Inside The Bangkok Rooftop Bar Breaking The Rules of Dim Sum
06 Jul 2021
Dim sum was made to pair with drinks. They’re bite-sized, full-flavoured and packed with enough spice and fat to stand up to wine, beer and cocktails. So, why aren't they a staple on every bar menu?
“Traditionally, dim sum is served with hot tea,” says Bruce Hui, the Jiangsu-born head chef at Yào Rooftop Bar in Bangkok. “It’s meant to wake you up and provide fuel and a caffeine kick for the morning.”
Which is why it’s surprising that Hui has put dumplings, baozi, and Cantonese-style barbecued meat front and centre on the menu of a cocktail parlour that only opens after dark. But to Hui, it makes sense.
“In a city so rich with nightlife, it struck me that no bars were serving this style of food,” he says. “But if you think about it, dim sum is the perfect food for late nights. The weather here might be too sultry for hot tea, but boozy drinks pair just as well and won't give you that caffeine buzz.”
Perched on the top floor of the Bangkok Marriott Hotel The Surawongse, Yào Rooftop Bar is a fitting setting for a dim sum feast. Chinoiserie lattice screens, marble-topped tables and birdcage lanterns throughout the multilevel terrace evoke visions of 1920s Shanghai. The signature drinks riff on oriental flavours – think lychee, anise and mango – and come served in floral teapots or under ying-yang garnishing. They’re also excellent matches for Hui’s light, dim sum-inspired bites, many of which have been adapted from the menu of his modern Shanghainese-Cantonese restaurant, Yào, one floor below.
Serving breakfast for dinner isn’t the only way Hui is subverting dim sum tradition. While his recipes are rooted in culinary history, they often contain surprising twists. According to Hui, there are only two prerequisites for a dim sum dish to be considered good.
“It needs to be fresh, and it needs to be delicious,” he says, allowing himself ample room for experimentation.
His take on har gow, small bonnet-shaped shrimp dumplings, is a case in point. Instead of being wrapped in the usual translucent dough, the dumplings are made with a dough infused with squid ink and only reveal their contents – a rich mix of shrimp, cordyceps mushroom and foie gras – after the first bite.
Foie gras isn't the only unorthodox ingredient in Hui's kitchen. His Peking duck pancake rolls are served with caviar and hoisin sauce spiked with wasabi. Yào’s scallop shu mai is topped with salmon roe and Hui uses black truffle. While these luxe ingredients lend pizzazz to a visit to Yào, their purpose goes beyond shock value.
“By using ingredients like foie gras and wagyu, I can achieve a rich mouthfeel without having to use lots of lard and oil,” says Hui. “The same goes for caviar. It brings out the salty seafood flavour so I can dial down the sodium.”
While this style of east-meets-west cooking is delicious, it’s certainly not traditional. Does Hui have to contend with a voice in his head that chastises him for breaking these age-old culinary rules?
“If I was still at the beginning of my career, I might've been hesitant,” says Hui who has spent more than 20 years cooking throughout Asia and the Middle East. “Now, not anymore. I've been exposed to so many cuisines throughout the years, it's much easier to embrace different ideas. Plus, Bangkok is such a fascinating city. People here are very open to new flavours and experiences. I have access to so many great ingredients. It'd be a shame not to use them.”
Taste signature dim sum at Yào Rooftop Bar at The Bangkok Marriott Hotel The Surawongse, Thailand.