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Tai Pan

December 18, 2005


Mom and I went for yum cha at Tai Pan before heading to Ala Moana for some intense Christmas shopping. We anticipated a long wait as it’s usually crowded around 10 or 11 in the morning but were pleasantly surprise to find we only had to wait a couple of minutes. Tai Pan is our family’s favorite casual dim sum spot because of the above average quality food, excellent price (most dishes are $1.80) and efficient service.
From left is the deep fried shrimp gow, shrimp har gao, honey pepper tripe, steamed mini glutinous dumplings and deep fried mochi meat gow. These are all traditional dishes mom and I order at yum cha. Though the food isn’t the highest quality dim sum you can get in Honolulu, you’re always gauranteed consistently good food. The mochi meat gow is perfectly crisp and savory, if not a bit oily. The steamed mochi rice seasoned with shoyu and chicken broth is a filling treat with bits of minced pork. We finished the meal with an order of pan fried taro cakes and my favorite yum cha sweet: baked nai wong bao. The thing with ordering these baos is that they’re only good when they come right, and I mean right, out of the oven. Once they have cooled down the nai won becomes slightly solidified and gummy and the bao dense and chewy. But fresh and hot, they’re simply incredible! The soft bun with a crisp coconutty egg topping and warm custard filling just drives my crazy. I finished this order on my own. Here’s a shot of the kitchen. It’s a very tiny restaurant so no traditional cart pushing here. Every time a new item comes out the waitresses pile it on trays and offer it as they walk around the tables. I like this method of operation better because you can order everything when it’s “fresh.”There’s also an exhibition-like area where you can watch the chef do all the last minute work like fry up taro cakes and finish up bowls of jook with preserved duck eggs and fish.
Dishes are placed on shelves along the wall. Many people who come for takeout just pick their plates and set it on the counter. The waitress will add it up and box it for you in minutes. This makes the restaurant even more crowded during rush hours with in house diners, take out customers and employees all squished together. But eh, we’re all family right? I spotted this item right before leaving. It looks like a carrot! The waitress said it was deep fried mochi filled with the beloved nai won custard! I was soooo tempted to order a plate – how could one possibly refuse a combination nai won and mochi (especially in the shape of a carrot?!) But I actually demonstrated restraint and now I’m kicking myself in the butt for doing so. My mochi nai won carrot craving will have to wait till next weekend.
It’s a tight squeeze and there’s usually a long wait but if you put those issues aside, you’d be hard pressed do find a place that does better dim sum at such low prices.
Tai Pan Dim Sum
100 N. Beretania St #167
Honolulu, HI 96817

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