Chinatown Dubai Mall: Our food guide to what’s hot and what’s not
Dim sum, hot pot, hand-pulled noodles and more things to eat around Dubai Mall’s Chinatown…
Chinatowns across the world – from New York to London – have served as hubs of community, love and culture. And when walking these streets, one thing is abundantly clear: the area’s restaurants are a key part of what keeps the heartbeat of Chinatown pulsing.
Keen to recreate that sense of community is Dubai Mall’s very own fully-indoor Chinatown, which opened quietly in March. While not all the kiosks and restaurants are trading just yet, there are more than enough open to make exploring it this summer worthwhile, with a range of restaurants serving Singaporean classics, Chinese specialities and dim sum favourites. But it can be hard to figure out the top from the slop, and that’s where we come in.
Behold, your faithful guide to what’s hot and what’s not in Dubai Mall’s Chinatown…
Lanzhou Beef Noodles
Food court kiosk: Impression of Xibei
Where better to try proper hand-pulled noodles than a restaurant/kiosk that is the culinary epicentre of northwest China, and the birthplace of hand-pulled beef noodles – Lanzhou. Home to one of China’s significant populations of Hui Muslims, their most celebrated dish is beef ‘lamian’, or hand-pulled stewed beef noodles. Hand-pulled noodles (stretched to a customisable width) is added to halal beef stewed in a clear broth. Fresh coriander, scallions and chilli oil round out the party. The result? An aromatic, hearty bowl of springy, fresh noodles you’ll likely slurp down in record time. Need more noodles? Lanzhou will add extra for free.
Wagyu Beef Buns
Restaurant: Ying Ji Restaurant
An unusual dim sum option, but present on YingJi’s menu, are the delightful pan-fried M7-grade wagyu beef buns. These delicate buns (served as a trio) are first steamed, then fried to create the contrast between crisp and soft, with an aromatic and flavourful beef filling. We taste crispy onions, black pepper, soy and garlic interwoven within all that premium wagyu. The surprising hit of our food crawl.
Soya Sauce Chicken Rice
Food court kiosk: Hawker Chan
Cost: From Dhs19.50
News of the once ‘world’s most affordable Michelin meal’ opening in Dubai certainly set tongues wagging. In Singapore, Hawker Chan is something of a beloved institution and the kiosk inside Chinatown’s main food court is dishing out chef Chan Hong Meng’s signature cheap-as-chips dishes. The most famous is the soya sauce chicken rice. Based on a Hong Kong recipe, the chicken is marinated in soy for many hours, then braised by hand to – typically – create a flavourful and tender dish. Sadly, the Dubai version is anything but. A tough little drumstick – more bone than meat – with chewy skin is served with overcooked rice drenched in sauce, alongside a lackluster egg and broccoli. Skip.
Har Gao and Shui Mai
Restaurant: Ying Ji Restaurant
Cost: Dhs38 and Dhs35
Har gao (shrimp dumplings) and shui mai (open-faced chicken and scallop dumplings) are the king and queen of the dim sum table, and key dishes against which a dim sum restaurant’s worth is weighed. Too little shrimp and no chopped bamboo shoots in your har gao and it’s a flop. Stingy shui mai that’s too dry and it’s all over. Thankfully, the royal contents of these two steaming baskets hit the spot and are served piping hot from the kitchen as juicy, plump offerings.
Restaurant: Haidilao Hot Pot
Cost: Various prices
Hot pot is less of a dish than it is an experience. You and your dining pals cook an array of ingredients – thinly sliced meats, mushrooms, shrimp paste, fish balls, Chinese lettuces, noodles, and more – in a pot of simmering, seasoned broth heated on an electric burner. Once cooked to your liking, you dip your ingredients in a fully-customisable sauce and dig in. Rinse and repeat until extremely full.
While hundreds of hot pot chains exist, the Haidilao brand is one of China’s most famous with over 500 outposts in 13 countries. Here you order off a tablet, scrolling through the menu and adding items to your cart. You can also divide your pot into four sections and have four different soup bases, including a tomato soup base suitable for vegetarians. Once your items arrive, start throwing it all in. Oh, and be sure to order the hand-pulled noodles – purely for entertainment’s sake – as it comes with its own dance show. Gourmet? No, not exactly. But a fun and ever-so-messy hot pot party? You bet.
Fried Beef Strips
Food court kiosk: Nine Squares Restaurant
The OG Nine Squares Restaurant in Jumeirah is actually one of the best spots in town for hot pot, however in Chinatown, their food court kiosk focuses on serving up a handful of pan-fried treats such as prawn and chicken dumplings, spring rolls, and beef buns, leaving the steaming bowls of broth to giants, Haidilao. We tucked into a mighty container of thick fried beef strips. Part chewy, crunchy and heavy on the pepper, we would have preferred it served as shredded crispy beef bites, but still perfectly snackable, especially when dipped into a pot of chilli powder.
Chinatown Dubai Mall, opposite Dubai Ice Rink, daily 10am to midnight. thedubaimall.com
Photos: Jade Wills Photography