榮茂茶室 Low Yong Moh Dim Sum Restaurant @ Jalan Tokong Melaka
Unknown to most tourists who only know Jonker Walk as a shopping district with a weekend night market, this area located on the northern banks of Malacca River is commonly known to the locals as “Melaka’s Chinatown”. Flanked by Heeren Street and Harmony Street on its sides, there are many old surname clans and locality associations, i.e. the Hokkiens from Eng Choon 永春, the Hakkas from Fui Chiew 惠州, and the Cantonese from Kong Chew 冈州 and SamSui 三水 found here, just to name a few. These clans and associations once helped their fellow kinsmen who either bore the same surname, or came from the same hometowns back in China before migrating to this region is search of better livelihoods, in numerous ways, including finding lodging and jobs, writing letters to the families back in Mainland China, providing a venue for folks whose families are not here with them to get together during celebratory activities and festivities, and of course to as simple as finding someone who could speak their same colloquial tongue to talk to, exchange news and gossips with, just to ease those moments of homesickness.
Over time, many Chinese eateries and small delis also sprung up around these clans, selling foods which the folks were familiar with, like hailam kopitiams near the Hainan Association, and of course 榮茂茶室 Low Yong Moh Dim Sum Restaurant along Jalan Tokong.
The restaurant lies near the junction of Jalan Tokong and Jalan Hang Lekiu. “Tokong” means “temple” in Malay as the small road is aptly name so for the 3 prominent places of worship, the Malay mosque Masjid Kampung Kling, the Indian temple Kuli Sri Poyyatha Vinayagar Moorthi and 清云亭 Cheng Hoon Teng Chinese temple that lie almost side by side one another along the narrow lane. This is also why this street is also known to some as “Harmony Street” for the peaceful coexistence of these spiritual centres without much conflict throughout the decades.
榮茂茶室 Low Yong Moh Dim Sum Restaurant opened in postwar 1947, making it one of the oldest restaurants in Melaka still in business! The ancestry of the Lows who runs this family business originated from 海丰 Hai Fung，a 客家 Hakka district in 汕尾县 Shanwei region in 广东省 Guangdong province. This probably explains the appearance of some items from Hakka cuisine on the menu. The business has been passed down the generations and even the little boy in red sleeveless tee shirt appearing in the blurred photo above who is the younger son of the current towkay helps out with the family business over weekends and during school holidays. The shop opens really early, before 6 am and quietens down after the morning 饮茶 “yum cha” crowd dies off when the dim sum items run out as well. Come earlier to avoid waiting for too long for a table and be expected to share a larger table with other dim sum dollies…
While they do have a menu on the wall in Chinese, it is a lot easier to get the items you want directly off the restaurant staff who would walk around the tables carrying a large bamboo steaming tray peddling the “menu of the day”. Don’t be surprised that many of their staff are actually non-Chinese foreign workers who speak comprehensible Mandarin! It is a common sight all over Melaka nowadays.
The 糯米鸡 lor mai gai (steamed boneless chicken over glutinous rice) was quite good! The chunks of chicken are soft and succulent, and very well seasoned with an assertive taste of pepper which I like. The rice was a bit on the mushy side though but still tolerable. Boleh makan la!
The 叉烧包 char siew baos are not too bad either. Not quite traditional Cantonese dim sum standards but these remind of old school Chinese steamed buns which we enjoyed as young children. I like it for the fact that the meat filling wasn’t dyed to a grostesque red with artificial food colouring like some other dim sum joints, but the meat filling could do with more seasoning though..
Their 流沙包 lava custard buns as we were told is a fairly recent addition to the menu, owing to the ongoing craze for anything lava-like with salted egg yolks…
The filling was runny alright but it was way way way too sweet for my liking, killing off any hint of salted egg yolk which might have been used. I won’t recommend this for anyone who seeks to have classic dim sum fare here.
The 荷叶饭 steamed glutinous rice wrapped with lotus leaves was apparently another very popular item, as we saw a “package” on practically every table. I like the texture of the glutinous rice here better than in the lor mai gai, with a bit more bite and the rice being somewhat more “individually grained” compared to the former. That said, it really depends on the amount of time one takes to steam these parcels. The chunk of meat in the middle however, was on the dry and fibrous side. It could do with a bit more fat actually as the oil it renders would permeate into the rice grains and Chinese mushrooms beneath nicely. Perhaps they have avoided using pork belly bearing into consideration the “healthier lifestyles” adopted by modern day folk. I still like my dim sum the old school way…
We also had the standard 烧卖 siew mai and 虾饺 har gau. The former ain’t the best we’d had but not too bad either. But don’t expect any 蟹皇 crab roe topping here of course. The har gau on the other hand were quite a disaster really. The skin was thick and somewhat dry around the edges. These clearly lack what one would expect from decent har gau, let alone good ones. Best to avoid to avoid disappointment.
One “interesting” thing we saw on the menu are stuffed brinjal and tofu which one would expect in 客家酿豆腐 Hakka yong tau foo. This shouldnt come as a surprise as hakka and cantonese cuisines do have significant overlaps in dishes, and also paying homage to the ancestry of the first generation owners as I’d mentioned earlier. It is also quite common to see 酿四件 in the dim sum menus in Hong Kong. The flavours however are more adapted to the palates of the locals, enjoyed over a dipping of bottled chili sauce. I prefer the brinjal version over the tofu one personally.
Fried tofu fishcakes… not very proper dim sum I must say but really kids friendly I reckon? We ordered out of novelty but would probably not do it again… same with the fried items wrapped with pandan leaves…
Foodwise, this place has more misses than hits for us. That said, it is really popular amongst the Melakan locals, with a good number of tourists as well when we were there. The quality of their food reminds me of those supper dim sum joints we have here in Singapore like 旺角点心 Mongkok Dim Sum and 揾到食 Wan Dou Sek at Geylang. Definitely not the same calibre as what we would expect of dim sum restaurants in Hong Kong but not too bad either. Afterall in dim sum culture, the surrounding 饮茶 “yum cha” ambience sometimes takes precedence over the food itself. If you happen to be staying nearby, like the numerous guesthouses along Jalan Tukang Besi slightly further down the road nearer to the river, enjoying a few types of dim sum over Chinese tea might be a viable early breakfast option before you get on with your day of sightseeing…
榮茂茶室 Low Yong Moh Dim Sum Restaurant
32 Jalan Tokong，75200 Melaka, Malaysia
Opening hours : 5 am to 1 pm but usually sold out around 9-10 am. Closed on Tuesdays