I looooove dumplings.
Be they char siew bao, bak pao, har gao or siew mai,
be they steamed, boiled, or pan fry,
they could be in a soup or a basket
with chilli or just plain naked.
when I see them, I surely will try!
But as many parents will never admit openly, I do favour some dumplings a little more than others. (I love both my kids the same. I am just saying)
My current favourite is the sheng jian bao which I first got acquainted with with many years ago at Shanghai Renjia. It was love at first bite. Here is a dumpling where you can have the best of all worlds! The bottom is crispy, the top is soft and pillowy and it bursts when you bite into it! More recently, their son, Stephen started to help out at the eatery and he introduced another, hippier, style of sheng jian bao which is currently very popular in Shanghai. This style of sheng jian bao is made famous by Xiao Yang Sheng Jian Bao and is fried with the pleats on the bottom. Again, I immediately fell in love with them but I thought that they were only available at Shanghai Renjia.
Then, I came across Dingtele along Upper Serangoon Road. I must say that I wasn’t particularly impressed with I first visited them earlier this year. More recently, I came across them again at their new stall at the newly revamped Rasapura Masters food court at Marina Bay Sands. Up till then I had only seen shen jian bao being fried in small pans at Shanghai Renjia. Over at Rasapura, they were being fried in a huge pan, just like how it’s done in Shanghai! I just had to try them. This time round, I really enjoyed them.
The boss, Lewis Liu, happened to be cooking that day and I managed to strike up a conversation with him. I discovered that he came from a family who ran a Shanghainese dim sum restaurant called Xin Hong Shanghai Xiao Chi (鑫鸿上海小吃) in 虹口区 from 1997 to 2016. He had spent a few years learning how to make dim sum before he decided to venture out to Singapore to open a restaurant. He was supposed to take over the restaurant but decided to come to Singapore instead. His father retired in 2016 and shut down the restaurant in Shanghai. But his legacy continues here in Singapore!
There are a couple of dumplings which are very good at Dingtele. I Their shen jian bao were very good, though I would have liked the skin to be just a tad sweeter. Lewis tells me that they use fresh Indonesian pork and it’s flavourful and soupy without any off-putting porky stench. You have to be careful when eating the bao because they literally burst when you bite into them. I had soup all over my hands and my pants! 4.25/5
Their guo tie were surprisingly good! They have that kind of rustic look about them that makes them look rather authentic. At first I was a little put off by the base being slightly charred, but I when I bit into them I realized that this must be the right way to make them. It had a level of crispiness that I have never come across in a guo tie before. The skin and meat filling is a little different from the shen jian bao. It isn’t as thick at the base and the meat filling is a little sweeter. I won’t hesitate to order a plate. 4.5/5
I was told that in Shanghai, the skin of the xiao long bao is thicker than what we are used to here. For the Shanghainese, breakfast could be a basket of xiao long bao and a cup of soya bean drink, so the skin is supposed to fill you up. They had initially made their xiao long bao with thicker skin but realized later on that Singaporeans like the skin thinner because we want to order other items! The normal xiao long bao is quite good, but the hairy crab version was better! 4.25/5
The skin on their wonton is, again, a little thicker than what we are used to but I still found them delicious! The filling has meat and sichuan chye which gave it a different flavour from the other dumplings. Worth a try if you have the stomach. 4/5
The good thing about these tasting sessions is that I get to try new items which I wouldn’t have otherwise ordered! One such item was the glutinous rice dumpling. I have tried these once before at Ding Tai Fung and have never ordered them again. The ones at Dingtele are a little sweeter and the dried shrimps flavour is quite robust. They are quite big and filling but quite nice. Can try. 4/5
Their cong you mian is quite good, though I thought the addition of the dried shrimps only served to detract from the flavour of the scallion oil. I would request not to have the dried shrimps next time so I can have the chewy noodles with just with the scallion oil and soy sauce. 4/5
Of the appetizers which we tried, I was only really happy with the sweet and sour pork ribs which had a distinct flavour that is not commonly found here. But even then the meat was a tad dry. Their wheat gluten aren’t really worth ordering again. Drunken chicken marinade was good, but I would have liked thigh meat instead of wings. For $9, you can order any four of their appetizers, or order them ala carte. 3.5/5
I also wasn’t impressed with their egg pancakes and wouldn’t recommend them. They just weren’t memorable. Better off ordering egg prata. 3.5/5
Their pork chops are also not worth ordering. It was dry and not well marinated. A far cry from the ones at Ding Tai Fung. 3/5
The dumplings here are very good. They are better now then when I first tasted them earlier in the year. Perhaps the restaurant had some time to adjust the flavors to suit our local palate. However, the place still maintains an air of authenticity about it. It is also good to know that the young owner is very passionate about continuing his father’s legacy of making good Shanghainese dim sum!
This was a media tasting. That means the food was provided with no obligations to write a review. We do not publish any paid reviews of restaurants and eateries in this blog.
DING TE LE 鼎特樂