By See Foon Chan-Koppen
There is a certain predilection amongst those of us who have grown up with a Chinese palate, to be disdainful of Chinese food that is cooked without pork. ‘Chicken doesn’t have the same flavour as pork’ they say and ‘where is the fragrance informed by slivers of Yunnan ham and a dash of Shao Tsing wine’ they argue.
While the nuances are noticed by Chinese food cognoscenti especially when the food is prepared by novice cooks; in the hands of creative chefs, the subtleties in taste are resolved and authentic tastes can be achieved.
As I have often been asked why I haven’t covered Halal Chinese eateries in my column and my usual reply of ‘when I find some that appeal to my palate I will’, I was delighted to stumble upon the Greentown Dimsum Cafe.
Bright, fresh and cheerful with seating outside on the pavement for those who prefer, the restaurant is air-conditioned inside and the cheerful manager cum proprietor Judy Chin greets me as I arrive and makes recommendations on their signature tidbits (essentially what Dim Sum means – small touches of the heart). As I invariably go incognito into a restaurant to decide first whether it’s worth reviewing, I just ordered a variety of the items and waited for the taste test. I was not disappointed and came back on a second occasion with a larger group to taste as many of the items on offer.
Gold Standard Taste Test
The Gold standard taste test for any Dim Sum restaurant are the three classics: the Char Siew Pau (in this case as it is Halal, called the Barbecued Chicken Pau), the Har Gao or Prawn Dumpling, and the Siew Mai. The Barbecued Chicken Pau’s pastry was light and fluffy, the filling substantial and just a tad sweeter than the norm but nevertheless fragrant and tasty – RM3.60. The Har Gao had the right translucent skin, the prawn filling inside fresh and resilient on the first bite, a sign of good prawns – RM4.90. The Siew Mai equally met my expectations especially when embellished with their Lat Chiew Yau or Chilli Oil paste – RM3.60 and RM4.50 for a prawn version. The next steamed item we tried was the Kao Choi or Chive Dumplings which were served with their homemade chilli oil/paste; 3 large dumplings – RM 3.90. This also comes with a Pak Choy or Kale version.
We then had their very tasty Fried Radish Cake which came with an abundance of bean sprouts, slightly spicy, embellished with choi po and dried prawns and served with a choice of chilli sauce or the ubiquitous chilli oil paste which I prefer – RM4.20 for a portion enough for three or four people.
This was followed by the Fried Bean Curd Roll which was melt-in-mouth crispy, filled with prawns and chicken meat. Served with mayonnaise, and interestingly with a mint sauce on the side, we found ourselves ordering yet another portion – RM4.60. The Prosperity Ball, the leading signature item on the menu arrived with a brown sauce. Apparently one of the most popular items here, the Prosperity Chicken Balls are a deep fried meat mushroom and capsicum vegetable mixture with a mild curry flavour. Dipped into the brown gravy the outside is crunchy and the meat inside succulent and tender. A must try RM 5.20.
Next came the noodles and rice and being in a tasting mood and the portions not being too large, we sampled a few. The dry Sang Meen or Wonton Noodles were sufficiently al dente and the wonton juicy. However, the next time I would order the soup version as I found the soya sauce used to toss the noodles a tad sweet. Served with the ‘de rigueur’ pickled green chillies – RM7.90. A portion of Ban Mian (hand made noodles) followed, served with a sambal belacan sauce which lent just the right touch of oomph to the ‘al dente’ noodles topped with minced chicken and sliced shitake mushrooms – RM5.90. They also have a soup version.
All Dim Sum Homemade
The most laudable feature of the Greentown Dimsum Cafe is that all their Dim Sum is homemade and so are their sauces like their sambal belacan, the chilli oil/paste, their mint sauce and their brown sauce. They do not stint on their sauces and happily replenish the small plates when requested. Unlike the usual factory prepared chilli sauces at many restaurants, I prefer the choice of dippings available here. Well worth a visit.
Greentown Dimsum Cafe
No. 10 Persiaran Greentown 4, Greentown Avenue, Ipoh.
Tel: 05-2552010; Judy: 012-569 8876
Open: 8.00 a.m.-9.00 p.m. Closed: Tuesdays