselves have seen better days, and are laughably small in their huge shells. There’s more paste than oyster, and the paste tastes like the oyster. Sometimes that’s a good thing, but not when your oysters aren’t fresh.

Chicken pie
Score: ?

More a tart than pie/ Mostly buttery pastry/ Chicken paste centre

Beef curry puff (left)
Score: ?

Two things in one shot/ Lessens haiku load by one/ Bakery items

Sausage bun (right)
Score: 3/10
Would I order it again? No.
I don’t even know what was wrong with the sausage bun. The sausage was tasteless, without its usual saltiness. The bun wasn’t the usual bread/cake-like consistency. It has the physical semblance of a sausage bun, but not the taste. Odd.

Haam sui gok/ Saltwater pastry (I’m sure it has a more descriptive name.)
Score: 7/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Fried sweet mochi thing/ My favourite chemistry/ Maillard reaction

These are football shaped (AFL football, not soccer.) pastry made from glutinous rice flour. The chewy, sticky rice layer is sweet. It’s fried on the outside (the sugar helps give the pastry its golden yellow color.), and has minced pork, shiitake mushroom, diced pickled radish, chinese sausage (among other savoury things) inside. In a way, it’s similar to fried mochi.

Prawn fun chueng
Score: 5/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

A rice noodle tube/ Doesn't taste as good unwrapped/ But it is still fun

I’d order it again because I always order fun chueng. There seems to be two prawns in each noodle tube, so cutting the tube in half ensures you get a prawn inside. The rice noodle tube itself doesn’t quite have that silky barely-cooked through texture. It was plastic-y. That’s never happened to me before, but it did this time.

Beef fun chueng
Score: 6/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Prawn, prawn, prawn, prawn, beef!/ Alternative duck, duck, goose/ Why 'duck' anyway?

This fun cheung has beef mince inside, beef mince with spring onions. After eating dumplings with prawn, and tofu with prawn, eggplant with prawn, everything with prawn, beef is a welcome change.
BBQ pork bun
Score: 6.5/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Cakey white sweet bun/ Savoury barbecue pork/ Sweet-salty pattern

Ever since Gold Leaf’s BBQ pork buns, these BBQ pork buns just aren’t as good. The bun can be cakey, and stick to the roof of your mouth. Less meat and more sauce than GL, but it is your quintessential BBQ pork bun.

Egg tart
Score: 8/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Crisp and flaky tart/ Custard is my favourite/ Polish six tarts off

Flaky pastry, not the biscuit pastry. Egg tarts should always have flaky pastry. The custard filling is on the sweeter side, with a sticky sweet glaze on top. The custard seems to be a shallower layer at dragon boat, but it is a sufficient amount of custard.

Score: 6/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Gelatin powder/ revolutionary stuff/ All the things aspic

How can jelly go wrong? As you can see, it is a triangle of layered jelly.

Coconut sago
Score: 2/10
Would I order it again? No.

A definite miss/ Better as mango sago/ Learn to cook sago

I’m not even sure if the liquid is coconut milk. It might have condensed milk and water in it too. At the bottom there are sago pearls. The worst thing about this is that the sago wasn’t cooked through. Each pearl was raw on the inside.

Not every dimsum is made equal. I recommend going to yumcha with an experienced yumcha person just so you can flag down trolleys you want, and going at an earlier time than 3pm. I also recommend the egg tarts, and haam sui gok when they’re fresh.

Dragon Boat Palace on Urbanspoon

Docklands Gold Leaf yumcha

Location: Level 1 Star Circus Harbour Town, Docklands, 3008
Cost: $129 for 3 people, ordering a la carte from yumcha trolleys. That, my friends, was a lot steeper than I thought it’d be.
Cost rating: 2/5, expensive side of yumcha, but the best yumcha in the city.
Taste rating: 9.5/10
Overall rating: 9/10, minus one point from the lack of transparent pricing.

I do not know how much each item was, but the items can be divided into categories, getting more expensive in ascending order: small, medium, large, deluxe and special order. When you order a dish, your waiter will cross off the corresponding ‘size’ of the dish. At the end of yumcha, the dishes will be tallied up and then you part with your money.

Internal decor:

Long paper lanterns/ A river of glowing lights/ Guiding you to food

Gold Leaf is one of the best yumchas in the city area. As you can see in the picture, it’s packed. You should make a booking if you don’t want to be waiting for an hour. (We made a booking.)

