Not so generic?
Finding a unique restaurant in Chinatown is not easy. To me, all of them restaurants look generic, with roast ducks, crispy pork bellies blatantly on window display. Tourists who don’t care about the food walk into either – it doesn’t matter really – and for those who care enough, they only head for Four Seasons’s roast ducks. While I rarely go to Chinatown for Chinese food (as my favourite Chinese eateries–Kai, Yauatcha, Gold Mine, Fortune Cookies–happen to be somewhere else but Chinatown), every once in a while, I make an exception and hop to this little corner cafe for some decent budget mid-day snacks.
Jen Cafe is a “run down” kind of place where you will be asked to share tables. It serves up hearty one-dish style of food, a long list of sweet, non-alcoholic drinks – we are talking milk tea, etc. – and as for their specialities, BEIJING DUMPLINGS!
No, you can’t miss their dumplings, really, the moment you walk past Jen, because there will always be one lady (at least) making these little meaty parcels at the window, kneading and filling the dough, but the end result is always delicious.
I usually ask for my Beijingian dumplings to be cooked two ways. First up is this dish of pan-fried dumplings. Basically, the dumplings are poached and pan-fried on one side for crispness. When you bite into it, you’ll get two different textures. The filling of pork and spring onions is very vibrant. My other dumpling dish is served poached. The look is humble, but they taste very, very lovely. The perfectly kneaded dough makes all the difference. I remember the first time I ate Jen dumplings; the casing bounced as I was chewing. The filling, however, is the same as the pan-fried dumplings. It would have been brilliant if they could do several variations like at Shun Yi Fu in Beijing. At the moment, there are only the pork/spring onions and the vegetarian options.
The not-so-great thing about Jen is that these dumplings don’t come with any special dipping sauce. You’ll have to devise your own at the table using four-or-less types of dipping ingredients provided. My special mix is soy vinegar and chilli. It would have been a lot nicer if they provided fresh ginger. Never mind.
Enough of photographic decency, I splash my DIY sauce into the bowl and… arghhhhh!!!!
GO FOR: Quick budget comfort.
4-8 Newport Pl