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Easily among the top three breakfast bestsellers at Manila Hotel’s Mabuhay Palace is the dim sum basket.

Our dim sum basket toasted bread one fine Manila morning was laden with a very satisfying, savory combo Baked Curried Puff (pictured, clockwise from top): Steamed Savory Bun, Chicken and Spinach ham sui koh Dumpling, Steamed Pork & Shrimp Dumpling, Steamed Barbecue Bun, Hargao, Vegetable Spring Roll Vegetable Spring Roll, Baked Curried Puff, Ham Sui Koh, Toasted Bread, and Radish Cake. Every single morsel we tasted was gratifyingly delicious, but the following are our favorites.

The Steamed Savory Bun is a traditional mantou served sans filling (as in baozi). Before the 18th century, the Chinese regarded mantou and other white breads as a rare luxury. The reason was that, before the Industrial Revolution, wheat flour needed lots of manual processing for it to turn a stark white. This Mabuhay Palace breakfast bun provides a light yet savory contrast to the rest of the basket’s entrees. If it teases your sweet tooth, you can ask for a dollop of condensed milk to eat it with.

The Chicken & Spinach Dumpling garnished with crab roe is decidedly Chinese. The spinach dumpling is a regular entree and side dish in several of the world’s cuisines. One of its most popular mutations is in Neapolitan Cuisine; the Italians call it strozzapreti (priest chokers!). The Italian version is much richer and, perhaps, less good for the health (hence the heart- stopping name) compared to the Chinese version. Mabuhay Palace Chef Joie Candelaria’s take on the spinach dumpling is to create a moderate spicy and salty counterpoint with the chicken.

The Steamed Pork & Shrimp Dumpling, also generously topped with crab roe, is very firm and explodes with flavor at every bite. If you are frustrated by the many awful dumplings available even in Metro Manila’s finer Chinese restaurants, we dare you to try the Mabuhay Palace version. China Business will give you a free two-year subscription if you can find a better pork-shrimp dumpling!

The Steamed Barbecue Bun is the ever popular ‘Siopao Asado.’ The main difference is it will not make you cringe as the over-seasoned commercial version does. Mabuhay Palace’s siopao asado is clean and subtle, yet distinctly flavorful.

Hargao (locally called ‘hakao’ or even, amusingly, ‘hakaw’) is a favorite dumpling of many Chinese food lovers. You can tell just how posh a Chinese restaurant is by the way their hargao tastes. One of the best dishes we’ve tasted anywhere in Manila Hotel (and all hotels anywhere in the world!) is Mabuhay Palace’s Hakao.

Chef Joie says that they keep their hakao’s shrimp beneath running water for one hour! This technique, though not exactly eco-friendly and cost-efficient, makes the plump shrimp firm and very tasty. Even sans soy sauce and calamansi, Chef’s hakao is terrific!

Out of our five favorite Mabuhay Palace dim sum dishes, the best is, hands down, the hakao.

Print ed: 08/10


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