My apologies to all wine connoisseurs. I know that you all love your fermented grape juice and I am sure that it can be paired with Dim Sum, but being a traditionalist, (I am a fair weather traditionalist – you will probably read another post where I extol the marvels of modern cuisine) I really feel that there is already a perfect drink to go with Dim Sum and we really don’t need a substitute. So although I am not against pairing Dim Sum with wine, I think Tea Pairing is the more logical choice for Dim Sum since Dim Sum owes its very existence to Tea.
It is said that Dim Sum can trace its roots to the Tea Houses along the Silk route where traders would stop to take a rest and have a drink of Tea. Soon, they started serving small snacks to “touch the heart” (Dian Xin) along with the Tea and thus Dim Sum culture was born. In Hong Kong, and in many places around the world where there is a strong Cantonese community, Dim Sum is known as “Yum Cha” (Drink Tea) because it is supposed to be an occasion to enjoy Tea. But of course, even in Hong Kong today, the emphasis has moved from the drinking of Tea to the enjoyment of the Har Gao and Siew Mai. So much so that in some places, Tea is often ignobly relegated to part of the $2 charge together with the wet towel and peanuts.
Thankfully, there are some restaurants in Singapore who are trying to put the Cha (tea) back in Yum Cha (drink tea). When Man Fu Yuen completed their renovations, they also decided to place more emphasis on Chinese Tea and so they have worked closely with Pek Sin Choon Tea Merchants to pair their delectable dishes with equally tantalizing Tea. (If you need a primer on Chinese Tea please read my Chinese Tea 101 post.)
Pek Sin Choon has crafted a special 5 Element Tea speically for Man Fu Yuen to accompany the Dim Sum dishes. The Tea is based on the Chinese concept that the universe is composed of five basic elements, viz, fire, earth, wood, metal and water. The Osmanthus flower represents the “Earth” element and helps to warm the stomach and improve appetite. Rose petals represent “Fire” and helps circulation. White Tea and Burdock root both represent “Wood”. White Tea is high in antioxidants while Burdock root is used in Chinese medicine as a diuretic. Then there is the “Metal” and “Water” represented by the water boiling in the Tea Pot. (That being the case, most Tea would be at least 3 Elements already!)
Being a Western medical practitioner, I can’t tell you much about how the 5 elements affect your health, but I can say that Tea as a whole has antioxidants and the astringent properties of some Teas like Pu Erh does help to cut the fats and lower cholesterol levels. Whatever the health benefits may be, the 5 Element Tea is very refreshing and if you come in from the hot sun, you can even ask for it cold! In which case they will serve it chilled with icecubes made from the tea so that the drink does not get diluted even when all the ice has melted.
Now, this is a place where you can go to enjoy some really exquisite Dim Sum which is now complemented by some equally special Teas. Don’t expect to get a 30 year old Pu Erh for your $6 Tea and towel charge, but you do get to choose from some very good Chinese teas other than the 5 Elements Tea. The 5 Elements tea would go very well with the steamed dishes or alternatively you could choose another White Tea like the White Dragon Pearl (白龙株). Both these teas are gentle and have a refreshing fragrance to complement the steamed items. However, if you are taking stewed or fried items, then something like the Aged Puer (陈年普洱) which has been aged for 5 years would be an excellent tea to cut through the grease and allow you to give a good report to your doctor the next time you visit him for your cholesterol levels.
Dim Sum here is very good as a whole but as they say, good things don’t come cheap. So expect to pay around $6.80 for a basket of Har Kou. However, you do get a good serving of four Har Kou that are big as golf balls and whose generous fillings keep the resilient skin in good tension. 4.25/5
The scallops cheong fun is the dish that I would highly recommend. The sauce in particular has got something special that I just can’t put my finger on. It’s very aromatic and has that natural sweetness that comes from the scallops and probably an excellent soy sauce. 4.5/5 Most of the other items from the steamed Char Siew Paus to the Siew Mai are of similar quality ranging from 4 to 4.5.
Aside from just drinking the tea. Kenry, our Tea Expert has also been working with the chefs to come up with new recipes with Tea as one of its flavouring ingredients. The Pork Ribs with Pu Erh and lemon is just one such example. I wouldn’t say that this is going to be another classic, but it certainly does give you something novel to enjoy instead of the usual tried and tested flavours. The pork ribs are done very nicely with a crisp, thin layer of fat and meat that has been slow cooked till tender. The fragrance of the Pu Erh is subtle and perhaps overpowered by the stronger lemon zest. 4/5
It’s time we see more Chinese restaurants serving better teas to complement Chinese food! Not only is tea the most ideal beverage to go with dim sum, its a beverage that provides balance to the meal at the same time!
This was an invited review
Man Fu Yuen