I have to admit that I am slightly obsessed with asian-style dumplings. There is nothing better than biting into those hot flavoursome parcels. I look for a light delicate casing gently steamed and perhaps then fried on one side with just the right balance of meat and herbs. My obsession has led me to try out dumplings at restaurants all around London to find the ultimate dumpling.
Situated in the heart of Chinatown on the corner of Newport Place and Newport Court, what first drew me into this old-fashioned caff with it’s cheap plastic seating was the lady hand making dumplings in the window. At a time when some Chinatown restaurants order frozen dumplings in bulk it was a refreshing change.
My friend and I order one lot of boiled Beijing dumplings and one of fried Beijing dumplings (both around £5 for eight dumplings) as well as some Pak Choi to share and each of us got a bubble tea.
If you haven’t tried the bubble tea it is either a milky tea or fruit blend with sago balls at the bottom of the drink. The first time you have it is certainly strange as you suck up the large black chewy balls in-between sips of your drink.
The dumplings came fairly quickly and while there is no finesse in their presentation, the taste of them makes you quickly forget this. The dumplings were juicy packages of pork meat mixed with spring onion and Chinese leaf. The fried ones had just the right amount of crispiness and there is the choice of soy sauce, chili and traditional vinegar soy for dipping.
This is not a place for a long leisurely lunch but for a quick bite lunch before the theatre or when you have a craving for fabulous dumplings, this place should not be missed.
Jen’s Café, 4-8 Newport Place, London WC2H 7JP
Based just outside Paddington station, this modern sophisticated restaurant provides traditional Chinese fare. On this occasion we decided to mix dumplings with a main of crispy duck.
The shanghai dumplings with pork (£5.80) were the perfect potstickers and we seriously considered ordering more if we hadn’t already ordered mountains of food for the two of us. We paired these with some fried Vietnamese spring rolls (£6) which were light and crisp and paper wrapped roasted pork ribs with lemongrass & chilli (£7.80) which looked spectacular but were a little dry.
The crispy duck, which we had with seasonal morning glory, was perfect despite the somewhat sticky pancakes.
It was only later that I spotted the cheung fun so I’ll have to revisit soon to try these. A great place for a casual date and if you book online through their website you can often get 25 per cent off!
Pearl Liang, Sheldon Square,London W2 6EZ .
This was a trip out with the girls and being Belle’s About Town, the waitress quickly sat us at the table in the window which was lovely for us as we got to watch the world walk by as we enjoyed xiao chi (small eats). Think of it as a Chinese style tapas where rather than order a main course each, you order a load of small dishes that you all share and enjoy.
The cuisine is primarily from the Sichuan region of china with a few dumpling dishes from the lesser known Xi’an of China and is the culmination of a menu developed by restaurateur Shao Wei and Fuchsia Dunlop.
The potsticker dumplings were out of this world, generously packed with a delectable filling and a crisp bottom that provided the perfect crunch on biting into them. The boiled chashou were silky soft and the pork filling combined with the chilli soy sauce a perfect balance. Similarly the lotus leaf buns were expertly executed as light fluffy dough with just the right balance of filling. The dan dan noodles, where you mix on the flavours yourself was fun but culinarily a little boring.
A great place to go with the girls before a night out in Soho.
Ba Shan, 24 Romilly Street, W1D 5AH
Ping Pong, the chain of dumpling restaurants, sells itself as providing ‘little steamed parcels of deliciousness’ but it has a lot to live up to. It’s contemporary interiors and cocktail bar show that it is strongly aimed at hip urbanites.
There is a wide range of steamed dumplings though if you are allergic to or don’t like prawns you may have to go with the vegetarian menu as most of the dim sums have them mixed in.
The dumplings are satisfactory – a little sticky and a bit bland but it works well for large groups who want trendy surrounds.
The mushroom and spinach dumplings were popular with the girls while the meatier king prawn and coriander was a favourite of the guys.
If you’re in the West End they have an all-day healthy set fixed menu which is good value at £13.99 and at only 487 calories, positively virtuous. Dumplings cost between about £3.40 and £4 for three.
Visit Ping Pong’s website for locations.
If we are talking dumpling restaurants then Yauatcha is the Rolls Royce of them all. The food is not just about flavour but also about presentation. It has minimalist surroundings and the food also has a pared-down style.
Every type of dumpling and Chinese style appetiser is on the menu whether it be steamed, boiled, pan fried or deep fried. The siu mai (pictured) is soft and elegant with subtle flavours. The char sui cheung fun had the right balance of sweet pork and silky wrapper. The beef ho fun was another flavoursome choice here.
Considering the designer minimalistic interior if you avoid the mains, Wagyu beef and expensive drinks than it can be a rather reasonably priced night out. However for that fancy date or special occasion – Belle says push the boat out!
Yauatcha, 15 Broadwick Street, London, W1F 0DL.
picture credits: ZagatBuzz; Johannes Kleske; Kake Pugh; kendiala/Kim; su-lin; Claire Shah]