By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen
Having lived in Hong Kong for an extensive period of my life, “yum cha” (in English to drink tea) was a common experience that probably occurred at least once a week. No I’m not referring to the tea with milk variety served with petit fours and cucumber sandwiches but the gustatorial feasts of delectable plate upon plate and steam basket upon basket of small, sweet or savoury dishes, each one a “light touch on the heart” which is what Dim Sum means.
This culinary tradition is said to have begun thousands of years ago when those who travelled along the ancient Silk Road through China would often need a place to rest before continuing on their journey. In response to the increasing amount of people passing through, teahouses opened up along the roadside of southern China. It was later discovered that tea aids digestion, so teahouse owners began offering bite-sized snacks as an accompaniment, and thus yum cha was born.
Finding a foothold in Hong Kong was easy and from there, Dim Sum was a hop step and jump to all the locations in the world where the Chinese settled and missed their culinary traditions.
Since living in Ipoh, my heart has not been “touched” much as I have had difficulties finding the definitive Yum Cha or Dim Sum (often used interchangeably) place to either whet or sate my appetite for delectable morsels.
But now all that has changed with my rather late discovery of Dynasty Palace, a gem of a ‘Yum Cha’ restaurant that has eluded my foodie ‘tentacles’ because it is somewhat off the beaten track for me.
Situated in Station 18 directly opposite Aeon, the restaurant appears small when you look at the entrance but on entry I discovered that it is very spacious, occupying two shop lots. And this is where I found the best ‘Wu Kok’ in all of Ipoh.
Having been spoilt for choice all those years in Hong Kong, my definitive Wu Kok (a taro paste-deep-fried-dumpling with meat filling), is crispy, with lace tendrils flying, tongue-burning-straight-off-the-oil fresh, crunchy on the exterior, followed by a velvety smooth taro pastry and filled with beautifully flavoured meat farce.
And this they had in Dynasty Palace. As well as a host of unusual Dim Sum delicacies not found elsewhere in Ipoh.
Not surprisingly, on chatting with proprietor Tim Lee and partner Chef Ben Lew, I surmised that their Dim Sum is all “homemade” unlike some other Dim Sum establishments who are supplied by factories. And the biggest surprise of all is that Chef Ben learnt his craft in the UK under the tutelage of a HK ‘Sifu’ or Master Chef.
So it is UK’s loss and Ipoh’s gain as this pair has come home to roost, bringing with them years of training with some of the best chefs that HK has lost through migration.
For the purposes of this review, I shall only concentrate on the unusual items, those which I consider the well worth trying items on their menu which is very extensive. All of the other typical Dim Sum items are there but as space is limited I shall only dwell on the ones that impressed my palate.
Aside from the Wu Kok, the ‘must trys’ are their Bean Curd Skin Cheung Fun, a delicate steamed rice pancake wrapped around deep fried bean skin; deep fried Char Siew Pao (their steamed ones are good too); Siew Mai which is ubiquitous but especially good here; Pan Fried meat and vegetable Pao; Loh Hon Chai Cheung Fun which is rice pancake wrapped around vegetarian stir-fry; their chicken feet both the deep fried (hot) and their Thai Style, boiled, deboned and spicy (cold) versions; unusual Spinach and Goji berry dumplings; their spinach and prawn dumplings; Chives and prawn dumplings; pan fried vegetarian pao; steamed spare ribs which were well seasoned and tender; and last but not least their small delicate custard tarts which are melt-in-your-mouth yummilicious.
I am told by Tim that their bean skin is imported from Hong Kong as is their Pao flour, which may explain why they’re particularly good.
Expect to pay on the average of RM5.10 per portion with most around RM4.80 and RM5.10 with the odd item as high as RM6.30 and you’ll be more than satisfied with the tally at the end of the meal.
All in all, a brunch here at Dynasty Palace is worth the drive to Station 18.Dynasty Palace16-18 Medan Station 18/11Station 18, 31650 Ipoh.Business hours: 7am-2.30pmTel: 05 321 6419. Off days: Call to check.GPS 4’ 32 38.81 N : 101’ 4’ 16.86” E