Dim Sum and more from Tunglok
Dumplings from Din Tai Fung
Dumplings from Paradise Dynasty
Gyoza from Ippudo
Wonton Mee from Koung’s
The disruption caused by Covid-19 has pushed some restaurants to try out a new business model – selling frozen versions of their dishes.
The TungLok Group, which operates more than 10 Chinese restaurants here, is one of the early adopters.
It set up an online store called HomeFiesta about four years ago to sell frozen dim sum such as siew mai and pork buns. But the last two months have seen its offerings expand exponentially to more than 50 items, including noodle soups and Western dishes such as beef stroganoff.
It now sells more than 17,000 packets of food online a month, ranging from $6.80 to $19.80 a pack. Its bestsellers are Chinese fare like siew mai, barbecued pork bun and braised pork with preserved vegetables.
Hawker stall Koung’s Wan Tan Mee in Sim’s Avenue similarly launched a frozen wonton noodle offering in end-May, ahead of schedule, to tap the growing market for ready-to-eat meals. It has sold more than 6,000 frozen packets online and through phone orders.
Last month, both Din Tai Fung and Paradise Dynasty debuted their own version of frozen dumplings, which were swiftly sold out. New stocks will be available soon.
Frozen dim sum is next in line, with Swee Choon Tim Sum, an old-school eatery in Jalan Besar, planning to launch a menu of 15 items at the end of this month. They include carrot cake ($4.20 for six pieces) and bean curd prawn roll ($7.60 for six).
The advantage that frozen meals have over chilled ones is that they can keep for months instead of days. They come in handy when hunger pangs strike at odd hours. There is one thing you need though – freezer space.
Here are five picks to sample.
1 DIM SUM AND MORE FROM TUNGLOK
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The TungLok Group’s dedicated website homefiesta.tunglok.com lists more than 50 dishes that come frozen in sealed bags and just need heating up before serving.
I tried some steamed Prawn & Pork Siew Mai ($29.80 for 48 pieces) and my verdict is they are almost as good as freshly made ones, with the prawns in the filling just a tad less succulent.
The fragrant and mildly spicy Beef Rendang ($18), heated in a water bath, was delicious. I loved how soft and moist the meat was. The serving was ample for four people and good value for money.
Other dishes worth a try include Prawn Paste Chicken Mid Wing ($14.50 for 12 pieces), Braised Beef Shank And Tendon With Radish ($19.80) and Braised Pork Cartilage Noodle With Chicken Broth ($15).
How to order: Go to homefiesta.tunglok.com
Price: From $6.80 for desserts to $19.80 for braised beef shank and tendon. The Treasure Bowl or pencai for 10 persons is $268
2 DUMPLINGS FROM DIN TAI FUNG
Din Tai Fung, the famous xiao long bao chain from Taiwan, has excellent Handmade Pork & Cabbage Dumplings ($11 for 12 pieces).
Also known as Beijing jiao zi, they boast a thin flour wrapping and a generous filling of coarsely chopped meat and vegetables.
They can be boiled or pan-fried and taste great with a black vinegar dip.
The restaurant also sells frozen buns with fillings like sesame ($8 for six) or pork ($8.80 for six).
How to order: Go to order.dintaifung.com.sg or any of the Din Tai Fung outlets
Price: $11 for dumplings and from $8 for buns
3 DUMPLINGS FROM PARADISE DYNASTY
Paradise Dynasty, the la mian and xiaolongbao chain by the Paradise Group, sells a range of frozen dumplings and a vegetable bun.
I sampled the Pork And Prawn Dumpling In Hot Chilli Vinaigrette ($24.80 for 20 pieces), which needs to be boiled before mixing in a sauce.
The stuffing was juicy, but what impressed was the smooth and thin flour skin. It was softer than commercial brands of frozen dumplings sold in supermarkets and slid down the throat.
Other popular items on the menu include Pork Dumpling In Hot Chilli Vinaigrette ($18.80) and Vegetable And Pork Wanton ($13.80).
How to order: Go to www.paradisedynasty.oddle.me
Price: From $13.80 for wontons to $25.80 for vegetable buns
4 GYOZA FROM IPPUDO
Japanese ramen chain Ippudo launched its frozen gyoza last month. Priced at $45.45 for a bag of 30, these are the most expensive of the lot. They are the smallest in size too.
The cooking instructions are easy to follow, though it takes skill to know when to scoop the dumplings out of the pan when the base is crisp but not burnt.
They are filled with minced chicken, which is bland compared with pork. So make sure you have a vinegar dip ready.
How to order: Go to www.ippudo.oddle.me
Price: $45.45 for 30 pieces
5 WONTON MEE FROM KOUNG’S
I would never have imagined that wonton noodles could come frozen.
But local food company Gozen has done it, in collaboration with hawker stall Koung’s Wan Tan Mee.
Gozen is a subsidiary of Kalms, known for its chain of gift shops in the 1990s, which has reinvented itself by rolling out vending machine meals. It is believed to be the first frozen dish offering from a hawker here.
To compare both versions, I tried the fresh dish again at the stall in Sim’s Avenue, where a plate costs $4. The stall, formerly located at Geylang Lorong 21A, is perpetually thronged with queues and has been around since 1964.
The frozen meal, which needs to be heated in a microwave oven, compares very well with the original. The noodles have a firm and smooth texture, and do not clump together.
The three wontons in each frozen pack actually taste better, with a heavier seasoning that I prefer to the blander ones at the stall. The skin remains soft and slippery.
The frozen char siew is more juicy and succulent too, maybe because the meat has been tenderised and the slices are chunkier.
The frozen dish only loses out in two aspects – the accompanying caixin vegetable is horribly overcooked and there is no crispy lard. At the stall, I get to help myself to the delectable heart-stoppers.
Still, I look forward to Gozen’s plans to put the noodles in vending machines when the economy fully reopens in phase three.
How to order: Go to www.gozen.com.sg/shop or WhatsApp 9769-4163