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Chinatown Eats: Tai Pan Dim Sum

Well that was a long and much needed blogging break. Hope you folks all had a wonderful 2010 holiday season and are off to a good start for the new year 2011.

Speaking of which, our office gang celebrated yet another holiday festivity several weeks ago enjoying some Cantonese grindz at Tai Pan Dim Sum in the Chinese Cultural Plaza. Where, needless to say is a MECCA of Chinese restaurants, including Fook Lam, another favorite spot for Dim Sum, and Legend Seafood, just to name a few.

On this lunch hour rush visit, we sort of just “landed in” on Tai Pan, not really sure which specific dim sum restaurant to settle on, since there’s so many to choose in the area. Yet we were lucky to snag a table here without any reservations, even as busy as they seem to usually be, which I suppose would be the equivalent of getting a front-row parking stall in a packed shopping mall on Christmas Eve. Score!

Tai Pan Dim Sum is located in Chinatown Honolulu on the ground floor of the Chinese Cultural Plaza, in the center part nearest to Nu’uanu stream (a.k.a. the river), right across Hifumi Japanese Restaurant (go figure). There’s plenty of validated parking in the CCP structure that costs just $2 flat rate with validation.

Tai Pan certainly packs a crowd, where as I mentioned earlier, we were very fortunate that a table opened up for us upon walking in without a second’s wait!…

Without further ado, time to check out the menu, where the writing’s written on the wall…

Those are their “specials”, while here’s Tai Pan’s regular menu, which they have placed all around under the clear plexiglass covering each round table in the joint…

There’s a display case alongside the entrance of the restaurant showcasing a number of their dim sum specialties, where these are what were featured on this visit…

Dim Sum restaurants are all about speed and volume, and Tai Pan’s certainly equipped to turn ‘n burn..

Here’s the kitchen line where they have a few items prepped and ready to hit the steamers ‘n woks…

Now for our Dim Sum selections of the day, beginning with Baked Char Siu Buns, a.k.a. Baked “Manapua” ($2.45)….

Steamed Char Siu Buns, a.k.a. Steamed “Manapua” ($2.45)….

Seafood Siu Mai (pork hash with a sizable shrimp tail stuffed in the center; $2.45)….

Steamed Shrimp Dumpling (Har Gau; $2.45)…

Steamed Chives Dumpling ($2.45)…

Char Siu Look Fun Roll ($4.00)…

Chicken Feet with Chinese Herb Soup ($3.20)…

Chicken Feet with Black Bean Sauce ($2.45)…

Eggplant stuffed with Shrimp in Black Bean Sauce ($?)…

Deep-Fried Bean Curd Shrimp Roll ($2.45)…

Custard Tart…

Chinese Green Tea…

That’s it. Time to plate ’em up and whack sum dim sum…

And how was it? Everything was excellent. Believe it or not, one of my favorites was the Chicken Feet with Chinese Herb Soup, which in fact was the first time I’ve ever tried chicken feet. Good stuff! “Cartilage-ee” good and kinda’ fatty. Kinda’ reminds me of turkey tail. I also loved their pork hash, which had a nice-sized shrimp tail stuffed in the center, which added a nice flavor and texture contrast to the also-flavorful ground pork.

And you wanna’ talk excellent manapua, I think Tai Pan’s Steamed Char Siu Bun and Baked Char Siu Bun may have Libby’s, Chun Wah Kam and Char Hung Sut beat! Seriously, Tai Pan’s chunky (not ground) char siu pork filling tastes better, IMO.

I also really enjoyed the Steamed Chives Dumpling, Char Siu Look Fun Roll and Shrimp-stuffed Eggplant. EVERYTHING was ono, with not one thing on the table I didn’t like.

As busy as the place was, service was quick and friendly, with our entire dim sum order  arriving literally within minutes and water glasses kept topped throughout the meal, as well as our hot green tea pot.

