Meatless dim sum

KECHARA OASIS
2.08, 2nd Floor,
West Wing, Viva Home,
85 Jalan Loke Yew,
55200 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-9284 1818

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Fancy vegetarian dim sum? Kechara Oasis is the place for it.

THE dim sum menu at Kechara Oasis reads like a typical order sheet from any dim sum eatery. They have prawn dumplings, barbecued meat buns and even meat congee.

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Tasty morsels : The prawns and meat are made of gluten derived from wheat protein.

But all it takes is one bite to expose the imposters. The dim sum here is vegetarian.

“We’re not trying to fool the diner. We really use prawns in our prawn dumplings and meat in our buns. It’s just that they are made from beancurd sheets and gluten,” smiles Han Mui Foong, the dim sum chef at Kechara Oasis.

Explaining why the vegetarian restaurant is alluding to meat in their menu, Han – who has 20 years of experience in making these little morsels of delight – says that it’s all to do with tradition. Just like a Japanese menu must have sushi, a dim sum menu must have prawn dumplings and such.

Han, a non-vegetarian, took two weeks to create the vegetarian dim sum menu for Kechara Oasis.

According to him, it’s a big challenge to get as close to the original in taste and texture without using animal products. The 46-year-old, whose last posting was in Brunei, says that with the exception of his Egg Yolk and Custard Bun (RM5.80), which has a creamy filling of duck and chicken egg yolks, the dim sum fare is fully vegetarian.

“Our dim sum contains yam, radish, water chestnuts and mushrooms. For colour and flavour, we resort to Chinese parsley, carrots and peas,” he explains.

One of Han’s creations is the Steamed Fin Dumpling (RM6.20), which is garnished with what looks like shark’s fin. But don’t be fooled, for these are just slivers of konnyaku jelly. Amazingly, they taste like the real thing.

“The flavouring comes from a broth made of green kelp, which is why you can taste the sea in it,” explains Han.

Another is the Crispy Stuffed Eggplant (RM5.80). These are battered semi-rolled brinjal slices fried golden brown and served in a sauce of diced ginger, black beans and garlic. The crispy exterior holds a mushy brinjal slice within and has a filling of mashed yellow beans that derives its flavour from the piquant sauce.

We also like the Pan Fried Barbecued Meat Buns (RM5.80). The filling sees pieces of “meat gluten” lathered in a flavourful sauce made from vegetarian oyster sauce and sesame oil. Giving a slightly crunchy texture to the buns is a generous sprinkling of roasted sesame seeds in the bread.

A good accompaniment to the meat buns is the Abalone Congee (RM9.80), done to silky perfection. Served with slices of mock abalone and garnished with deep-fried gluten, this hearty rice porridge is flavourful. The brittle bits of gluten also give it a lively feel by producing a crackling symphony with each chew.

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Egg Yolk and Custard Bun with a filling of duck and chicken egg yolks.

Though Han is not telling, one can pick out distinctive notes of peanuts and radish in the congee.

Toona leaves or xiangchun, a native Chinese plant known for its aromatic properties, adds to the list of possible ingredients. A widely used ingredient in vegetarian restaurants, they have an onion-like flavour, and the leaves are either green or tinged with streaks of red.

The only thing that fell short is the Siew Mai (meat dumplings, RM5.80). The mashed yam, which made up a big part of the dumpling, feels a little too starchy. Some diced mushrooms, water chestnuts and a touch of cinnamon would have helped in the texture department.

Making amends is the Steamed Prawn Rice Roll (RM6.80). Han seems to have a way with rice flour creations because, just like the congee, the rice rolls are absolutely marvellous. Velvety soft, they melt in the mouth. The soya sauce accompanying the dish adds just the right amount of saltiness without interfering with the subtle taste of the rice sheets.

As for dessert, it’s advisable to reserve some space for the Chilled Honeydew with Sago (RM5.80). This veritable tong sui of honeydew cubes and sago in coconut milk is a fitting end to the meal.

You can pair it with the Pandan Leaf Cake (RM4.80), which comes with a filling of lotus paste flavoured with screwpine leaves.

However, if you are really looking for a treat, try the Chilled Crystal Ball (RM5.80). These marble-like sweetmeats of lotus and red bean paste are made to creamy perfection with margarine and cheese. And don’t worry, the cheese is made with vegetarian rennet.


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