Offering to you/ Oh god of prosperity/ Fine drop of water

I’m not sure which god this is, but he brings economic success. He also likes to drink. A lot. So at his alter, there should always be a cup of alcohol as an offering. (Nowadays the cups with water, to imitate rice wine.)

An important part of yumcha are the fishtanks. It’s like having dinner at the aquarium, except you can eat the things in the fishtanks.

King of his castle/ Resting upon other crabs/ Easy to fish out

Yumcha is literally ‘drink tea’ in cantonese chinese dialect. You can think of it like english high tea. You have tea, and you have food. While the tea is an essential part of the yumcha experience, the focus is on the food. Yumcha dishes are small dishes of neatly portioned morsels. The idea is to eat many different delicious things, drink delicious tea, have good company to eat and drink with, then company to squabble with for the bill. If you’ve never seen this strange and wonderful bill-competition thing occur before, watch out for a large table. It’s most likely to happen on large tables, with people from different families. One fond memory of bill-squabbling I have includes being bribed by my great-aunt to pass the bill to her so she could ‘look at it’. I got a free lunch and a preserved plum candy out of that.

Have some tea. Then read on for a la carte yumcha dishes.

A cup of hot tea/ Breathe in the fragrant vapour/ Unwind, and quench thirst

Soy sauce and chili/ Adjust your food to your tastes/ Get ready to eat.

Everybody has their own yumcha dish which they’ll consider the classics, and cannot leave without eating that dish. It’s a strange feeling: to feel unsatisfied yet satiated with food. For me, the classics include ‘fun cheung’ and ‘har gow’. For my usual lunching buddy, it is ‘dim sum’ and ‘char siu bao’. For our newcomer lunching buddy, it was fried taro puffs, chicken pie ‘gai pai’ and egg tarts. So, of course, we had all of those.

Score: 9/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Shiny chicken pie/ Much more like a chicken tart/ Plus a sweet crumble

If you like chicken pie, you should order this. The chicken pie is a ubiquitous yumcha item. The chicken pie at Gold Leaf comprises of two types of pastry: Flaky and Crumbly. The flaky pastry forms the crunchy bottom to hold the chicken mix, and the crumbly pastry forms the lid over the chicken mix and lends itself well for that cracked pattern seen in the above picture.
It’s short, crumbly, flaky and melt-in-your-mouth without being gluggy. The chicken mix is pasty. I’ve never met a chinese chicken pie with large bits of chicken in it. There are only small bits and a chicken-flavoured roux filling the pie. The whole experience of the chicken pie is smooth, rich and melt-in-your-mouth. Personally, I prefer to have larger bits of chicken in a pie as a textural component.
The pastries and buns at Gold Leaf (GL) are excellent. We suspect the GL chain in Melbourne has taken the pastry chefs from the yumcha that was previously at Hyatt Hotel. Usually yumcha is more renounced for their steamed goods, not their pastries, but it is the reverse at GL. Not because the steamed goods are bad, but because the pastries are excellent. I am impressed.

Score: ?/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

Gigantuous task/ One, two, three, argh, too many/ Counting the layers

I didn’t get to eat this. I was too full from other things to eat this. But I would order it again because the pastries were fantastic, and it looks like something that lives up to those standards. Just look at the layers, amazing.

Score: 8-9/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

Vegetable custard/ Why so delicious, eggplant?/ Silky smooth plus crunch

Pieces of eggplant slathered with finely minced prawn, fried, then steamed with a sweet garlicky sauce. The eggplant is silky, and its pulpy flesh gives way to become tender and crisp in the frying stage, then soaks up moisture and cooks in the broth of prawns and itself in the steaming process. The prawn mince is crunchy and its texture contrasts with the silky smooth eggplant. I docked two points for not frying the eggplant and prawn long enough to break down the fibres of the eggplant completely (until the eggplant resembles a custard), and for the eggplants being very slightly bitter. I am sure the latter point is just bad luck. Some people may feel that a short frying time is better. The trade off for the custard-like texture is the amount of oil that the eggplant absorbs. Eggplants absorb a lot of oil, it soaks it up like a sponge. (The oiliness can be helped by sufficient drainage of oil prior to steaming.) In the end, it’s up to taste.

Score: 10/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

Incoming trolley/ See trolley avoid traffic/ How do they do it?

Mega fluffy bun/ Well-risen, and pristine white/ A savoury cloud

Better than a cloud/ No clouds have char siu contents/ But rain is not bad

Char siu buns are tricky. There are a lot of components to it: char siu marinade flavour, barbequing the marinade pork strips, making the primary dough, cutting the primary dough with sugar, pleating the buns and steaming. There’s a lot of space to let your skill show.

