Yum cha at Xin Shan Long

When my friend Yvonne, called to invite me to yum cha at Xin Shan Long, I heard the excitement in her voice as she told me that the Hong Kong dim sum chef is back!

A selection of steamed items from the dim sum menu
at Xin Shan Long, Le Grandeur Palm Resort
We have enjoyed the dim sum delicacies by Chef Cheng Wah Cheong since he first served his creations in Johor Baru back in 1990 and when Yvonne learnt of this Hong Kong chef’s return to JB, she did not hesitate to invite me to savour his authentic dim sum again.  We are familiar with the taste of quality dim sum in the original non-halal recipes but Chef Cheng has mastered the distinctive knack of creating halal dim sum that tastes just like the original.

For more than 12 years, Chef Cheng was pleasing fans of Hong Kong dim sum in JB before going to serve the same to dim sum connoisseurs in Perth for the past 6 years.  

Chef Cheng Wah Cheong of Xin Shan Long
Now he’s back with something more to add to his special touch for Hong Kong dim sum made with no pork or lard.   So even though yum cha is the Cantonese phrase for “drink tea,” we know it generally means enjoying a Hong Kong dim sum meal in good company and I quickly agreed to meet Yvonne for lunch at the restaurant in Le Grandeur Palm Resort, Johor.

Steamed Specialties

The art of enjoying a yum cha meal is to savour dim sum with sips of good Chinese tea over convivial conversation.  A glance at the dim sum menu shows me that steamed items dominate the menu as the Cantonese traditionally prefer steamed food early in the day. 

The waitress, who is friendly with Yvonne, chats with us in Cantonese and I suddenly feel as if I’m in a restaurant in Hong Kong.  No, the restaurant does not serve dim sum from trolleys but I see waiters serving food items ordered from the ala carte menu.  The waitress tells us that our dim sum will be served hot so we should make our selections and the kitchen will prepare the items upon receiving the orders.

A portion of steamed binjals drizzled in tasty sauce
The first batch of dim sum served are steamed items like har kau or prawn dumplings, buns stuffed with barbecued chicken, chives dumplings and siew mai made with minced chicken and prawns.  I’m delighted to see the steaming pau’s split pastry, skillfully created as what pau fans call “smiling paus” and taste the soft pastry that does not stick to the ceiling of my mouth.  

As I share the delicious dumplings with Yvonne and discover that whole prawns in the har kau are fragrant, fresh and firm, I know Chef Cheng is doing something right to maintain the authentic taste of dim sum without pork and lard.

Melt-in-your-mouth steamed radish cake
One of my all-time favourite dim sum is steamed brinjals and here, the brinjals are stuffed with squid paste and garlic, steamed and lightly fried before being drizzled in a mild and tasty sauce.  Yvonne is already moving on to the rolls of ginger leaves and unwrapping one to reveal a slice of steamed chicken with mushroom.  

I take my time to savour my portion of tender steamed chicken and next, when I taste the steamed radish cake with mushrooms, it seems to melt in my mouth probably because this steamed cake is twice-steamed to lock in all the flavours! 

Superior Stuff

Bamboo pith dumpling in superior broth
At Xin Shan Long, the dim sum, a Cantonese phrase literally translated as “touch heart,” certainly touches my heart because delicacies of such quality, are hard to come by.  This thought comes to mind when I scoop up the bamboo pith dumpling from the superior broth and sink my teeth into the filling of a blend of chicken, prawns and mushrooms.  The rich natural flavours of the steaming hot broth is a delight for soup fans like us because we know it’s the quality and not the quantity that matters.

Chef Cheng assures us that our dessert of Glutinous Rice Balls stuffed with Sesame and Red-bean paste are freshly made from fine quality glutinous rice and will remain crispy even when they are cooled.  I take his word for it and leave them to cool because I’ve been warned that the filling will still be piping hot.  When I tear open its crispy coat, a wisp of steam escapes and I thoroughly enjoyed chewing the delectable mix of this crisp and creamy dessert.

A serving of Hong Kong style Mango Pudding
I don’t know about Yvonne, but for me, the litmus test of a quality Hong Kong dim sum place must be their Mango Pudding dessert.  When the waitress serves me my pudding on a saucer, we laugh about why restaurants choose to serve the pudding on plates rather than bowls or cups because diners have to “chase” it around the flat surface. 

Even from a glance at the classic pudding, I can tell that this is the authentic Hong Kong style Mango Pudding that I’m familiar with.  And as I savour each luscious spoonful, I’m quite sure that I will be back for more yum cha here – and very soon too!

Xin Shan Long (No Pork & Lard)
Le Grandeur Palm Resort Johor
Jalan Persiaran Golf, off Jalan Jumbo
81250 Senai, Johor
Tel: 07 – 599 6222; Fax: 07 – 599 6204

Daily 11.30am to 2.30pm
Sunday 7am to 2.30pm

The restaurant is located in the resort closest to Senai International Airport about 32km from JB city.  Take the first exit of the round-about in front of the airport.  Drive about 1km before turning right to Jalan Persiaran Golf and stop at the security guardhouse before proceeding to the resort carpark.

Authentic Hong Kong dim sum

A range of steamed and fried dim sum, Bamboo Pith Dumpling in superior soup, Steamed Radish Cake with mushrooms and desserts like Chilled Mango Pudding and Deep-fried Glutinous Rice Balls stuffed with Sesame and Red-bean paste

RM5.80 to RM6.80 per portion inclusive of GST; corkage charges apply

Chinese restaurant with a contemporary touch

High chair
No Smoking
No Pets
Credit card facilities

Lobby toilets located just outside the restaurant

Attentive English-speaking staff

Go give it a try

A version of this was published in The New Straits Times, Life & Times on 8 Jan 2016

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