Swee Choon Dim SumHot
Swee Choon Dim Sum Restaurant is a well-known and an established local restaurant where people from all walks of life have come to enjoy Dim Sum for almost 50 years. Located at the heart of Jalan Besar, in the district of Little India, Swee Choon provides air-conditioned as well as alfresco dining in the back alley.
Located near Mustafa Centre, Swee Choon is a place that is hard to miss. It is a small distance away from Farrer Park station too. Hence, everytime my clique of friends feel hungry at night and we have someone amongst us who drives, we will definitely hit Swee Choon for supper. A wide range of dim sum is available, such as Har gow, fried dumplings, beancurd wrapped shrimps etc. One of my favourite newly added item would have to be the custard buns. The dim sum sold here is relatively cheap compared to those at Crystal Jade. For those with a huge appetite, ramen and rice and dishes are also available. Therefore, one is definitely spoilt for choice at Swee Choon. However, it is quite crowded at around 10pm-12am. If you come in big groups, there might be a queue and you will have to wait for around 20-30 minutes.
Overall, a reasonably priced dim sum place to visit in the wee hours when you are feeling hungry and sick of Macdonalds.
Their most unique dish is the Fried Mee Sua. The thin vermicelli soaked with braised sauce and fried to crisp creates fireworks in your mouth. Their Egg White Puff w/Red Bean & Banana makes for a delicious dessert as well.
The queue at the restaurant can get pretty crazy around supper time, and the old shophouse where it is located does not help things with its narrow corridors. Leave your number on their iPad at the front, and they will notify you when you have a seat.
The dishes I liked best has got to be the signature Custard Pau and Xiao Long Bao. The delicious blend of salty-sweet custard paste inside the custard pau has a very flavourful taste, which lasts right up till the aftertaste to get you yearning for more. If you want to have a taste for yourself, it won't be surprising if you call for seconds, or even thirds. The Xiao Long Bao was exceptional as well; the minced meat in the bao was nicely marinated, and had the springiness that you'd expect from a good Xiao Long Bao. Oh and not forgetting the soup encased in the bao, it is really heavenly!
One thing that led me to rate the overall value as 3.5/5 is the price of the food. Due to the reputation that Swee Choon Dim Sum has earned, it was natural that higher prices followed. After eating about 7 dishes, the total bill amounted to about 60-odd dollars - certainly pricey for the food. Also, the service staff weren't very friendly, and merely served the food and quietly took our order without staying to chat. While it's important for the food to be good, equally as important is that the service is welcoming.
All in all, Swee Choon is a great place to get your supper fix. But do not expect stellar service nor extremely good ambience.
1. Be prepared to walk a lot, my friends and I have tried walking from Bugis, Farrer Park and Little India and it is quite a distance from all directions.
2. Go with at least 3 other people, with similar tastes in food to you if possible.
3. Get there early or be prepared to queue! Good thing is that their turnover rate is really fast so you shouldn't have to wait too long for a seat, 20 minutes should be enough time to get a table.
The best thing about Swee Choon is of course, the much raved about liu sha bao. Piping hot buns that let out a fragrant waft of steam when you break it apart, the golden molten custard trickling out slowly. I'm salivating just thinking about it. The siew mai and carrot cakes are also my favourites, the siew mai is meaty and the skin is just the right thickness, while the carrot cake is not too floury or oily.
Swee Choon opens till late, so it is an ideal supper spot, whether you want to rejuvenate yourself after a night of partying or if you just want to grab a couple of friends and stave off your midnight hunger pangs.
For me though, I would say it's worth it; just ignore the bugs. They're usually at a corner so avoid the corners and make yourself seated in a more open, centralised area and you should be fine! This aside, food wise, it's great for the price. Their xiao long baos fare decently enough, much to my surprise. Pork is fresh, because believe me - I've tasted stale meat in XLBs before and that's not a pleasant feeling. Chee cheong fun is rather subpar to me, with the chee cheong fun being overly oily.
Some of my friends though, have commented that they enjoyed it, so it may boil down to personal preference. Other dimsum like carrot cake was pretty alright, nothing to shout out but it certainly wasn't bad. Their porridge was pretty okay too, not too dilute, yet rather flavourful. I would definitely be back when the xiao long bao cravings call!
What surprised me the most, though, was the service provided. The team of servers are made up of many middle aged aunties and uncles, and they are just the sweetest waiters you could ask for. While they did not have time to stop and chat much during the bustling restaurant hours, they did their job in a very maternal (but efficient!) fashion, teaching us how to order, wash tea cups, and even bringing extra plates for us when they saw we needed an extra spare dish.
