Saturday, 29 October 2011
London - Yum Cha
As a student, it doesn't get better than the promise of half-price dim sum. Yum Cha in Camden offers just that until 7pm, meaning that semi-adventurous lunches and early dinners can be had for little money. Their dim sum menu is fairly extensive, covering the usual dumpling fare to more intriguing cold dishes such as Jellyfish and Sliced Smoked Pig's Knuckle. They have a few nods to other parts of East and South East Asia, but the main focus is on mainland China and Hongkong.
When I went with my friend Sarah, we were both hankering after as many dumplings as we could fit in our hungry mouths (and neither of us like jellyfish). The dim sum dinner menu is packed with different types of dumplings, and we tasted almost all of them, from the gelatinous Crystal Scallop and Prawn Dumpling to the hot and soupy Minced Pork Shanghai Siew Long Bao (normally known as xiao long bao or "xlb") to the steamed and meaty Pork and Prawn Shumai, as well as a good number of others. With four dumplings per serving with each dish priced around the £3.80 mark, the 50% discount really makes a difference, giving penniless students the ability to eat their way around China's favourite snack foods.
Properly meaty, full of ginger and garlic flavours, their skins just the right thickness and texture to firmly hold their ingredients, the dumplings were a joy to keep popping into my mouth. My favourite were the Siew Long Bao as there's something deliciously raffish about sucking the hot and juicy soup out of the skins. The Panfried Shanghai Pork Dumpling were also excellent, the bottoms slightly thicker and a little charred from being fried, giving them a sticky texture that contrasted nicely with the filling.
There were two let-downs. The Honey Roast Pork Buns could have been so much better had their fillings not been so cloyingly sweet and if the puffy white shells had been freshly prepared - biting into these buns should be akin to biting into a pillow made of savoury marshmallow not like fluffy sawdust. Similarly, the ingredients of the Chinese Prawn and Chive Dumpling tasted stale.
For cheap Chinese that tastes like Chinese food in an area trying so hard to be pretentious that having a sleeve tattoo is mandatory, Yum Cha is the place to visit. To maximise your potential for eating your way around China, it is best to go when their very generous deal is on.