Was scrolling around social media and got to know about HiCook 嗨大厨 — these folks are not to be confused with a rather similar sounding hotpot chain that has also introduced a concept serving up Chinese noodles that also uses “Hi” or “嗨” in their name, which shares no relation with these folks. Turns out, HiCook does seem like a chain eatery as well, though this concept can mostly be found in food courts and coffee shops instead of— they operate two (2) outlets across the island at the point of time of writing; both of which being located in areas fairly difficult to access to with one being located in the coffeeshop at d’Arena at Arena Country Club in Joo Koon, and another within the air-conditioned food court at Chang Cheng HQ at Woodlands Link. The latter outlet is the one that we had made our visit to, which can be found in between a stalk claiming to serve up Putian cuisine and a stall that specialises in Hong Kong-style roast meats. Both outlets carry the same menu, with the concept being mostly focused around dumplings such as that of Xiao Long Bao and Chinese La Mian. Interestingly, HiCook offers its various La Mian dishes with a choice of noodles or dumplings — the latter seeing the dumplings served in the different sauce bases used to prepare the same dish in La Mian format which is a rather interesting move to say the least.

Whilst it can be said that the locations that HiCook are a little inaccessible, we still made the trip to HiCook’s outlet in Woodlands Link nonetheless given how we had chanced upon their menu which indicated that they were serving up Pan-Fried Xiao Long Bao and Pan-Fried Mini Xiao Long Bao — something that piqued our interest since we hadn’t really quite seen a stall serving up something similar before. It is noted that the Pan-Fried Mini Xiao Long Bao is the one to go for if one is looking for the pan-fried version of the standard Xiao Long Bao that is being served up everywhere else — the Pan-Fried Xiao Long Bao would be the slightly larger version of the same. HiCook offers two (2) options of dumpling fillings for their Pan-Fried Mini Xiao Long Bao; the Pork Soup Pan-Fried Mini Xiao Long Bao and the Mala Pork Pan-Fried Mini Xiao Long Bao — we went for the former; it is also noted that the dish comes in portion sizes of four (4) pieces per serving as well. Do expect some waiting time for the dumplings to be prepared — these folks pan-fry the dumplings fresh upon order, and patrons will be called out to collect their order once the food is ready to be served. On first look, the Pork Soup Pan-Fried Mini Xiao Long Bao comes with an aesthetic that is closer to that of Guo Tie 锅贴 (i.e. Pan Fried Chinese Dumplings); the Xiao Long Bao coming with the crisp “wing” at the bottom. Taking a bit into one of the pieces, the dumpling wrapper of the Pork Soup Pan-Fried Mini Xiao Long Bao was akin to that of most Xiao Long Baos out there; not too thick, with a bite revealing the soup-filled buns with pork filling — the soup carrying a savoury note while the pork filling provides a for a good bite. The undersides were made crisp due to the addition of the wing; the crispness being more akin to that of the same that comes with Guo Tie rather than the more substantive bite that would come with Sheng Jian Bao instead, though it is also noted to be a little bit on the greasier side.

During our visit to HiCook, we had also given some of their other dishes a try. This also includes their Chili Oil & Pork Noodles and Dried Shrimp and Scallion Oil Noodles — both of which being dry noodles, while we also have had the Pan-Fried Dumplings. HiCook offers again two (2) variants of Pan-Fried Dumplings; the Pork Pan-Fried Dumplings and the Chives with Eggs & Shrimp Pan-Fried Dumplings; our order was for the latter. The Pan-Fried Dumplings were more akin to that of the conventional Guo Tie that we are more familiar with, and comes with a portion size of four (4) pieces per serving; the fillings of the Chives with Eggs & Shrimp Pan-Fried Dumplings however felt a little bit on the drier side of things and was a little far from ideal — perhaps the Pork Pan-Fried Dumplings might fare a little better. Between the Chili Oil & Pork Noodles and Dried Shrimp and Scallion Oil Noodles, our preferences leant closer towards the former; the Dried Shrimp and Scallion Oil Noodles just felt like it came a little short of the scallion oil for the elements to come together for a good texture. The Chili Oil & Pork Noodles came with a sprinkle of dried chili; giving the noodles a little bit of a toss gives the entire bowl a note similar to that of Lao Gan Ma-style chili — notably from the chili oil, without being too spicy and should do fine even for those whom are tolerable to moderate levels of spiciness. It also comes with chunky pieces of braised pork that provides for a good bite. One thing that is worth noting about HiCook is the price of their food — the portion of noodles are rather substantial at $4.50 to $6.80 a bowl, while the dumplings start from $3.20 for four (4) pieces of Xiao Long Bao to $5.60 for four (4) pieces of the Pan-Fried Xiao Long Bao. We wouldn’t really call HiCook a must-try spot; and this is especially so given how inaccessible all their locations are — that being said, the Pan-Fried Xiao Long Bao / Pan-Fried Mini Xiao Long Bao does give the Xiao Long Bao a fairly fresh perspective on how the dish could be further spun off