For example, when I sat down at the table, the waiter saw that the sun was in my eyes (just a little bit!) and rolled out the canvas roof to block the rays. That gesture was really sweet and I appreciated that very much! This sort of homely service is unexpected at such a large, busy establishment and I would say it provided a nice touch to the overall experience.
All in all, my experience here was very positive and I can see why it has been such a favourite local spot for so long.
#1 Timing is key.
Swee Choon does not allow reservations, but is a very popular restaurant, so go at the right timings to avoid queuing. The turnover rate is high, and service is generally fast, but avoid timings like 6.15pm when the restaurant has just opened and people have just started to eat. Either go earlier (before 6pm) to grab an airconditioned place, or late as a post clubbing meal.
#2 Try their desserts.
While it is a more uncommon order, try the coconut dessert - it is a pudding served in the whole coconut itself and is deliciously fragrant and creamy. Their orh nee (yam paste) was also a pleasant surprise - it was thick without being cloyingly sweet. And the waiter told me they make it fresh in the kitchen, so that always gets extra points.
#3 Come in a group to share.
This tip applies to most dim sum restaurants. With a large group, you can taste more of the restaurant's menu offerings, and discover more favourites! And if you don't particularly favour a dish, the rest of your group members can mop it up, saving you the extra calories.
Their quintessential dimsum dishes such as the hargau and siewmai are good, so there's nothing much for me to nitpick about. The meesua kueh is commendable though, especially when it's first served. The crispiness of the exterior juxtaposed with the softness of the meesua is something I still remember even though I haven't had that in a while. But please order this to share. It's quite filling especially when you probably have so many other dimsum dishes. The eggy horfun also sweetens the deal for me. I love my horfun with lots of eggy gravy, and this one does it decently well. Like I said, it's not the best but definitely one of the better ones. And who can forget their custard buns? The custard lava is not as "gao" or "thick" as I'd like it to be sometimes, but I think that it's good enough, especially when you're quite stuffed with other food.
I think this place is almost iconic. Just look at the snaking queues and you'll know. It's not the most convenient place to get to but it's not stopping people. Thankfully they've expanded to the shop space beside their original and they've got a pretty quick turnover rate, which makes queuing a lot more bearable.
My personal favourites to order at Swee Choon are their liu sha pao, red bean pancake, prawn and banana fritter (weird combination but strangely delicious) and the pork floss crepes. Other standard orders for most dim sum restaurants are their har gao, siew mai, char siew paos and xiao long paos. My advice would be to watch what you order because even though the individual portions seem affordable, we ended up ordering $60 worth of food for just 2 people, so please do keep track.
My first visit to Swee Choon was during a night cycling event during a sports camp organized by my school for freshmen. Swee Choon is famous for their custard buns (Liu Sha Baos), and I would definitely recommend anyone who goes there to give it a try. The yellow filling just oozes out, and the combination of that with the soft, white flour bun is inexplicably delicious!
Personally, I feel that all their other dim sum dishes are ordinary-looking and tasting, nothing to be overly enthusiastic about. Although their mee sua keu, which is Chinese vermicelli deep fried in cubes, is an interesting reinvention of the traditional Teo Chew cuisine of having it in soup. It's a good place to eat and well worth your money, although it's more suited for casual dining.
Whenever people ask me, "Where can I have good and cheap dim sum?", the first place that pops up in my head would definitely be Swee Choon.
They have a wide variety of selection but some of the must-orders include:
- LIU SHA PAUS - on Instagram, probably 2/3 of the pictures geo-tagged in Swee Choon would be tagged with #liushaporn as this is one of their highly recommended items! This, is a must-try. You can satisfy your LSB craving here for a lower price tag rather than going to high-end restaurants like Imperial Treasure or Royal China :) Plus it flows EVERY. SINGLE. TIME! Nothing upsets me more than a liu sha pau that doesn't flow
- Mee Sua Kueh - Who knew your ordinary mee sua can be pan fried into blocks of irresistible goodness?! This is something that is exclusive in Swee Choon and found on every table there. Crispy edges and a soft interior with a tinge of saltiness, i'm sold.
- Spring Onion Pancake, Siew Mai, XLBs, Pork Floss Pancakes
Located near Farrer Park MRT and Mustafa, this somewhat dodgy eatery attracts a huge crowd every single day and night (they are opened from 6pm - 6am). Be ready to queue for at least half an hour, especially if you are in a big group! They have a queue number system and service is pretty efficient, and you can pick your orders while waiting to save time.