There was just enough leftovers where I was able to make myself a little “doggie bag” for later…

Notice how I strategically placed the black bean chicken foot for a more dramatic, visually stunning exciting presentation. lol

And check this out: that entire dim sum spread which literally covered our table with dishes and steamer baskets came out out to just $55 to feed the five of us. Now THAT’S what you call one awesome “Pake” deal of a dim sum meal! lol

Tai Pan Dim Sum
100 N. Beretania St. (Chinese Cultural Plaza)
Honolulu, HI 96817

Tel. (808) 599-8899

Tai Pan Dim Sum menu (88kb PDF documment; 2 pages)

The Tasty Island rating:

(4) Excellent. Worth another visit or purchase. (Winnahz!)

Two other Dim Sum restaurants also located in the Chinese Cultural Plaza:
Legend Seafood menu
(248kb PDF document; 2 pages)
Fook Lam Seafood menu (418kb PDF document; 2 pages)

For today’s bonus content, we have Hopia (not to be confused with Hawaiian Haupia), a Filipino bean-filled flaky crust pastry dessert that’s pretty much the equivalent of Japanese Manju and Chinese Moon Cake…

According to Diner E, he bought them from the “Fiesta Market” in Waipahu, although he thinks they may have been made by Nanding’s  Bakery(famous for their Spanish Rolls).

How is it? Masarap (delicious/ono/oishii)! What made them especially good was they were still warm and tasted fresh-baked, so the delicate, golden flaky crust just melted in the mouth, while also having an almost buttery-savory flavor to it, including the slightly sweet and smooth-textured azuki bean filling. If you’re  a manju fan, you’ll dig Hopia.

26 thoughts on “Chinatown Eats: Tai Pan Dim Sum

  • January 9, 2011 at 4:32 pm
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    I’ve been thinking about Dim Sum lately. This looks yummy, though I’m way too caucasian to try “cartligee” chicken feet. BTW, did you catch teh latest Top Chef All Stars? The contestants had to take over a Dim Sum restaurant (with their own Dim Sum creations) and they totally got their butts kicked.

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  • January 9, 2011 at 4:54 pm
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    Kristin L, awe, common, give them “cartiligee” chicken feet a try! I bet you’ll love it! Just close your eyes when you eat it. lol

    Shucks, I missed that Top Chef All Stars dim sum episode. I’ll look for it online. Sounds interesting!

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  • January 10, 2011 at 5:40 am
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    Must try this place next time I’m home. I’ve eaten at Legend Seafood which is quite good. We have a few good places here in LV for dim sum, but nothing beats the taste in Hawaii…IMHO. I never used to eat chicken feet, but now I enjoy it with the black bean sauce. It takes some getting used to…that’s for sure. As always, I enjoy reading about your adventures in eating. Mahalo!

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  • January 10, 2011 at 7:17 am
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    all that dim sum looks good!! i want to try that place some day. everytime i go it’s so crowded!

    the hopia at festival market is made by a different bakery. i can’t recall the name…something like manny’s bakery? i don’t know. you have to try the onion one – it’s soo good!! nandings does make hopia but their’s is bigger and wrapped in bundles of 4.

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  • January 10, 2011 at 8:26 am
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    I’ll eat the fried chicken feet in the black bean sauce, but the one in the soup looks a little too…..raw. Now I’m all psyched for the lunar new year, not that I ever need an excuse for dim sum.

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  • January 10, 2011 at 9:46 am
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    Pomai, got back from San Francisco and had dim sum at Asia Garden in Chinatown there. The wait was not too bad for a table but jam pack still for weekend. Other Tea Houses were busy and had to wait 40 mins to 1 hour. Weekends are popular for dim sum due to they served more special type dim sums only on weekends.

    I notice you did not order steamed beef meatballs which are so good but not sure if Tai Pan make them. I like Malaysia steam cake for dessert and steam beef tripe. Chinese family always order a plate of beef chow fun or chow mein with the meal.

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  • January 10, 2011 at 10:40 am
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    Pomai. great a dim sum entry. I like radish cake and taro cake there. Prefer to head there on weekends for more special dim sums serve. Mango pudding is very good too. I always order Singapore fried rice noodle which is curry rice noodle there.

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  • January 10, 2011 at 11:11 am
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    Been to many tea houses and there still endless dim sum yet to sample here and mainland and Asia. There no such thing as that it for dim sum for there still more out there in other places to head to also. I like black sesame roll for dessert if I could find at time.

