How has it been 4 months since my last foodie post?! Since Chinese New Year is coming up, I thought I’d share my enthusiasm for one of my favourite cuisines. I’ve gone on a bit of a journey, starting off with questionable all-you-can eat buffets, attempting to navigate Chinatown and eventually trying the real deal in Hong Kong. I’m always trying to educate myself on the different regional specialities (it’s a fun hobby) and sample dishes that are different to your typical takeaway fare.
Seeing as I’m always eyeing up Winnie’s feasts over on her Instagram, I thought I’d ask her for a few insights on how she celebrates Chinese New Year, before sharing some recent London eats!
‘Chinese New Year for most people is about togetherness and celebrating with family and friends, with added traditional elements. We’ll always eat fish as it’s seen as good fortune (the word for fish ‘yu’ sounds like prosperity) and it’s served whole with the head and tail.
There’s a superstition that you should order an even amount of dishes (odd numbers are usually eaten after funerals) so I’d suggest fish, a vegetable dish and something like chicken. Dumplings are also good as they’re seen as lucky and symbolise wealth, as they look like Chinese silver inglots (coins).
A lot of the foods we eat are usually homonyms (words that sound the same, but with different meanings) and it also relates to things you can and can’t do during this time. The word for hair sounds the same as fortune, so you wouldn’t want to cut your hair over New Year. I’ve already had a trim to avoid this!’
A lot of people seem to have fond memories of Royal China. It’s basically dim sum heaven. There’s six bustling branches in London, each with an extensive menu featuring Asian delicacies that can be hard to track down. If you’re new to dim sum, then I always try to order the winning combination of cheung fun (a soft rice noodle roll filled with meat or seafood), siu mai (a firmer dumpling where the filling is visible), glutinous rice wrapped in a lotus leaf and steamed pork buns.
The textures may seem strange at first but it’s all part of the discovery (turnip cake has really grown on me, it’s actually shredded radish and rice flour) plus it’s exciting to see the baskets stack up. The waitresses here will warn you if you’ve ordered too much and the service is pretty swift.
Thanks Royal China for inviting me along!
Does anyone else hear about a restaurant and obsess over it for ages? This definitely happened with Mama Lan. I first went to the tiny Brixton branch a good few years ago and now there’s six locations dotted around the capital. Their thing is Beijing-style street food. Like most concepts, founder Ning Ma started off with supper clubs and wanted to recreate the dumpling and snack stall her family used to run. There’s none of that uncomfortable heavy feeling here, dishes are filling but light and the menu covers noodle dishes, snacks and those all-important dumplings.
If you want to understand more about the process, they offer dumpling-making classes at their Stratford East Village branch. I had an inkling that it’d be tricky but the process of folding is something else. There were a few explosions when it came to my batch, but obviously I still had to test them…
Duck Duck Goose
When you find a restaurant that reminds you a little bit of your blog layout, you know you’re in a good place. Duck, Duck Goose brings old-school Hong Kong cafes to the tech-savvy and pastel obsessed (there are plugs on the walls, so no need to worry about missing the ‘gram). It links together two of my favourite things, kitschy interiors and BBQ roast meats and they’ve even brought over a custom-made duck dryer from Hong Kong to keep things authentic.
Try the jazzed up greens (they’re making sprouts happen), classic roast duck or Prawn Toast Revisited, which has become a bit of a talking point (think succulent prawns, kewpie mayo and a whole lot of garnish). The desserts also sound amazing and the concept fits in well amongst Pop Brixton’s eclectic start-ups.
Let me know if you plan to join in this weekend! Next on the list is a revisit of Silk Road, plus I’m looking forward to the arrival of Din Tai Fung…