The Asian answer to tapas, dim sum can be savoury or sweet, steamed or fried. Dumplings are often what spring to mind, but there’s a larger variety out there. The name of the dish literally translates to “touch the heart”. A related term is “yum cha” meaning “drink tea” – this refers to eating dim sum with traditional Chinese tea. All of which brings us to the more important question: where to eat dim sum in Singapore? And what should you order at a dim sum restaurant?
Read on to find out!
For authentic Hong Kong-style dishes – Tim Ho Wan
Dim sum timings: Various timings.
The vibe: This is where to eat in Singapore if you’re into award-winning, Hong Kong-style dishes. Tim Ho Wan dim sum restaurant is very casual and kid-friendly, with little tables and stools to make the most of the small space. Busy waiters deliver plate after plate of food while others rapidly clear tables for waiting customers. Loud and hectic, at times it borders on chaotic as the queue of people snaking outside the door peer restlessly inside. Definitely not a place to linger.
The dim sum: The chef behind Hong Kong-based Tim Ho Wan dim sum restaurant received a Michelin star in 2009. This claim to fame propelled him to open more outlets there (and garner more stars), plus his first Singapore branch in 2013. All the dim sum in Singapore is made to order, in authentic Hong Kong style. The number one menu item is the baked bun with barbecue pork, and one taste explains why: the exterior is crunchy and crumbly, the barbecue pork inside oozing a sweet-and-salty sauce. Other popular items that satisfied our expat taste buds were the steamed egg cake, prawn dumplings and vermicelli rolls.
Our top three: Baked buns with barbecue pork, beancurd skin roll with shrimp, and garlic, mushroom and spinach dumpling.
For 1920s Shanghai-style bar vibes – Jiu Zhuang
Dim sum timings: (Mon) 4pm – 1am; (Tues to Sat) 11am to 1am; (Sun) 11am to 10.30pm. Reservations are recommended if you want one of the cosy tables at the main bar, otherwise there’s alfresco seating and a private cellar for larger groups.
The vibe: If you have a thing for old Shanghai, this is where to eat in Singapore. Jiu Zhuang dim sum restaurant is tucked in behind CMPB, holding on to the last strip of the barracks before the jungle reigns. Stumbling upon the seductively lit, dark wood bar is an unexpected revelation. Who knew Dempsey had this little gem hiding in the corner?
The dim sum: The surprises continue inside: dim sum, made daily by the in-house shifu (master), is served as bar snacks alongside exotic small bites like deep-fried fish skin and tofu with century egg and crab meat.
Our top three: Jiu Zhuang xiao long bao infused with whisky, guo tie vegetarian pot stickers and oriental pork wonton.
Tea: Yes, there’s tea, but this is a premium pour bar, so there’s also everything from spirits to champagne, wine, Chinese wine and sake. Get in the spirit of the era and order the one and only beer on the menu – Tsingtao served traditional style in porcelain bowls. Or go for the exquisitely clean-tasting sake Onnajoshu Junmai Daigino Premium with Gold Flakes and they’ll bring you a tray of assorted sake glasses to choose from.
Need to know: islandwide delivery and pickup are available.
6D Dempsey Road
For PS.Cafe-style chic – Chopsuey Café
Dim sum timings: (Sun-Thurs) 11am –11pm; (Sat & eve of PH) 11am -–11.30pm. Steamed dim sum can be ordered as appetisers during dinner.
The vibe: Where to eat in Singapore if you like both dim sum and a Western cafe ambience. The charming setting of this black-and-white ex-army barracks complete with an alfresco balcony for that balmy tropical feeling couldn’t be less traditional. Chopsuey’s cuisine follows suit; the Westernised Chinese fare makes it a great place for the uninitiated expat. Lunch on a weekday sees a practically full house, mostly “ladies who lunch”.
The dim sum: Served on silver trays for an elegant sense of occasion. Old favourites are re-jigged; there’s fusion dim sum like pumpkin and cod dumplings, or try the grilled pork and roasted coconut salad.
Our top three: Flakey char siew painted a pretty pink with beetroot juice, prawn toasties and sharing mains like the “Rusty Nails” – grain-fed beef short ribs in orange sauce.
Tea: Plenty of varieties available, but untraditional is the name of the game here, so we recommend cocktails all the way. Try the Chopsuey Colada or the Hot Lychee Margarita!
Block 10 Dempsey Road, #01- 23
For higher-end dim sum – Yan Ting
Dim sum timings: Weekdays 12pm to 2.30pm; weekends 12pm to 3pm. Reservations are recommended, especially if you’re keen on securing a semi-private table along the wall. For brunch, definitely book ahead.
The vibe: Head here if you’re into more high-end dim sum dining. Break out your pearls, ladies – this is the dim sum restaurant for the distinguished. Trolley service? Of course not. Here, impeccably trained waiters present impeccably prepared dumplings to impeccably dressed clientele.
The dim sum: Classic Cantonese all the way, with old-school favourites executed with impressive precision. Here, the vegetable dumpling wouldn’t dare co-mingle its contents; rather, each veggie shines in its own discrete pocket. If you tend to shy away from dim sum due to suspect pork products and shoddily cleaned prawns, this is your place. The quality of the ingredients is kiss-your-fingertips good.