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  • January 10, 2011 at 3:33 pm
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    Well, I can’t get enough of dim sum so this is best entry ever. Chicken with sweet rice wrap in lotus leave and duck egg jook I would order. Black bean spareribs is must have too. Best to go on weekends for more selections.

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  • January 10, 2011 at 3:57 pm
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    With Chinese New Year not far away many families will have dim sum get together and hand out red envelopes money. I will make sure to order Nai Wong Bow (custard bun) and steam beef meatballs.

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  • January 10, 2011 at 8:16 pm
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    I am whiter than rice and I love chickens’ feet. My Russian grandmother, having experienced deprivation and malnutrition in her life, would never waste food – she’d chuck everything but the kitchen sink into her chicken stock pot, feet included (the chickens’, not hers). Trust me, well cooked chickens’ feet are the tastiest part of the whole bird – almost completely skin and fried to boot! Add some black bean sauce and it’s heaven.

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  • January 10, 2011 at 11:21 pm
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    happy new year pomai! all the best…and wonderful blog post…now i got a hankering for dim sum too!!! :D

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  • January 11, 2011 at 9:57 am
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    Always enjoyed the taro puff and stuffed bell pepper with steamed beef meatballs which not sure Tai Pan have it but other tea houses does. Singapore Fried Rice Noodle is a regular with me along Shanghai Soup Dumplings. Desserts are mango pudding and bak tong gow and black sesame roll, lai wong bow which my family love very much.

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  • January 11, 2011 at 2:30 pm
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    I agree there more dim sum to try in other tea houses that so different and special there will never be a end to it I like fried shrimp balls, stuffed tofu and deep fried crab claws. The steamed tripe with black bean is to go for.

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  • January 12, 2011 at 8:29 am
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    Being a Dim Sum Fan since a child I always looking for new kind dim sum out there to try. I travel to Asia for business and make to stop at Hong Kong, Singapore and Taipei for their very interesting type of dim sums different from states.

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  • January 13, 2011 at 7:10 am
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    Pomai, I see you went on weekdays for I like weekends for dim sum trekking. I buy at dim sum shop by but do my heavy dim sum eating in tea houses and it always best to go on weekends for more specialty type dim sum have to offer in many tea houses. It may be crowded but worth the wait for table to enjoy the specialty dim sums.

    Oh yeah this is best entry ever on DIM SUM!

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  • January 13, 2011 at 10:40 am
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    Looks yummy! I love your blog.

    This is off the subject, but I just wanted to suggest that you try Futaba (located in Waipahu), if you have not already. They have Japanese/local food. It’s worth the drive. Check them out on Yelp. Based on reading your blog, I really think you would like it.

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  • January 13, 2011 at 7:42 pm
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    Miss the dim sum in HI (Yong Sing, China House) however, found two places in Southern CA. Sea Empress in Pacific Square in Gardena (Redondo Beach & Denker) and Szechwan (PCH & Oak) in Lomita. There’s another place on PCH & Narbonne as well however, have not tried them since they changed owners. I use to go there a lot when it was Regal Palace & Ken was the Manager for Dim Sum and Red Bean Soup. Best to go for Dim Sum on weekends when they have all the Special ones not served Monday – Friday.

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  • January 14, 2011 at 6:38 pm
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    PA, there’s so many other Dim Sum restaurants that we had up for consideration. From Panda Cuisine on Koreamoku street, to Royal Garden in the Ala Moana Hotel. The Chinese Cultural Plaza has so many to choose, it all comes down to who can seat you first! Several of you folks mentioned how there’s many more choices on the weekend. I’ll have to head on down there one weekend and try that.

    Erin, never been to Futaba before. I’ll certainly take you up on the recommendation and try it on my next drive out there. I’m always game for some oishii butterfish!

    Kimo, I wouldn’t say this was a stellar entry from a writing standpoint, although I did post plenty of pics!

    Michael, how similar or different is Taiwanese cuisine compared to that from Hong Kong and mainland China?

    Vickie, well I thought Tai Pan’s menu had a pretty broad selection. The most important thing is that each dish has it’s own signature, and it’s not like you’re eating the same thing in a different form, which I understand it sometimes can be at ho-hum Dim Sum restaurants (ho-hum’s not a Chinese name, although that’d be funny if it were! lol).

