Recently, every time I’ve given restaurant recommendations for spots in Chinatown, the response I get it, “Are restaurants open?” Yes. Yes they are. Very much so in fact. It surprises me (and doesn’t) that there are people out there who haven’t been to Chinatown in years. Yes, I understand, not everyone has reasons to go. But don’t you think it’s about time you rediscover it? This small eclectic neighbourhood filled will small bakeries, restaurants, boutiques, and other treasures to discover you may have been overlooking in your own city.
Get delicious Chinese barbecue, hand-pulled noodles, knick-knacks and Korean sheet-masks all in one shot! One of the things I’ve always associated with Chinatown is Dim Sum. This used to be considered a Sunday ritual of “Chinese brunch”. But it’s actually an everyday thing – and not many people know this! This is why I’m reintroducing you to one of the long-standing dim sum houses in Chinatown Restaurant Ruby Rouge.
Have you had Dim Sum before? Carts being pushed throughout the dining room with stacks of steamers piled high filled with small plates to share. Dim Sum dishes are like tapas. Chinese tapas. Chapas, if you will.
Restaurant Ruby Rouge has been a fixture in Chinatown for over 20 years. Hosting Chinese banquets, wedding receptions and other special occasions, they have the largest dining room of any Chinese restaurant in Montreal. Their dim sum menu has been streamlined to 35 classic items for takeout. Cutting out dishes that just don’t transport well for take out and (in my opinion) looses some magic when not prepared fresh and served immediately in the dining room.
Like going to The Orange Julep and NOT having the julep, you can’t go for dim sum without ordering the dumpling trifecta of power. Har gow 蝦餃 (shrimp dumpling), Sui Mai 燒賣 (pork and shrimp dumplings), Teochew Fun Gor 潮州粉粿 (pork and peanut dumplings). I mean, you can, but it wouldn’t be considered dim sum. The Siu Mai are open-faced dumplings that are wrapped in yellow wonton skins and topped with salted egg yolk. Whereas the Har Gow and Fun Gor are wrapped in a translucent wheat-starch skins. They are generously filled and each make for a large plump dumpling. Coincidentally was my nickname at Saturday Chinese school when I was a kid.
They are generously filled and each make for a large plump dumpling. Coincidentally was my nickname at Saturday Chinese school when I was a kid.
Rice Noodle Rolls 腸粉
The rice noodle rolls (or cheung fun) traditionally come in three varieties; shrimp, beef, barbecue pork. Some places will also offer one with a fried doughnut (jaa leung) or with tofu. They’re served with sweet soy sauce. Barbecue pork is champion.
Fried Squid Tentacles 魷魚鬚
The fried squid tentacles are great. Some tender, some chewy, it’s the luck of the draw. Either way, they’re encrusted with crunchy batter that when dipped into Worcestershire sauce, adds a great contrast to the unique briny flavour of the squid.
These fried wontons don’t need an explanation. The shrimpy goodness of a wonton, but fried. They’re served with a side of mayo sauce or do like me, ask for the egg roll sauce.
Salt-Water (Savoury) Dumpling 鹹水角
I’m not exactly sure what these are called in English, but the literal translation is “salt-water dumpling”. Basically a descriptive “savoury” dumpling. I like to call them “savoury mochi dumplings”. The filling is made with ground pork and onion and is wrapped in a thick (and slightly sweet) glutinous rice flour dough. One of my favourites.
Steam Riblets 排骨
The steamed riblets are lightly marinaded with black bean sauce (a bit too lightly with this one). Tender juicy morsels of meat and fat nestled in between crunchy cartilage.
Steamed Barbecue Pork Bun 叉燒包
The bun is bright white because it’s made with milk. So vegans, you might want to avoid this barbecue pork bun.
Barbecue pork buns come in two varieties; steamed and baked. These steamed one are my favourite. The pork filling is sweet and savoury. The bun is bright white because it’s made with milk. So vegans, you might want to avoid this barbecue pork bun.
If you’ve never had Dim Sum before, check out my Dim Sum for Dummies guide to help you navigate through the dishes and etiquette. Dim Sum isn’t just a meal, it’s an experience. An experience due to our current situation, has changed. When you get take out you don’t get to wait in line for the hostess to call your table number over a loud speaker. You can’t give people the stink eye as they walk in before you even though you’ve been waiting longer. You can’t hear the aunties reciting the contents of their carts like song and can’t he faces they give you after opening up each lid to show you and you not ordering anything.
I encourage you to visit Chinatown, pick up food, meet some of the locals and rekindle the relationship you had (or start a new one). So when you finally make yourself down there, don’t just take the hour to Dim Sum, Dim ALL.
Restaurant Ruby Rouge
1008 Clark St, Montreal, Quebec H2Z 1J9