Swee Choon Dim Sum, Singapore

[disclaimer: sorry for the unoptimal quality of the pictures in this post!!! i only had my phone on me to snap pics and also by the time the food came, we were so starving that i wasn’t too fussed about getting the perfect shot before tucking in heh. especially sorry for the unappealing pictures of half-eaten food!]

finally managed to head down to the famous swee choon dim sum recently for a mega dim sum feast! headed there after an intense wednesday at work and was tricked by google maps into thinking that it was really near to lavender mrt station; it was not very near after all and by the time we spotted the big red swee choon sign, we were starving and dying to eat.IMG-20130814-WA0031 unsurprisingly, there was a queue when we arrived around 7pm but thankfully it moved quickly and we were soon comfortably seated at a large table in the air-conditioned part of the restaurant! (we originally considered sitting outside so we wouldn’t have to queue for a table, but the outdoor seating is in this extremely dark alley behind the restaurant – not a very pleasant or optimal eating environment at all!) the queuing time is also made better by the fact that there are seats for you to sit while waiting, and menus and order forms are given to you so you can order and the food arrives soon after you get seated at a table.IMG-20130814-WA0029 the menu is very excitingly extensive:20130814_19195020130814_19195520130814_191935given the huge range, it’s really easy to get carried away ordering everything that takes your fancy. but then again over-ordering always happens without fail when i’m eating with these two, so my take on the consequences of being spoilt for choice by a huge menu is probably just an excuse for the fact that we ended up ordering $90 worth of dim sum that night. (who said swee choon was cheap?!)

20130814_194305 dim sum feast for “three boys” because apparently i eat the equivalent of what a 3rd boy would eat

20130814_193844 what always happens when food is served #asianproblems

20130814_194241 1. drunken chicken
the drunken chicken was quite decent though i would have preferred it to be a little more chilled. the meat was tender, moist, and well-flavoured while the sauce was light and tasty. we all quite enjoyed it! 

20130814_194422 2. mee sua kueh
the mee sua kueh is one of swee choon’s specialities. i’ve don’t think i’ve ever had anything like it! we all agreed that it was quite an interesting item on the menu – mee sua is fried together into these block-like pieces which have crispy brown outsides. i think its worth ordering just to give it a try, but it fills you up rather quickly and can get a bit boring to eat after a while since there’s nothing else (ie no meat, veggie etc) added to it. its pretty much eating plain fried mee sua in “kueh” form. will probably give this a miss the next time i’m there!

20130814_1944473. har gao
i enjoyed the har gaos although i would have preferred the skin to be a tad thinner. as for the filling, it was really yummy and they were generous with the prawns that were fresh and crunchy!

20130814_1946534. pei tan porridge
the porridge was very average, neither great nor bad. always a nice accompaniment to dim sum though, and they do a decent enough rendition of it, so its worth ordering if you want some porridge to go along with your dim sum.

20130814_1946595. pancake with egg & meat floss
another swee choon specialty! sounds like quite a strange combination and looks that way too, but it was pretty good! tasted like an asian savoury crepe, and the cucumber stick in the centre added bite and crunch to the otherwise soft mix of things. it was a good combination of tastes and textures!

20130814_194702 6. xiao long bao
i didn’t have very high hopes for the xiao long baos but they were actually pretty good and one of the better ones I’ve had in Singapore i feel! we ended up ordering 3 longs in total (omg now that I think about it that 1 long each hahahahaha. extreme eating with these 2 once again.). they were really well done – the skin wasn’t too thick and the soup and meat within were very yummy, especially when eaten fresh and piping hot!

20130814_1947107. egg tarts
the egg tarts were not bad, but nothing to shout about. they were portugese-style tarts as you can see from the pictures and the crust was flaky and crispy while the filling was quite wobbly and smooth, and not too sweet. didn’t get as excited as i usually do about egg tarts though… not sure why. i’ve been trying to think of what it was missing but i can’t seem to pinpoint it. maybe the filling was a little too wobbly and soft for my liking? the texture was almost like that of steamed egg; i guess i prefer fillings that are a little firmer!20130814_200445
very soft filling – a little too soft for my liking

20130814_1947358. prawn and banana fritter
i used to think that prawn and banana fried together in a fritter was an extremely strange combination, but i’ve come to really enjoy it! swee choon’s rendition of it was good. the banana was nice and sweet, the prawns were juicy, and the batter wasn’t too thick. the oil it was fried in was fresh (hate when oil is re-used to fry things; i always taste it in the deepfried sticks of things at old chang kee), and the 3 components all complemented each other well.