    Richard, now Stuffed Bellpepper is something I’d be ALL OVER! Love that! I can just imagine a Bell Pepper stuffed with Pork Hash and Hum Nyee. Yum!

    Raph’, I bet there’s plenty of Chinese restaurants out in your part of Cali’.

    XiuFetish (nice name), thanks for clarifying that it was the chicken feet in the pot and not hers. Because you know, I’d have thought otherwise. lol But yeah, them chicken feet are good stuff! I’m certainly a newly indoctrinated fan! Now as for Chickenfoot, the band (JOE SATRIANI * CHAD SMITH * MICHAEL ANTHONY * SAMMY HAGAR), I need to listen to more of their stuff. Only heard a few tracks, yet it sounds promising!

    Erica, don’t forget the Gau.

    Kelike, you’re yet another one recommending the weekends for best Dim Sum selection. What’s with weekends having more stuff than the weekdays? Is there some symbolism going on here? Or do they just think people eat more on the weekend?

    Patty, please explain a Black Sesame Roll.

    Aaron, now Mango pudding is something I must try if they have it. Probably not right now in the middle of winter.

    Amy, you know, come to think of it, I’m surprised we didn’t order any starch (rice or noodles). Especially considering most folks in our group are the “gotta’ have rice” types. Me, I’m good with the “Atkins” style of eating. I actually didn’t do any of the choosing, but let our veteran Chinese food expert Diner AA do the picking. And everything she chose was ono!

    Spotty, the Chicken Feet in the Chinese Herb Soup wasn’t raw at all. It was super succulent and fall-off-the-joint-bones tender!

    Vegas, Legends has a more elegant and upscale decor, and with that, you pay a higher price. A better choice if you’re entertaining business clients or a date. Yet Fook Lam and Tai Pan are definitely the best bang for the buck, and probably one of the greatest restaurant values you could find ANYWHERE on this island.

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  • January 15, 2011 at 9:56 am
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    Pomai, as Kelike recommended, you get the biggest selection of dim sum at many Chinese restaurants on weekends. That’s even true here in Seattle. Much of that is due to the fact that they have more customers come in on weekends so it’s worth it for them to spend the $ and time to prep additional items.

    There is one Chinese restaurant near my house (in the ‘burbs, which is not the greatest place to get Chinese food here) that gets mostly white customers on weekdays and a pretty standard dim sum menu. However, on weekend you’ll find the Asian families lining up and out the door, and all the specialty dim sum dish loaded up and brought from table to table for your inspection!

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  • January 15, 2011 at 12:17 pm
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    Pomai, the pictures of black sesame rolls is on google in pictures of black seseame rolls. It ground up sesame seeds and tapiocal starch and sugar and water pour into a pan and steamed till firm and roll like jelly roll and slice into rolls. All tea house have it for dessert.

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  • January 15, 2011 at 12:32 pm
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    It easy to see it different from Hong Kong and Canton style dim sum for Taiwan have culture of people who came from Fujain and Yunan part of China. Food are Fujain and Yunan or known as Hakka style. Taiwan also have food from Northern and Southern China too. Dim Sum there is in Taiwan is indeed different yet now have tea houses that Hong Kongnese due popular of Dim Sum.

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  • January 15, 2011 at 1:12 pm
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    Pomai, people get more specialty on weekend which tea houses do not make on weekdays. It good reason for die hard dim sum eaters instead of the regular typle serve on weekdays. Notice you did not order steamed spare ribs my gotta have item.

    My family also order mango pudding for dessert with the black sesame rolls too.

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  • January 15, 2011 at 4:25 pm
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    People goes to Tea Houses on weekends for not eat dim sum but Enjoy the specialty selections they have only on weekends which worth the wait for it. If it just regular type then go weekdays is fine.

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  • January 15, 2011 at 10:40 pm
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    When you order the mango pudding, get it with the milk poured on it. Was it evaporated or condensed milk? I can’t remember but they’ll know what you mean.

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  • January 19, 2011 at 2:49 pm
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    The herbal soup is something not all customers should try due it still medicinal. I try it sometime ago and got blood pressure gone up and heart beating fast from it. In Taiwan many people came down ill from herbal soups serve in restaurants and health dept is trying to stop restaurants from using this medicinal herbs it food.

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