A happy belated new year's to all - we've made it to 2010. There's an air of optimism as the end of a decade comes and goes, and the 'ones' begin. It's just too bad that the festive holidays are over for some of us unlucky ones and it's back to work come Monday morning. Although, it is perhaps about time for the feasting and gorging to cease for the sake of the wardrobe.
On holidays, I like nothing more than to really feel like I'm on holidays. This includes sleeping in (and conversely, staying up late for no apparent reason); not knowing what day it is; getting good wear out of a plethora of singlets, shorts and Havvies; and eatings meals and snacks whenever, however and wherever I want.
So it's a real holiday feel going to yum cha for a weekday brunch and catch-up with the girls. At the relatively early hour of 11am, there's no wait for a table at Marigold - although the restaurant does fill up in an hour or so.
However wrong it may seem, many of the yum cha-ing population have come to expect, if not accept, the sometimes surly attitude of service at yum cha establishments. We grudgingly get the same at Marigold; from non-eventuating drinks orders to trolley aversion to a response of "Try it and you'll know," to a question about ingredients. Sigh.
The other thing I've noticed in common about yum cha restaurants is the very similar offerings; almost to a point where there is nothing but location differentiating various eateries.
The fried taro dumplings - their light and crunchy outers which continue to mystify me - are not too greasy with a beautifully fluffy layer of taro and minced pork inners.
The pan-fried pork dumplings are a favourite of mine since childhood; likely something to do with the crunchy, golden side and the vinegar dipping sauce. This version is passable but the inner child is unimpressed with the thick, slightly gluggy pastry.
Like loads and loads of hot tea, the other necessity for me at yum cha is a hefty quota of vegetables. And there's nothing fresher or healthier than the simply steamed Chinese broccoli doused with soy and oyster sauces. This bunch was lovely and tender, and just the dish away from meats and pastries.
Speaking of meats and pastries, the now wildly popular xioa long bao look oddly sparse in their bamboo steamer - surely there's space for a fourth. They don't compare to the expertise of others - in flavour and the dumpling skins - but as much could be expected really, particularly after a few attempts at chasing up its accompanying vinegar sauce.
Another long time favourite is the parcel of sticky rice, chicken, pork, egg yolk and other goodies, steamed in dried lotus leaves. It's hard to go wrong with this, although some find the glutinous rice too filling.
The best part about the rice noodle rolls - perhaps just ahead of the prawn filling - is the thick and sweet dark soy sauce that's drizzled all over. These are best when they're hot as the rice noodle isn't as soft and silky when cooled.
These pork dumpling pack a seriously meaty punch - it's kind of amazing how much springy mince pork can fit into a wonton wrapper. Chilli sauce has become a necessity for me on these.
Is it yum cha without har gow? I think I could do without, with scallop or seafood dumplings in place - although they seem a bit scarce this day. The prawn dumplings follow the same-old, expected path, and again, need chilli sauce to liven them up.
Pehaps egged on by the usual offerings, I go past my usual dessert of coconut jelly in favour of tofu fa; a dessert of silken tofu carefully scooped out of a wooden bucket and served with a ginger infused sugar syrup. It's an extremely delicate dessert, and rather sensual too, for the texture of the tofu makes it essentially drinkable. And aside from the sugar-heavy syrup, it's pretty healthy - or so I tell myself.
Bloatedly full of food and tea, it's that joyous holiday feeling that lets us sit about without hassle from time nor people. It's not yet time to be lamenting the end of the holidays, leaving plenty of time to celebrate and look forward to the year to come. Happy New Year everyone.