Sometimes, there ain’t no school like the old-school – so long-standing Canto restaurant Tsui Hang Village is making like Kylie and stepping back in time to celebrate their 40th anniversary in the best possible way… with delicious retro Hong Kong dim sum! Now I can’t claim to remember all of these nostalgic classics from the first time round – but what I can attest to is that most of them are downright delicious!
I’ve been to Tsui Hang Village before for dim sum and have to say that they really do nail it here; unlike many of the other chains in Hong Kong (THV is owned by dining empire The Miramar Group), all their dim sum is prepared in-house, by hand and fresh-to-order – and it totally shows. There’s a certain lightness of touch to even the heaviest of dumplings here – you don’t leave feeling like a char siu bao boulder has plummeted to your stomach, nor do you feel the need to glug down litres of water to combat MSG overload.
Having said that, it soon became clear why this old-school dim sum might have fallen out of fashion over the years… lots of these dishes are pure heart attacks in dumpling form! Oh well, the most delicious food often is (she says, scoffing piles of bacon followed by deep-fried ice-cream), right?!
We kicked off our dim sum feast with the “Double Happiness Dumplings” – a steamed pork dumpling topped with a quail egg and siu mai topped with pork liver. Personally, I found the pork liver too rich for me, but the quail egg… well, clearly all dumplings now need to come with this little tasty treasure nestled away inside!
Next was one of my favourite dishes, the “Rainbow Rice Flour Rolls”. Whenever I order cheung fan normally, it’s with the pretty unimaginative fillings of char siu, prawn… or errrr, char siu again. But these new flavour combinations were excellent and made me wonder why more dim sum chains didn’t experiment more with the standard. My pick of the bunch was the pumpkin cheung fan, filled with baby pigeon and XO chilli sauce. The pumpkin rice roll and pigeon meat made for a pleasingly sweet combo, and I loved the crispy shreds of pigeon in the filling too. Meanwhile, the XO sauce gave it a little addictive kick that made you want to keep coming back for more; honestly, I could have eaten several plates of this dish alone!
Runner-up was the brown assorted mushroom cheung fan – proof that vegetarian dim sum definitely need not be bland or boring. Somehow both light and rich, I really enjoyed the earthy, heady, almost buttery mix of mushrooms. The other two options were beef and dried Mandarin peel (the citrusy twist will be a love-it-or-hate-it ingredient methinks), and yet more pork liver (yup, still too rich, sorry!).
I have a weak spot for spring rolls; whenever I see them on a menu, I must order them, however unoriginal they may be! What can I say… my heart must be deep-fried?! Tsui Hang Village’s 40th anniversary spin on it is definitely the kind of spring roll I’d like to see more of; made with a rice flour pastry rather than the usual filo-esque stuff and then coated in sesame, this felt much lighter than the traditional variants, whilst the generous chunks of shrimp and mango were fresh, sweet and juicy. I could feel my true Hong Konger coming out when I started thinking that this would taste really good dipped in mayo or salad cream… what is happening to me?!
The giant chicken bun was clearly the dim sum world’s Supersize Big Mac back in the day. This uber-bao was made using restaurant leftovers from the night before, a great example of the Chinese mentality that no food should ever go to waste! Needless to say for the modern health-and-hygiene-obsessed customer (and Hong Kong’s Food & Hygiene Department!), Tsui Hang Village does not use day-old leftovers for the new version – but with a ragtag bunch of fillings that seemed to encompass every single dim sum we’d already eaten (quail egg, pork liver, mushrooms, chicken, char siu), this bao is definitely NOT one for the faint-hearted. Personally, it was way too much for me, but I’m told this is one of the most popular items for the nostalgia hunters… and you definitely get a lot of dim sum bang for your buck here!
Of course, the highlight of my meal was the desserts! I have a borderline obsession with all things custard and my never-ending quest for the best lai wong or lao sa bao in Hong Kong (suggestions please!) has bored many PRs over the year – so imagine my delight when Tsui Hang Village’s 40th anniversary dessert platter included three different egg custard delights! My favourite was the mini deep-fried custard bun in the shape of a pumpkin. It’s deep-fried. It’s filled with custard. It’s really bloody cute. Where could it go wrong?!
If the pumpkin was more the lai wong bao, then the pear-shaped sesame ball with lava custard was the lao sa bao equivalent. Again, there’s not much to fault here… oozing, gooey, slightly salty custard in a crispy, sesame-coated batter. My only wish would have been for more custard – but errr… when do I not want more custard? I found the thousand-layer cake filled with salted egg yolk to be too dense and dry – but it was Miramar PR Elaine’s favourite, and since loads of my friends can’t get enough of salted egg yolk, I can see this being a popular local choice. If you don’t find one custard yum to fall in love with here… then I’m afraid you are dead to me!
The final dessert is a real childhood classic – black sesame roll. Another major reason behind many of these dim sum falling out of fashion is simply that they’re too much work to make – and you can totally imagine that being the case with this sweet sesame paste, which is then rolled paper-thin into a “film” shape (and for those of you who have forgotten what film that might be, it used to come in cameras!). But the hard work does pay off, as these soft nutty treats are delicious… either delicately unrolled or just gobbled down in big bites!
All Tsui Hang Village’s special 40th anniversary dim sum costs (what else!) $40 per dish – slightly pricier than your average dim sum yes, but in my opinion, it’s definitely slightly better than your average dim sum too! And don’t worry, their normal dim sum menu is also still available, so you can mix and match between the retro and the modern (THV must-orders are their irresistible char siu, their addictive deep-fried tofu cubes and their crazy-cute taro piggy buns, which are only available in their Causeway Bay branch).
The 40th anniversary dim sum specials are available until the end of April 2014, with more nostalgic food promotions planned throughout the year. However, I heard a whisper that some of the most popular old-school dishes might remain on the dim sum menu permanently… so make sure you tell the waiters all of your fangirl favourites!
So head to Tsui Hang Village to relive the retro in the tastiest way possible – now’s the time to start creating some new, delicious, dim sum memories!
Tsui Hang Village locations in Hong Kong:
– 22/F, Lee Theatre Plaza, 99 Percival Street, Causeway Bay, +852 2409 4822
– 2/F, New World Tower, 16-18 Queen’s Road, Central, +852 2524 2012
– 5/F, Miramar Shopping Centre, 132 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, +852 2376 2882
Note: This meal was by invitation