Tian Ci doesn’t look like much from the outside. From my past conversations with friends, it’s often passed up for other flashier options in West Ryde. What we found inside was a real culinary gem.
Our first visit was during Chinese New Year and we were treated to a three course dinner with multiple mains. We were back the second time with a couple of friends who had never had mock meat before and they really enjoyed the food!
This time, it was lunch so we had a choice of either yum cha or ordering off the menu. As we’ve usually done the latter, we decided upon yum cha. Also, having experienced vegan yum cha at Bodhi in the city, we were keen to compare the two.
We started off with the Vegetable Dumplings. These were really good and did a great job of setting the bar for what to expect. They held together very well and the skin of the dumplings were really thin. There was a generous amount of filling and it was all balanced in terms of texture and flavour.
The Radish Cake was another solid dish. The cake held together and it went well with a bit of chilli sauce and we really didn’t think it lost much from the lack of dried shrimp.
The Pan-Fried Chee Cheong Fun was a real favourite of mine. I always order the plain steamed version with beef so I was keen to try the pan-fried vegan version. I was not disappointed.
Though it didn’t have much filling, the flavour of the crispy bits really shone through, complemented well by the shallots. I really appreciated the Malaysian twist on the dish with the peanut and dark soy sauce to dip with. I’m definitely ordering this one again!
The Char Siew Bao that came out was a good size, bigger than those at Bodhi and we were keen to dig in. They were fluffy and were served really hot. I really enjoyed pulling these apart to see the filling within.
The vegan Char Siew Bao at Bodhi weren’t my favourite so I was surprised that Tian Ci’s version tasted very close to the real thing! The only criticism I have is that I wish they had put more filling in as I was left wanting more.
The Siu Mai were surprisingly small. I wasn’t expecting much from them but when I tasted them, they tasted very authentic with a strong mushroom flavour. The only difference is that this version was quite dense and had a lot of bite to it, more so than the meat version.
The Har Gow was a real favourite of ours. Large and thin-skinned, these pearls of tastiness were bursting with flavour! The imitation prawn tasted very similar to real prawn and, somehow, much fresher.
The Vegetable Tofu Rolls were a recommendation of the owner herself (who, by the way, is always smiling and provides immaculate service). When we tasted it, we could see why.
The rolls exploded with flavour when we bit into them, with the tofu skin releasing the flavour of the sauce and the vegetable filling bursting with flavour. I found this dish really interesting and I would recommend it to anyone who says vegan food is boring!
The Curry Puffs were very authentic and I really enjoyed them. The spice mix they used perfectly matched the one I remember from Malaysia. This took me back to my many family trips to Malaysia, eating at the hawker stalls.
To round off our meal, we ordered the recommendation of our waitress: the Thousand Layer Custard Cake. I’ll be honest, we probably waited a bit too long to eat this cake as we finished our other dishes and needed to order more. As a result, when we we finally got to them, the custard was a little too solid but the flavour was really good; not overly sweet but still creamy for an egg-less custard. It really needed to be eaten warm but we liked it nonetheless.
Overall, this was a comparable experience to other non-vegan yum cha places and I found the traditional setting very charming. The fusion between Chinese dim sum and Malaysian flavours made some of the dishes truly interesting and unique. Tian Ci definitely wins out on value for money and we can’t wait to go back!
Payment: Cash Only