20130814_1949149. cha siu bao
the cha siu bao was good! the skin was fluffy and nice and they were generous with the filling that was juicy and not too sweet! yumz.

20130814_19535210. siew mai
they were generous with the siew mai filling which was sweet and juicy, and the skin wasn’t too thick! i remember thinking that it was a little heavy/dense and could have been more daintily done though, but then again this isn’t fine dim sum dining so i guess expectations should be managed in that aspect!

20130814_195436 11. (ryan and) big pao
the big pao was stuffed with minced pork, chicken, egg and mushroom. the ingredients made the filling nice and juicy and it was great when eaten hot, but i felt that the skin could have been a little thinner (even though it was quite fluffy).

20130814_20092912. liu sha bao
can’t have dim sum without having liu sha bao!!! swee choon’s liu sha baos are definitely one of the best i’ve had in singapore – they nailed the most important part of the bao which is to have the piping hot filling ooze out when the skin is broken. besides that, the taste of the custard filling was really really good. it was a perfect mix sweet and savoury with a texture that wasn’t too smooth; i feel that liu sha bao filling needs to retain a hint of graininess to represent the salted egg yolk that goes into it! we had another round of these treasures and i was clearly extremely pleased:IMG_20130814_221113

20130814_20294113. sesame pumpkin
i quite enjoyed this – it was basically sesame-coated pumpkin encasing red bean paste! everything went together quite nicely and i love how the sesame seeds coating the pumpkin added bite to the otherwise soft and mochi/tang yuan-like texture of the pancake. could have been a little less greasy though!

20130814_20370214. fried prawn dumplings
didn’t try this because by this point, i was completely dimsum-ed out and about to pass out from a food coma but my friends raved about it. supposedly really really good wan tons with amazing juicy prawn fillings. i would probably have had one if they weren’t fried, but i just couldn’t stomach anything so greasy anymore!

15. we also had their fried rice with shrimps and fried hor fun with shrimps (which i don’t have individual pics of), both of which we were disappointed by. they were nothing exceptional and hence not worth filling yourself up with at all! am definitely going to stick to the dim sum items on the menu the next time i visit.

20130814_205248 16. dessert
their desserts were decent! we had 3 desserts to share (even though we were close to rolling around on the floor in our stuffed states by this time) – grass jelly, ice jelly, and mango with pomelo and sago. the jellies were smooth and not overly sweet, while the mango with pomelo and sago was not bad but could have been thicker and less diluted. i was not expecting much at all since the focus of this place is on their dim sum and desserts would probably be more of an afterthought on the menu but was pleasantly surprised.  a good way to wash down all that food and end the meal on a sweet note!

20130814_210019doctor-to-be warning us of the potential ailments we might suffer from next time if we keep feasting so uninhibitedly each time we meet

given that there are not many places in singapore that serve dim sum at night (swee choon opens from 6pm-6am), its quite likely that i will be back at swee choon one day if i’m in search of dim sum past daylight. there are some hits and misses but it is overall a pretty good place with a very extensive menu so that everyone can satisfy their varied dim sum cravings. its definitely not a place for finely-made dim sum, but for the price you pay, i feel that you can’t complain at all!

(especially if you aren’t as crazy as the 3 of us who somehow managed to chalk up $90 worth of dim sum:20130814_210948
i do not know how my work clothes survived it… thankfully i did not have to go home with split seams hahaha.)

Swee Choon Tim Sum Restaurant Pte Ltd

191 Jalan Besar
Singapore 208882

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feasting friends forever

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Bloomsbury finds, London

had the chance to explore more food options in the bloomsbury area when the family visited and stayed in cartwright gardens just before i came home for summer! what a pity i never got down to trying these outlets earlier; i would probably have visited them quite a bit. good thing i’m not moving very far (at all) next year and so i’m going to have plenty of chances to frequent these places and make up for lost time hahaha!

