We are back here again, this time on our way to visit Exeter University’s Streatham campus. We had a quick stopover for lunch at Sai Kung. It was a Friday so the place wasn’t as busy before, see review from our previous visit.
Apart from our usuals (Har Kau, Siu Mai and Cheung Fun), these are the five new dishes we tried at Sai Kung for the first time and we weren’t disappointed, mostly.
Matcha Glutinous Rice Rolls
Our first time ordering a bao bun that isn’t filled with char siu pork or chicken. Don’t get us wrong, we certainly enjoyed the Matcha Glutinous Rice Rolls. Its bun like exterior, flavoured and coloured with matcha green tea is soft and tasty. Enclosed inside is a cube of glutinous rice (similar to lor mai kai – lotus wrapped glutinous rice). If you think it is a safe vegetarian option, unfortunately, it’s not. The rice is flavoured with small dried shrimps giving it a savoury and umami taste. We would definitely order it again.
Shanghai Xiao Long Bao
We had high expectations of the Xiao Long Bao. It is not easy to get right, although Taiwanese chain Din Tai Fung is renowned for it. Traditionally the skin of the dumpling is more the texture of smooth wan tons yet strong enough to hold the mince and savoury juices in. These dumplings are notorious for splitting and spilling the ‘soup’ out. Most average dim sum places ‘cheat’ using mince pie foil cases to save the liquid. While this really is a specialty dim sum, attempting to make it is brave. Unfortunately, it was not quite right, nor up to standard. The skin on these at Sai Kung were more like har gow texture (with hints of clear wheat flour) and a slightly sticky and chewy bite.
While the foil cases managed to save the juices, inside the dumplings were really quite dry. In a good Xiao Long Bao, the moment you bite into it, an explosion of flavours from the mince, liquid and wrapper fills your mouth. Typically dipped with some finely sliced ginger in soya sauce, Xiao long bao done well is exquisite. Unfortunately Sai Kung did not even come remotely close. It was disappointing to say the least.
Deep Fried Prawn Dumplings
Crunchy won ton skin wrapped prawns, deep fried to perfection. These golden prawn filled gems are one of dim sum’s best highlights. when done perfectly, the skin is thin and crispy, almost melting in your mouth while the prawn provides a contrasting bite that is succulent and umami-filled.
These beauties are served with a dipping sauce akin to a mayonnaise-salad cream mix. Next to the Deep Fried Beancurd Roll with Prawn from our previous visit, this is one of our favourite deep fried prawn treats.
Sai Kung’s version was sufficient, but a little far from perfection. The frying oil was probably not hot enough causing the skin to blister and the wrappers were a little bit thicker than your average wan ton wrapper thickness. Although the filled prawn was deliciously seasoned and still juicy and tender.
Char Siu Soh & Ham Sui Kok
You might have seen these in our previous post(s) but separately. This is the server’s way or reducing the number of serving plates. Merging the Char Siu Soh, a BBQ pork triangular pastry with the Ham Sui Kok, deep fried slated pork dumplings onto one dish.
The Char Siu Soh melts in your mouth but doesn’t break apart when you bit into it. Where these are traditionally large round puffs, this time though, they were petite triangle shapes. The brushed sweet glaze contrasted well with the dryness of the pastry shell. The char siew filling was delicately cooked with fine pieces of pork in a sweet-salty char siew marinade.
Ham Sui Kok is a childhood favourite, filled with a delicious pork mix (typically includes shiitake mushrooms, dried shrimp and spices) wrapped in a soft chewy skin surrounded by a fried crunchy crisp skin on the outside. The slightly chewy shell made with glutinous rice flour complements the tasty salted minced meat and vegetable inside.
Next are our ‘bread and butter’ of dim sum meals, the yum cha must-haves. These are steam dishes we mentioned at the start. If you have run out of ideas on what to order, these are the usual go-tos.
Har Kau (Gou) Prawn Dumplings
Har Kau dumplings are wrapped in a wheat flour based wrapper which gives it its translucent skin. The main filling in this dumpling is a carefully marinated and coarsely diced prawn mix held together with some cornflour. When done well, the skin is not overly thick and somehow melts away on your first bite and the prawn mixture tantalises with all sorts of traditional Chinese traditional flavours of sesame oil, oyster sauce and hints of ginger.
Sai Kung’s har kau dumplings are really good. So definitely remember to order them when you visit.
Siu Mai Pork and Prawn Dumplings
Aside from Har Now, Siu Mai is yet another traditional ‘must-have’ dim sum order. Filling wise it is not hugely different from typical wan tons. Even the skin wrappers are essentially the same thing. The main difference is that these are ‘open-faced’ dumplings. Traditionally they used to be topped with a pinch of salted duck egg yolk. These days it is more common now to find the orange hints from masago fish egg roe.
While Sai Kung’s version of Siu Mai are not pretty to look at – they lack the proud upright structure of the perfect Siu Mai, they are undoubtedly delicious.
Steamed Prawn Cheung Fun
Prawn Cheung Fun is another dim sum staple. Prawns are wrapped in rolls of rice sheets which have been steamed well and served on a plate of speciality soy sauce. Cheung Fun filling variations include char siew, or even eu tiao (deep fried wheat dough based sticks). Usually the skin of the Cheung fun is almost silky smooth as it hugs its filling in a sticky warm embrace. Often this dish is also served with chilli oil to add to the taste.
Cheung Fun itself is not hugely different to the many wide noodle strips that make up noodle dishes in Chinese cooking. The main difference here is that they are made in sheets and then rolled and filled. Steamed to perfection and glazed with a dark, tasty sauce.
Sai Kung’s version while not the most amazing, was tasty nonetheless. There were three rolls making up the whole dish, each filled with two succulent prawns.
Sai Kung in Exeter is cash only, so be prepared when you visit. It is probably not quite on par with the dim sum wonders found in London, but so far in the South-west, choices are limited so Sai Kung fills a gap. Read about our previous Sai Kung visit here.