Saigon’s has a massive range of Chinese food options. From tiny old-fashioned shophouses to food carts with screaming old ladies. Then there’s the glittering chandelier-decked palaces and the places experimenting with new flavours. Michelin-recognised chef DoBee Lam definitely falls into the latter group. The chef and restaurateur takes a very modern approach to dim sum at his restaurant ComXiu. But we wondered where he goes for some distinctly old-school flavours. And so here are DoBee’s favourite dim sum restaurants in Saigon.
Read on in Vietnamese
DoBee Lam is an ambitious entrepreneur. He started his culinary career in early 1997 as a junior cook. More than 20 years later, his giant hospitality group owns five different brands and ten outlets in Hong Kong. The chef also loves exploring. His F&B consulting company has successfully established itself in Hong Kong, China, Macau and now the Vietnam market.
“It’s way more colourful and vibrant here than during my last visit seven years ago,” DoBee shares about the F&B industry in Saigon. His first restaurant franchise in Vietnam, ComXiu – Modern Hong Kong Kitchen, offers an eclectic menu of Cantonese cuisine, presented with artistically modern flair. When you visit, remember to leave some room for ComXiu’s luscious 12-hour slow-cooked charcoal-grilled char siu. It’s smoked with lychee wood, star anise and cinnamon. Also, try the dry-aged roasted free-range chicken. It’s another example of the way DoBee brings Cantonese, Sichuan, Chiu Chow, Beijing, and Shanghai cuisines to the same table “Old-school tastes are the core, but we keep moving forward to bring classic delicacies to new levels.” explains the Michelin-recognised chef.
While the food is tasty and healthy, the dining space is intimate and trendy. That’s why guests have fallen in love with ComXiu’s cuisine and chinoiserie-chic vibes, perfect for couples, groups of friends or family gatherings.
Not wishing to rest on his laurels, up next is the launch of another hotpot chain ready to blow Vietnam’s mind. But DoBee has never taken good old dim sum for granted. Last year, he spent three months on a research trip touring and tasting his way around Vietnam – at least he claims it was research. Anyway, we trust his opinion – and this is his list of the most interesting old-school dim sum joints in town.
MiYu Dim Sum
A new exciting addition to the dim sum scene is MiYu Dim Sum. Don’t be fooled by its pink, teeny-bopper style dining space. MiYu boasts a sumptuous menu. It’s bursting with classics like steamed rice rolls with shrimp, siew mai and pan-fried cakes. “My Vietnamese-Chinese staff told me about this place three months ago. I came here to try it out…and I fell in love with its delectable dim sum. I can feel the food is made with heart,” DoBee says, expressing his admiration towards his new go-to dim sum spot.
MiYu embraces the roots of Cantonese cuisine with an emphasis on natural flavours, light seasonings and fresh local ingredients. And, justifiably, MiYu Dim Sum is well-loved by people of all ages. “Occasional new culinary creations with a local twist allow us to sample a unique mix of flavours in a single meal setting, like their chicken curry dim sum,” DoBee smiles contentedly.
DoBee says: “The average price here is from 38.000-50.000VND per dish. Insanely affordable. And the dishes are good for sharing!”
Address: 409 Minh Phụng, Ward 10, District 11
Sủi Cảo Đại Thanh Hoa
Nestled in the dim sum haven of District 5, Sui Cao Dai Thanh Hoa is a hot spot for those in search of traditional Chinese dim sum. They may not be the most polished of eateries around, but what they lack in appearance, they make up for in their food’s quality.
Sui Cao Dai Thanh Hoa offers an assortment of over ten kinds of fillings. These refined small bites are exquisitely crafted by their chef and owner, who is originally from Hubei, China. This explains why its dim sum wraps are thicker compared to those of China’s southern regions. That’s also why it’s a favorite establishment amongst northern Chinese diners.
DoBee asks for his regular order: “My favorites – steamed pork dumplings with garlic chives and Sichuan julienne potato salad.” Plus, he reminds us, “Don’t miss their Xao Long Bao. The most plump, juicy, delicious soup-filled dumplings you will ever find in the city. Their super crispy scallion pancake. Deciding what to fill my belly with here is always a tough call.”
DoBee says: “Don’t miss their Xao Long Bao. The most plump, juicy, delicious soup-filled dumplings you will ever find in the city.”
Address: 396 Tran Phu, Ward 7, District 5
For nearly a decade, Ocean Palace has been a celebrated stalwart in the Chinese fine-dining scene. It offers an extensive menu that includes Cantonese classics and some modern interpretations that meet “the Hong Kong standard.”
“Har Gow, crispy taro dumplings, and Ham Sui Gok are the three dishes that give you an idea of the ‘level’ of any dimsum kitchen,” DoBee says, explaining his criteria for assessing good dim sum. “I believe they should be made to order with the freshest premium ingredients by the hands of skilled chefs.”
Besides its array of mouth-watering dim sum, Ocean Palace’s pigeon is particularly fabulous, according to DoBee. “It’s marinated perfectly with just the right amount of Chinese herbs. I would say this dish delivers a classic taste and aroma. It comes out hot, juicy, smooth and delicious,” he smiles between bites of the BBQ-ed bird.
Located in the city’s central street, Le Duan, Ocean Palace is without doubt a dim sum restaurant perfect for business meetings or simply a weekend ‘yum cha’ gathering with family. “The private rooms are elegant. If you are looking for a relaxed, refined experience with old-school dim sum, this is the place,” he nods approvingly.
DoBee says: “If you are looking for a relaxed, refined experience with old-school dim sum, this is the place.”
Address: 2 Le Duan, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1
Xe Dim Sum Bình Dân
Easily the cheapest dim sum place on our list – or on any list – Xe Dim Sum Binh Dan is a humble food cart. Find this place in the chaotic Chinatown of District 5 too. It serves up original, simple, rustic bites. Each portion is only 10.000 – 25.000 VND, two to three times cheaper than most dim sum spots. Thus, it’s become a popular haunt among students and locals.
At Xe Binh Dan Dim Sum, you will never run out of options when it comes to their housemade dim sum. Boasting over 30 dim sum items to choose from, including its signature taro dim sum, chive and pork dumplings and char siu buns, the 18-year-old long-standing shop is famous not just for their comfort food, but for unearthing memories of the old Saigon through unforgettable childhood tastes. All the familiar ingredients and flavours are well-curated in an ordinary inox cart and giant aromatic steamer.
“Their dim sum reminds me so much of the dishes I tasted in Hong Kong 30 years ago,” Dobee sighs nostalgically, “This reminds me of so many of my childhood yum cha memories,” adds, about his deep attachment to these fuss-free, scrumptious bite-size treats. “Also, their egg tarts are divine,” he smiles ordering some sweet buttery and flaky pastries to-go, “They are pure indulgence.”
DoBee says: “Their egg tarts are divine, order some to go!”
Address: 38B Học Lạc, Ward 14, District 5
Photos by Nam Tran Duy and edited by David Kaye