1st place on the newly-discovered list: Chilli Cool!
should really have tried this place earlier. i think its the perfect place for students to get a legitimate asian food fix – reasonably-priced authentic sze chuan food in generous portions that are perfect for sharing! my friends and i had heard of and toyed with the idea of checking this place out and the hotpot buffet they have there at some point during the year, but just never got round to going… i think the lure of the juicy roast duck (and hazelnut + pistachio gelato at oddono’s after) at goldmine normally triumphed.

but because my dad is the ultimate china man (he needs his chinese food everywhere he goes – steamed white rice, piping hot soup etc), chilli cool (2 minute walk from our hotel) was the obvious choice for dinner on the first night we were back in london after cruising for 2 weeks with a lack of proper chinese food. (according to my mum, my dad’s cheeks had were getting more and more sunken by the day lol)

chilli cool occupies 2 spacious units along leigh street and is simply decorated but quite homely. we visited on a friday night and it was nearly full, patronised by a good mix of both asians (more often than not, a sign of the real deal when it comes to asian food heehee) and caucasians. besides the a la carte menu, they also have a hotpot buffet option – perfect for a cold winters day! we weren’t up for stuffing ourselves (post-cruise detox time!!!) so we ordered a few dishes from the a la carte menu to have with rice.

(sorry the pictures i have aren’t great at all; the lighting wasn’t very optimal and everyone was starving and wanted to tuck right in!)

here’s the chicken fried with chilli and cumin which was recommended by the waitress:
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not sure if you can see from the picture, but the servings are pretty big compared to what you’d get at a typical chinatown restaurant, and really good for sharing in a group. this chicken was probably my favourite dish of the night. it was fried to perfection and extremely flavourful! crispy on the outside in this yummy batter and juicy and tender on the inside. the chilli and cumin were also added in just the right amount, giving the dish a really satisfying kick! definitely going to order this again when i return… SO yummy that it made me forget every bit of deep-fried unhealthiness that was being consumed wahahaha. unfortunately, the picture really does not do the dish any justice 😦

another typical szechuan dish: fried long beans with chilli20130628_210335
the beans were fresh and not overcooked such that they retained a nice bite. it was again a generous serving, but i wouldn’t recommend it to the faint-hearted (when it comes to spicy food), especially if you aren’t armed with tissue paper for dripping post-chilli noses. it was spicy even for us and we were really impressed by the caucasians at the next table who were happily devouring all of it… immunity achieved from repeat visits, maybe? 😉 the dish was really tasty and was delicious when eaten with rice.

HUGE bowl of fish soup:
20130628_210544
the bowl was seriously gigantic. to give some scale, the diameter of the bowl was nearly the width of the table!!! but our initial worries of not being able to finish it turned out to be unfounded since it was so delicious that there was nearly nothing left by the end of the meal. the soup is typically sze chuan and was served piping hot, full of green and red chillies, preserved vegetable, potato and plenty of fish slices. the fish was extremely fresh (definitely not the frozen kind), and what i really liked about it was that they were very generous with the ingredients, as you can probably see from the picture. this soup is perfect for sharing in a big group (it was way more than enough for the 4 of us) and i can imagine it tasting even more delicious on a blustery winters day… my only qualm about it was the shocking amount of oil that formed a thick layer at the top of the soup when it was first brought to our table, like an oil spill at sea. i was initially quite put off by it but we managed to scoop out most of it before tucking in, and once i did, it was so good that all oily thoughts were banished and everything was fine and dandy.

this was probably the most forgettable dish out of everything we ordered – tofu with black fungus and edamame:20130628_212108

in terms of flavour it was definitely outshone by the other dishes, but i suppose that’s what made it different from the rest, and not necessarily in a bad way! it was good palette cleanser since it was light and the least oily of all. definitely the healthiest too! the serving for this dish was exceptionally small though, and i probably won’t be ordering this the next time i go.

chilli cool was a great experience overall. service was prompt and friendly, and my family enjoyed the food (my dad certainly left a happier man with fuller cheeks :P) though we all agreed it definitely wasn’t the healthiest kind of food around given that most of it is fried and oily. nevertheless, am quite certain that i will be back, brandishing tissue and an empty stomach to try the hotpot buffet, maybe! if not, the a la carte menu has an extensive range of dishes so i have many more to try!