The pork pieces are large, char siu sauce is balanced in terms of sweetness and mouth puckering-ness (from the plum sauce), bun itself is soft and fluffy. Also, it doesn’t stick to the roof of your mouth. (I know I pay too much attention to these things. They might not even be important.)

Score: 10/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

You are my sunshine/ Not a Golden Circle ad/ A plug for egg tarts

Egg tarts are important. Very important.
The pastry needs to be flaky and crunchy, and the egg filling needs to be smooth, custardy and have a sweet glaze on top so the egg mix doesn’t need to be too sweet. The egg tarts at GL are just that.

Score: 7/10
Would I order this again? No.

Edible snowball/ Crunchy, chewy and creamy/ They all start with 'C'.

Picture of inside/ Better take one for the team/ Time to eat mochi

Icecream is one of my favourite foods. I like mochi (a glutinous rice dumpling) too. See my posts on daifuku (stuffed mochi) and yukimi-daifuku (brand name of an icecream-stuffed mochi) for more information on mochi.
Red pill for  Red Bean Paste daifuku.
Blue pill for Yukimi Daifuku.
The mochi layer at GL is too thick and chewy, without the meltaway sensation. Mochi does become harder and have more structural rigidity when it cold, but in the case of yukimi daifuku, the mochi layer was much thinner to compensate for this. The mochi layer is also unstretchy, which gives it a chewy texture. There could have been more icecream in the mochi, but I can that would be difficult technique-wise. Usually this dessert would be filled with red bean, mung bean paste, lotus seed paste or a mix of crushed peanuts/coconut/sesame/sugar, and the mochi would be thick enough to compensate for the sweetness and texture of the filling. I do like to see restaurants keeping up with food trends, such as icecream mochi, which is why we ordered it in the first place. But GL still have a ways to go with their icecream mochi.

Score: 10/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

Like a summer roll/ Plus two of my fav'rite things/ Frying and mayo

I enjoyed this dimsum the most. It has minced prawn with lengths of carrots and spring onion, wrapped in ricepaper and seaweed, lightly battered then fried. The result is a delicious prawn-based dimsum, with several kinds of ‘crunchy’ textures in one. There is also sweet mayonnaise to go with it. I recommend this!

Score: ?/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

A golden collar/ Maybe even a gold crown?/ Eat some taro puffs

Taro puffs are pretty awesome. Look at the pastry surrounding it, so lacy and delicate. I’d order it again because so far, GL was an impressive pastry track record. Some days I lament the lack of stomach space to fit all these delicious things in it.

Score: 8/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

Pescatarian/ Food of the land, food of sea/ Flashback to Totto

A parcel with a block of silken tofu with a fried exterior, with prawn mince, a whole prawn, wrapped in seaweed to keep it together, then topped off with fish roe. It’s a treat for those who like seafood. I don’t think the seaweed is necessary, but it does add some more visual appeal. Bu taste-wise, the seaweed becomes soggy and watery, detracting from the seafood.

(Totto reference: ‘Totto-chan’ is a book about a girl who goes to a school for different children. The principle starts a lunchtime rule of having “food from the land, and food from the sea” as part of a compete diet. It allowed parents feel like they were making a ‘good enough’ lunchbox for their kids, even if they couldn’t spend a lot of money on them. For example, a lunchbox of rice, an omelette and seaweed flakes sprinkled on the rice was a complete meal. )

Score: ?/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

Prep work is the key/ Better make your own pork mince/ Go get two sharp knives

Apparently it is very good, so I should order it again.

Score: 9/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

Translucent rice skin/ Watch the critics judge this one/ Yumcha gold standard

Never met a prawn dumpling I didn’t like. Crunchy prawn mince with bamboo shoots mixed throughout for more crunch, encased in a stretchy melt-in-your-mouth glutinous rice flour skin. Yumcha classic.

Score: 9/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

A plate of textures/ Did you know that's jellyfish?/ Don't let that stop you.