Our top three: Steamed Shanghai-style pork dumpling, oven-baked barbecue pork char siew, steamed salted egg yolk bun.
Tea: Speaking of pearls, inside each pot of jasmine pearl tea, leaf buds are handpicked and rolled, then carefully stored.
Need to know: For unlimited dim sum and Billecart-Salmon Brut Réserve, book a table for the weekend Champagne brunch, available Saturday and Sunday.
The St. Regis Singapore, 29 Tanglin Road
For traditional trolley dim sum – Min Jiang
Dim sum timings: Monday to Saturday 11.30am to 2.30pm; Sunday 11am to 2.30pm. Reservations are recommended on weekends and public holidays.
The vibe: Oriental décor with a contemporary twist – wooden floors and elegant, high-back chairs lend a refined vibe, complete with warm lighting and soft music. Attentive service ensured our teacups were never empty for long and our plates were changed regularly.
The dim sum: Steamed dim sum dishes are done especially well at Min Jiang. The steamed xiao long bao stood up to the chopstick test – it didn’t break when lifted by its twirled tip and dipped in vinegar – and featured a flavourful, meaty broth. The carrot crystal prawn dumpling, a soup-based variation of the usual crystal shrimp dumpling har kau, deserves a mention too. The chicken claws in gui lin sauce – my all-time favourite dim sum dish – were some of the best I’ve ever tried in Singapore. As for the baked dim sum, the flaky baked barbecue pork pastry and melt-in-your-mouth mini egg tarts will have you craving more.
Our top three: Baked barbecue pork pastry, deep-fried Sichuan onion pancakes and steamed xiao long bao.
Tea: Had one dim sum too many? The ginseng oolong tea has a light, refreshing taste and aids digestion.
Need to know: Besides the à la carte dim sum lunch, Min Jiang also offers a dim sum high tea buffet on weekends and public holidays from 3pm to 5.30pm.
Tip: Looking for other trolley dim sums? Try Yum Cha (20 Trengganu Street) and Red Star (54 Chin Swee Road). Neither takes bookings, so expect to queue.
Goodwood Park Hotel, 22 Scotts Road
For traditional style with contemporary touches – Hai Tien Lo
Dim sum timings: Selected dim sum during the week, and à la carte all-you-can-eat dim sum buffet on weekends; 11.30am to 2.30pm. Reservations are advised for weekends.
The vibe: Head here if you’re looking for where to eat in Singapore that’s family-friendly and social. Diners are greeted by two Chairman Mao statuettes and enter a dim sum restaurant full of dark wood, red pillars and wooden dividers with Chinese motifs, alongside a stunning view of the hotel’s modern atrium, lobby and bar.
The dim sum: Expect Cantonese with a contemporary twist. here The chef’s signature dim sum in Singapore includes lobster in lemon butter sauce and deep-fried spare ribs in chef’s special sauce.
Our top three: Szechuan-style chicken with dried chilli and cashew nuts, quick-fried Hokkaido scallops with seasonal vegetables, and wok-fried sliced beef with onion and black pepper sauce (all part of the buffet).
Tea: The White Royal Peony tea was a light and delicate white tea, with a hint of apricot and English rose.
Need to know: The à la carte buffet is for a minimum of two diners.
7 Raffles Boulevard, Pan Pacific Hotel
For an upscale post-shopping stop – Taste Paradise
Dim sum timings: Weekdays 11.30am to 3pm; weekends 11am to 4.30pm. Last orders at 2.30pm and 3.30pm respectively. Queues aren’t uncommon, especially at weekends, so call ahead to reserve a table.
The vibe: Part of the Paradise Group, Taste Paradise may be slap-bang in one of Singapore’s hippest shopping centres. But glide down the pathway toward its dining hall, past the carved image of a Chinese peony tree, and it’s all refined elegance. Rows of gold slates on the ceiling, reminiscent of a dragon, up the cool factor.
The dim sum: Our chopsticks made light work of the classic Cantonese dim sum. An extra special mention must go to the steamed custard buns and the cheong-fun served with deep-fried eggplant and minced pork – crispy pork on the inside and the smooth roll on the outside were a moreish combination.
Our top three: Steamed custard buns, cheong-fun, and steamed prawn and chive dumplings.
Tea: Sip on a selection of teas, from chrysanthemum and jasmine to royal ginseng oolong and pu er. Design gurus should visit just to check out the long-stemmed silver teapot it’s poured from.
Need to know: Main dining hall aside, there are private rooms of varying sizes dotted around the dim sum restaurant if you’re after a more intimate space.
#04-07 ION Orchard, 2 Orchard Turn
More tips for dim sum fans on where to eat in Singapore!
Crystal Jade Palace: Flagship at #04-19 Ngee Ann City, 391 Orchard Road, 6735 2388
Din Tai Fung: Branches island-wide
Hua Ting: Level 2, Orchard Hotel, 442 Orchard Road, 6739 6666
Jiang-Nan Chun: Four Seasons Hotel, 190 Orchard Boulevard, 6831 7220
Click here to find out more about where to eat in Singapore, and subscribe to our latest Expat Living magazine to keep up to date!