Last Updated: August 5, 2019
I used to dread coming to the Bukit Timah area in the past whenever I had touch rugby training and matches at Turf City. Due to its inaccessibility, was it a hassle to get to this area. However, with the Downtown Line, it has become pretty convenient.
With that in mind, I decided to explore Beauty World Food Centre, where I rediscovered You Peng Noodle Dumpling House 友朋拉面饺子馆.
Why rediscovered? As I explored the top floor where the food centre is located, I had flashbacks of my dad bringing my family here to eat a couple of times. I vaguely remembered that the food was decent, but the location was just out of the way for frequent visits. As I spotted You Peng Noodle Dumpling House, being the avid dumpling fan I was, I had to try them again.
I managed to speak to Gui Ying, who was the owner there. She was making the dumplings by hand when we visited. Kindly sparing me some of her time, she even allowed me to step in to take pictures of how she made them!
The art of making the Xiao Long Bao’s are no easy feat. After she rolled out the dough skillfully, she moved fast as she dolloped a huge chunk of meat right in the centre. Then, she started pulling up the sides of the dough onto the top and I was pretty amazed as to how stretchy the dough was.
Gui Ying told me how a good Xiao Long Bao should have at least 20 folds at the top, which she ensures that they do.
To achieve the Xiao Long Bao‘s signature soup in every bite, it has to be prepared separately. Chilled into jelly-like cubes then added into the dumpling, it would melt when steamed. That iconic burst of goodness indeed takes much effort to be created.
Gui Ying humbly told me their key to success was maintaining strict quality standards for their food. On the weekends, they can sell up to 2000 Xiao Long Bao‘s! Hailing from China, she told me there was no secret to her success.
After she arrived in Singapore over 20 years ago, she spent a lot of time and effort experimenting with recipes. The current recipe is formed with her own research and development efforts.
The dumplings are also made very intricately. Her hands moved quickly as she pinched the sides of the dough and dragged it up to form a lovely leaf-like pattern.
As she finished moulding them, she let out a sigh of satisfaction. She let on to me that if they didn’t look good to her, she would remould them again. The last thing she would ever do was to compromise the quality of her dumplings.
Indeed, the end product was a pretty sight. However, with the advancements in technology, hand-made food items are sadly a dying trade.
When I mentioned this, Gui Ying positively brushed off my concerns. She mentioned how she does not think too much into it and just does her best. After all, every job has its pros and cons. She counts herself lucky that she is able to work in a sheltered environment and does what she is truly passionate about.
She mentioned the greatest difficulty was actually finding people to help her out in the business. However, she derives motivation from customers that recommend others to her stall or tell her her food is really good, which keeps her going.
After so much talking, of course, I had to try them out for myself. Hearing her passion, and seeing firsthand how she did everything with pride, I had a good feeling about the food here.
Of course, I had to go for their signature Shanghai Fresh Meat Juicy Steamed Buns (S$7.50 for 10), otherwise known as Xiao Long Bao‘s. They were served in two baskets, freshly steamed to-order.
They weren’t the biggest in size, but I wasn’t going to let the portion cloud my impression of it. Picking it up gingerly, it surprisingly held its shape really well.
I dipped it into the vinegar and ginger mixture and went ahead to devour it. It was an explosion of flavours in my mouth, as the broth gushed out when I bit into it.
The skin was relatively thick compared to some places I’ve had dumplings at. However, it was neither overly chewy or starchy. It was silky smooth and easy to eat, so I could overlook the slightly opaque skin.
The soup was light without being overly oily with I appreciated. With that being said, it still packed a rich and flavourful punch. My only gripe was that there was a tad too little soup and I found myself wanting more.
The minced pork filling had a good meat-to-fat ratio. Fresh and succulent, it was addictive and I found myself polishing them off easily.
The second dish we went for was the Shanghai Fresh Meat Juicy Fried Dumplings (S$6.50 for 10), otherwise known as Guo Tie.
I love myself a good Guo Tie, and this looked so good. The details on it were intricate, but did it taste as good as it looked?
Similarly, the skin had a doughier consistency and was even thicker than the Xiao Long Bao‘s. As I bit into it, I was slightly disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t bad but I’ve had better.
The skin on this was chewier due to its density, but it still glided down my throat easily without being floury. However, I felt that the skin-to-filling ratio for this paled in comparison to the Xiao Long Bao.
Also, the pan-fried base was not crisp enough, making this dish kinda one-dimensional. However, my dining partner enjoyed this very much so it could be a matter of personal preference.
Unlike its former, this had way too much skin and too little filling. I could barely taste the meat in this one. It was also a lil’ too moist from the oil and not the natural juices.
The last dish we got was the Special Sauce Noodles (S$4.50), otherwise known as Zha Jiang Mian. I was first introduced to this in university and I never looked back.
As always, Zha Jiang Mian does not look appetising with its signature soybean mixture but somehow it tastes good. Tossing it around to thoroughly mix the ingredients, I realised the noodles had a tendency to clump up.
This made me feel like it was a mediocre bowl of noodles. But the moment I placed a spoonful in my mouth, I was completely bought over.
Despite looking so unassuming, the noodles were actually really springy and slurp-worthy. The clumpy nature of it actually helped the ingredients to cling on for an intensely flavourful bite.
The sauce may look like a tiny portion at first, but it was just the right amount. Any more and it would have been too overwhelming. The combination of the soybean paste, minced meat and braised mushrooms had a strong umami taste to it.
It was very appetising, with the crunchy vegetables that helped to cut through the heaviness. The pop of freshness gave the dish more texture too.
I have visited my fair share of dumpling places, and You Peng Noodle Dumpling House ranks the top few on my list. It wasn’t the best, but its affordable price point made it extremely worth it. They also sell their dumplings both wholesale and frozen so you can enjoy them whenever you are craving delicious dumplings without having to travel all the way down!
They offer Red Bean Pancake and Shanghainese Pan-fried Steamed Bunsas as well, that I really want to try out, so another visit from me is a must. If you love Chinese cuisine in general, do give this a try! You definitely get a bang for your buck.
Expected damage: S$4.50 – S$7.50 per pax
Our Rating: 4 / 5
You Peng Noodle Dumpling House
44 Upper Bukit Timah Road, Beauty World Centre, #04-23, Singapore 588177
44 Upper Bukit Timah Road, Beauty World Centre, #04-23, Singapore 588177