TK Yamada, who spent more than a decade working and roasting for other cafés, now has his own spot with an extraordinarily pleasant lānai.
KaSnack Attack! Yung Yee Kee’s Famous Dim Sum Are at 7-Eleven Hawai‘i
So how do these dumplings hold up to convenience store treatment?
If you aren’t a frequent visitor to 7-Eleven Hawai‘i, let me tell you a well-known secret. They have been killing it with their ready-to-eat food offerings. No longer are these just Spam musubi, hot dogs and manapua, but tasty newer bowls such as ramen, pho and saimin and trendy local items like Spanish rolls from Nanding’s Bakery and Pomai Kūlolo from Kapa‘a Quarry Road. Now this list includes dim sum from Yung Yee Kee.
I learned this from a post on Yung Yee Kee’s Instagram announcing a collaboration with 7-Eleven Hawai‘i. In short, some of the restaurant’s most popular dim sum items are being sold at 65 7-Eleven stores statewide. That is impressive, since as far as Honolulu’s dim sum restaurants go, Yung Yee Kee is the new kid on the block. As a big fan, I had to find out: Can these convenience store versions make the transition from yum cha to oh yeah?
Every Single Thing You Need to Know
Located on Kapi‘olani Boulevard in front of Ala Moana Center, Yung Yee Kee has been drawing crowds since opening in early 2020. The reason is its attention to detail, starting with quality ingredients, and veteran chef Yu Kit Rong, formerly of Chinatown’s Legend Seafood. Yung Yee Kee’s dumplings, meat dishes and signature salted egg custard bun are consistently well-executed and delicious.
Not all of Yung Yee Kee’s dim sum is at 7-Eleven. You can find the following, selected for their taste, durability and ability to maintain quality:
- Three-piece combo dim sum: two pieces of har gow and one Chiu Chow-style half-moon dumpling, $5.59
- Sticky rice dim sum, two pieces for $3.99
- Salted egg custard manapua, two for $4.11
In the stores, these items are not identified with any mention of Yung Yee Kee; in fact, they’re mixed in with similarly unlabeled bao buns and other manapua from Warabeya USA, 7-Eleven’s commissary partner, so even store clerks may not know the difference. And they’re in both the heated manapua case and the refrigerated section. For the sake of consistency, I bought these items from the chill box and reheated them at home.
The sticky rice is the most enjoyable of the three and provides a near-restaurant flavor. Wrapped in lotus leaves, the packets of mochi rice studded with plant-based meat, dried shrimps and Chinese mushrooms retain their moistness after being microwaved for 75 seconds. I could eat just these for lunch with a small dish of chili crisps and shoyu for dipping.
The har gow, my go-to at any dim sum eatery, is plump and fulsome. The same can be said for the thin-skinned Chiu Chow dumpling, a vegetarian offering filled with colorful succulents and crunchy bits. Note that these dumplings need to be eaten soon after being reheated, as the wrappings tend to harden when cooled down. If you are at home, heat one package at a time to get the best result.
My personal favorite at Yung Yee Kee, the salted egg custard manapua, delivers good flavor, but microwaving makes the steamed bread a little gummy and overly chewy. If possible, get this one from the store’s steam box or steam it at home. The filling holds up to reheating and maintains that distinctive salty-sweet flavor and velvety molten texture that made me such a big fan.
Overall, Yung Yee Kee’s convenience store dim sum is quite enjoyable, another solid success for a quick 7-Eleven meal or snack. Next time hunger strikes and you’re near a 7-Eleven, give these packaged dumplings a try. And don’t forget to let us know what you think.
SEE ALSO: A Dim Sum Crawl of Chinatown