Pork crackling and marinated preserved jellyfish is a traditional banquet appetiser. The pork skin is crispy without having bits that are chewy, and the flesh is sweet and tender. Not too salty either, but I don’t mind that. Especially when the pork has a glazed roasted underbelly. No qualms with the pork.
Preserved jellyfish is not a food that many people come across. I suspect many people don’t know what the noodle-like foodstuff around the pork is, and I relish every opportunity for people to eat jellyfish, then bring to their attention that they’ve eaten jellyfish. I get mixed reactions.
Jellyfish doesn’t have a taste of its own, it’s slightly alkaline, but not enough to bother people. It’s eaten for the texture. It’s cold, and crunchy, like thick-cut vermicelli only crunchier. I prefer jellyfish to be seasoned a little more than they do at GL, but it’s still tasty.

Score: 9/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

Gateway to offal/ Like most cheap cuts, good in stews/ Inoffensive taste

Tripe is another one of those foods people seem to have divided opinions on. I like tripe when it’s cooked properly so that it’s tender and flavoursome. I don’t have any problems with eating tripe, but I do know some people refuse to eat offal. I think they’re missing out.
Tripe at GL is soft, tender and flavoursome. It’s not quite soft enough to bite through the tougher portions, but this isn’t a problem until you find a really large piece. The tougher bits of the tripe need to be cut into smaller portions, and that is my only qualm with GL tripe.

Score: 10/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

Hark, prawn noodle tube/ Or a rice-y rollover/ Or a steamed pastry?

These rice noodles are actually one huge sheet of glutinous rice flour batter, steamed then rolled around prawns. So in my mind, it isn’t a noodle, but what else can I call it? There’s something odd about the term ‘prawn noodle tube’. If you ever get the chance to see them beng made, it’s quite a task. It’s very easy to tear the sheet of noodle, and difficult to roll up noodles when it’s steaming hot.

The noodle sheet is thin, silky smooth and neatly rolled. The prawns are large, not those little prawns that you find in a lot of fried rice takeaways. (Even though I do like those little shrimp too.)

Score: 9/10
Would I order this again? No.

Bad analogies/ Only serve to confuse you/Just call it 'fun cheung'

The only difference with the beef fun cheung and prawn fun cheung is the filling. Beef fun cheung has a soft beef mince mix with cornflour and spring onions in it. I prefer the beef mix to have less cornflour and flour binder and have some semblance of texture in my noodle tube, but GL seems to enjoy having a smooth consistancy in all its food.

That’s all for today’s yumcha haul. I recommend the ricepaper prawn and egg tarts. The ricepaper prawn rolls are a new addition to the traditional yumcha fare, and the egg tarts cover you for the baked goods.

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Instameal: Nissin Shoyu ramen

Name: Nissin Shoyu Ramen/Japanese soy sauce noodles
Contents: Wad of ramen noodles, 3 sachets: seasoning sauce, soup base and packet of seaweed
Price: $0.65
Spiciness: 0/10
Taste: Noodles 7/10, broth 7/10
Would I buy it again? Yes

False advertising/ Does not include boiled eggs/ See my 'End Product'

Love the three sachets/ Need more pre-packed components/ Noodle alchemy?

Tip: Add your seaweed after you have transfered the noodles and soup into a bowl, or if you just eat out of the pot, add seaweed just before eating.

Soy sauce based soup base/ Add seaweed just before noms/ Otherwise, soggy

In general, I like the nissin noodles. They’re smooth, and are soft. They don’t have as much springiness to them as Korean instant noodles, but they are easier to slurp up. They can also withstand a bit of overcooking, which I am prone to do. They won’t start to dissipate into a floury mess when overcooked. But they will become pasty and look all semblance of texture when left in the broth for extended periods of time. But seeing as most poeple will eat the noodles within 6 hours of cooking them, I doubt this will become a problem.

One thing that disappoints me, especially after my streak with Korean instant noodles, is that Nissin noodle sachets don’t have a big notch or guided peeling pathway to ensure that the sachets open neatly in a straight line. The result is difficulty in opening these packets if your hands are oily, or spilling the contents over the stovetop, or having contents catch in the jagged edges then having to resort to utensils to get the remaining sachet contents out. It’s not a life-changing issue, but it makes a difference to me. I’m happy to see instant noodle manufacturers think of the lazy hoi polloi without scissors on hand. Namely because I am one of the lazy hoi polloi without scissors on hand. (Now I had scissorhands, then that would be a different story.)

I like shoyu ramen, and I order that often when I’m out at a ramen restaurant. I like it especially with seaweed. So when I saw there was a sachet for seaweed, I was very pleased. I hope to find more instant noodles with dried seaweed as part of their contents. The broth also has sesame oil, which adds to the savouriness. I like the seaweed blends in with the broth and gives it more flavour.