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Lai Wah Heen -- My Dim Sum Experience


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Lai Wah Heen -- My Dim Sum Experience

Chemicalkinetics | Dec 30, 2012 09:23 PM

Thanks for prima and others suggestions, I went to Lai Wah Heen (麗華軒) for Cantonese Dim Sum. It was a very nice hotel restaurant with great service and good tea. Prices were about 3 times of the regular tier dim sum restaurants. I ordered four dim sum dishes. They are “Crystal shrimp dumpling”(水晶蝦餃皇), “Steamed barbequed pork bun” (蜜汁叉燒包), “Shrimp & sprout leaf in rice roll with sweet soy sauce” (豆苗鮮蝦腸粉) and “Double-boiled egg white & cream in a pitaya bowl” (火龍果燉雙皮奶).

The crystal shrimp dumplings tasted fine. The filling seemed standard. Usually they are of shrimp, sliced bamboo shoot, chopped ginger and white pepper powder…etc. I wasn’t able to taste the ginger, so it may not be present here. The filling was relatively large. The skin (shell) was well made and successful. This is usually the toughest part for shrimp dumplings, to make the skin tough enough to hold the filling, but tender enough for taste. Because the filling was large, it demonstrated a high skill to achieve this. Of course, the folding at the opening was done well. In conclusion, I don’t think the shrimp dumplings taste much different than many other places, but high skill was shown by making heavy filling.

The shrimp and sprout leaf in rice rolls were good too. The sprout leaf certainly added an unique but subtle favor. The rice noodle was good. It wasn’t the smoothest I have tried, but it stroke a good balance. Here, in Philadelphia, Ocean Harbor offers rice noodle rolls which are smoother and slipper, but, as one of my friends said, they also taste rubbery. I didn’t find this in Lai Wah Heen rice noodle rolls. Is it better? I think that is subjective, but they are certainly good.

The double boiled egg white & cream was creative. The double boiled egg part is not any more different than other places, but the inclusion of pitaya bowl was creative. I usually dislike pitaya due to its bland taste, and much prefer the flavorful kiwi fruits. However, kiwi fruits won’t work here because of the strong favor. The contrast of the smooth double boiled egg white and milk and the crunchy seeds from pitaya worked very well. Interesting and refreshing.

I saved my writing for steamed barbecue pork bun last because I know this dish the best. I have made shrimp dumplings, double boiled milk and barbecue pork buns, but I have significantly more experience in the pork buns. The pork buns are the most and least impressive. What do I mean by this?

Pork buns have many ingredients, but I like to mention three: yeast, sugar, and ammonium bicarbonate (or baking soda: sodium bicarbonate). Yeast is what gives them the standard bread/bun texture. However, Cantonese steam pork buns have a much different texture than the northern Chinese buns. Cantonese steam pork buns are lighter and fluffier, and have the so called “cotton” softness to them. Sugar and carbonate salts play a very important roles in this. They disrupt and weaken the original yeast gluten. A successful pork bun has to have “cracks” to demonstrate this:
In fact, the more noticeable the cracks, and the more puffed up the bun, the better. This can be achieved by adding more sugar and more bicarbonate salt. However, based on my experience (from eating and from making), this also make the buns taste drier and often the bicarbonate taste will show up. Lai Wah Heen’s pork buns have the “cotton” mouth feeling, and tasty, but they are definitely not the most puffed up buns and the cracks were limited. I feel this (possibly) showed the chefs have the confidence to not chase after the appearance and stay safe within the tasty range. And yes, the filling was fine too.

Overall, I think the dim sum dishes were good, the chefs have demonstrated confidence and creativity, the servers were polite, and environment was pleasant. The tea was good too (not the low quality tea in most other restaurant). The price, however, was indeed much higher. Is it worth it? I don’t know, but I won’t mind going back there next time. Thank you.

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