With my parents on holiday in Malaysia, the “kids” (my siblings and our partners) decided to meet up for a Sunday dim sum breakfast at Welcome Inn Tea House in Northbridge. Our family’s been going to Welcome Inn for years.
This was a significant food milestone for my brother’s daughters, my nieces Ruby (aged 2+) and Zoe (aged 1+) – their first dim sum meal. Both girls were getting over colds and Zoe was a little more cranky than usual, but their appetites were as impressive as ever – and they absolutely loved dim sum!
It was a chilly morning but we soon warmed our bellies with plenty of food washed down with hot Chinese tea. Chinese tea does the best job of breaking down all the richness and grease you inevitably consume at dim sum, but ever since I was a kid I’ve always thought Chinese tea is served so ridiculously hot it’s practically undrinkable. Even as an adult I battle to drink the scaldingly hot tea.
First, we attacked rice flour rolls stuffed with prawns. The silky soft noodles and plump prawns inside were delicious, but I thought there could’ve been more sauce.
I think it was love at first sight for Zoe and the rice flour roll. She devoured the soft noodles then immediately asked for more.
Next: loh mai kai (glutinous chicken rice, also known as sticky rice). In the rice was har mai (dried shrimps), lup cheong (Chinese sausage) and chicken. I didn’t think there was enough chicken, but it was pretty tasty. Ruby, Zoe and my brother especially enjoyed the sticky rice. We had to get two serves for the table. In fact, we got two serves of a number of the dishes. :)
The deep-fried prawn balls were crispy and delicious. One of the nicest versions of these crouton-encrusted balls that I’ve eaten is from Emma’s Seafood and Dim Sum Restaurant in Victoria Park – theirs are crispy deep-fried prawn and banana balls! I’m a big fan of deep-fried banana anything.
One of our must-have items at dim sum – har gow (steamed prawn dumplings). Sometimes when you get har gow at dim sum, the dumpling skins stick to the bamboo steamer, which is really annoying, as the more you pull on a dumpling with your chopsticks, the more it falls apart. These har gow did not stick at all and were full of bursty fresh prawn filling.
This is Jac’s must-have dim sum item – siew mai (steamed pork dumplings). They were meaty and juicy, the pork mince nicely seasoned.
And the food kept coming! Next: crispy deep-fried squid tentacles, a family favourite. The plates aren’t piled as high as they used to be, but the tentacles are as yummy as ever. I’m always tempted to forget my manners, ditch my chopsticks and just grab tentacles with my fingers.
These are my sister CW’s favourite – deep-fried meat dumplings. The pastry outside is chewy, the minced meat filling inside is quite sweet.
I guess this is as close as we got to vegetables – bean curd rolls filled with assorted vegetables. I love the chewy elastic texture of that saucy bean curd skin.
The pork spare ribs in black bean sauce were delicious! The last time I was in Sydney I ate a dim sum spare ribs dish that consisted mostly of inedible bits of gristle and bone, but Welcome Inn’s pork spare ribs were flavoursome bite-sized morsels of succulent fatty and lean pork in a totally drinkable garlicky black bean sauce. If pork fat grosses you out, don’t get these spare ribs – don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Another family favourite: deep-fried crab meat balls. These bouncy bean curd-wrapped meat balls contain pork and crab meat, spring onions, water chestnuts and mushrooms. They are always served almost too hot to eat and I always burn my tongue trying.
We also enjoyed a round of char siu pow (steamed BBQ pork buns). I’ve loved char siu pow ever since I was a kid. My late grandma Mama used to make char siu pow. We kids would eat them fresh and hot straight out of the steamer. And later, there would be an ice cream container full of char siu pow (and sometimes, another container of tow sar pow, red bean buns) in the fridge, ready for breakfast, snacks or supper.
The food of my people (hah!)
Watching Ruby reminded me of one time I went to dim sum with my mum and my siblings. I must’ve been about 12 or 13 years old. I watched a Caucasian man explaining to his two dining companions (also Caucasian) that the paper underneath the char siu pow was edible and they should feel free to just eat it (“Those Chinese are pretty clever,” he said, with the confident authority of an expert). Of course, and most of you will already know this – that paper is not edible – well, it’s definitely not intended to be eaten! I watched them all chewing on bun and paper. Chewing, chewing, chewing. Evidently, the paper was much chewier than bun or barbecue pork! I laughed secretly to myself.
We also had baked BBQ pork puffs – BBQ pork enclosed in puff pastry. We really should’ve completed the BBQ pork series and eaten baked BBQ pork buns. And rice flour rolls filled with BBQ pork. At dim sum, BBQ pork becomes my bacon – the more the better!
Jac was hanging out for her favourite dessert to eat at dim sum: mango pudding. She shared the pudding with Zoe, who thought it was fantastic!
My must-have item at dim sum is dan tart (egg tart). Once, many years ago when we ate dim sum at Welcome Inn, the unthinkable happened – they ran out of egg tarts. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I was devastated. I must finish my dim sum with an egg tart, otherwise I go home feeling dissatisfied and a little sad, regardless of how delicious the rest of the meal was.
The egg tarts were still wonderfully warm. To look upon that bright yellow, glistening custard, to feel that warm pastry in my hand, to hear the crackle of the patty paper as I lift the egg tart to my mouth, to bite into that soft, smooth, sweet custard – it all makes me so happy.
The owner herself came to our table at the beginning of the meal, smiled, said hello, and gave the little girls their very own plastic bowls, plates and chopsticks to eat with. Zoe’s not quite ready for chopsticks, but Ruby was quite intrigued and gave them a good go. Waiters kept stopping by to offer food. It was tempting to say “yes!” to everything – until we began to feel full. Then, it was “No thank you” meaning “Oh God, no!” – of course, when you hit that point it’s time to leave! My only regret was that I didn’t manage to squeeze in a bowl of rice porridge as well. Next time!
The bill came to just under AU$100. Not bad for ten hungry big eaters (eight adults and two children)!
Welcome Inn Tea House
“Hong Kong style dim sum – instant cook when you order”
354 William St
Northbridge WA 6003
Telephone: (08) 9227 8886
Open 7 days 9.00am to 3.00pm