Chilli Cool

15 Leigh Street
WC1H 9EW

2nd place on the list: North Sea Fish Restaurant

another joint along leigh street, which caught my attention on the way to chilli cool because of the impressive number of stickers and accolades they had stuck in the shop window:
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(i was particularly taken in by the tripadvisor certificate of excellence + 2012 winner sticker wahahaha i am a tripadvisor review junkie)

there are 2 shops to the restaurant: one of them is for takeaways while the one is a proper sit-down restaurant that appears to be a nice  little cosy and chill place for a good seafood meal. the mother and i were craving some good fish and chips one night after a long day of shopping and decided it would be perfect to buy some fish and chips back to our hotel to feast on 😉

they have a range of fish available (check out the menu below), but we went with the cod as recommended by the very friendly guy behind the counter in the shop! we also wanted to try the salt and pepper squid but were sorely disappointed when we were told that they didn’t have them that day 😦20130629_212343 20130629_213031

the service is efficient (which should be the case in takeaway outlets) and there were a few pieces of fish being kept warm in an oven-like thing, ready to go whenever a customer came in with an order. we ordered a jumbo-sized portion though, and so had to wait for about 10 minutes for it to be fried. there was a steady stream of customers coming in and leaving happily with their takeaway bags while we waited, adding to the anticipation that was building from the moment the gregarious guy behind the counter told us was the “only fish and chips you’ll eat in london from now on”! i later found out that the fish and chips here has been touted as a contender for the best fish and chips in london!

bag of purported goodness:
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got back to the room and was greeted by this piece of fish gloriously glistening away under the light:20130629_214427
we felt that it was definitely worth paying a little more to get the jumbo-sized portion because it was really a rather big piece of fish! but of course if you’re having it alone then a regular-sized portion would probably suffice. the fish was EXTREMELY fresh – we were told that the restaurant only uses fresh fish and never any frozen fish at all, which i really like about them because usually for fish and chips and other fried fish dishes in general, its often the case that frozen fish is used instead of fresh catch and not much attention is paid to the quality of the fish used.

the batter was light, crispy and not too thick. it was clear that the oil used was fresh, and i know i’m repeating myself here but the fish was really of great quality. a drool-worthy close up of the fish: 20130629_215152
as for the chips, they were alright, but nothing to shout about. i felt that they could have done with a bit more salt & vinegar, but that can be easily requested for when placing your order. i would also have preferred them to be a little crispier on the outside. its possible that they became slightly soggy from the condensation that resulted from being wrapped up in paper while hot, but the walk home was only three minutes and so i think they probably weren’t very crispy to begin with. do note that they charge separately for the fish and the chips.

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think i might go with a different accompaniment to my fish the next time i patronise north sea… am eyeing the beer battered mushrooms and the salt and pepper squid! might also give the sit-down restaurant a try – they serve a range of seafood in a range of cooking styles (grilled, fried etc) along with homemade desserts.

best fish and chips in london? i would say its definitely one of the better renditions of this national dish, but wouldn’t be so quick to say its the best, especially since i felt that the chips could have been done better! i have also had some really good fish and chips at Bonnie Gull (21A Foley St, London W1W 6DS). both are worth a try!

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North Sea Fish Restaurant

7-8 Leigh Street
London WC 1H 9EW

3rd place on the list: King of Falafel

grabbed a quick bite from this little cafe serving moroccan/lebanese-type food, and immediately wished i had discovered it earlier on in the year!!! had the falafel wrap which was SUPER delicious, filled with the yummiest falafel ever and lots of fresh salad and scrumptious homemade sauce. i had it in a normal wrap, though there’s the option of paying a little more and having the wrap in homemade spinach/tomato (if i’m not wrong) moroccan bread. there’s also the option of adding halloumi cheese, which i am sure is delicious! its a big wrap which they cut into 2, and it’s overflowing with goodness heehee. i LOVE falafel, and this is probably one of the best i’ve had. it was perfectly spiced and just the right amount of crumbliness while not being too dry at all – a must try for all falafel fans out there!!!

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i definitely want to go back to try their range of meat skewers and salads and houmous. was eyeing the super hearty and wholesome plates of food that some at the cafe were having while i was getting my wrap to go. just look at that hunger-inducing display that’s filled with all things amazing:
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everything is really reasonably priced too! they have coffees for under £2, and the lebanese falafel wrap was just £3.50 if I’m not wrong…
king of falafel is definitely going to be one of my first stops once i’m back in london after summer!!!

King of Falafel

5 Tavistock Place
London WC1N