Saturday, 7 August 2010

Dim sum ...and then some...

I do love dim sum - those novel little packages of flavours, the ceremony of sharing dishes, the antiquity of the bamboo containers, the ritual of chopsticks, tea and soy sauce, celebrating each morsel for what it is. Yum.

China Town in central London is the obvious place to have a tasty dim sum meal, and places like New World are a fun experience, with waiting staffing pushing round trolleys coming round with dim sum offerings. Like an old school Yo Sushi. But there's dim sum life outside WC2 and in the last couple of months I have had some excellent dim sum at Yum Cha in Chalk Farm and Shanghai down the road in Dalston.

I went to Yum Cha on a warm Saturday evening before heading to a gig nearby. We had the most tender spare ribs in a rich mandarin sauce, juicy deep fried squid, prawn and pork dumblings, steamed honey roast pork bun, chicken shrimp and rice wrapped and steamed in a lotus leaf. All were fresh and authentic, and very good value for money when the bill came in at £11 each including a beer.

Yum Cha is quite a big place and wasn't too busy, considering that it's slap bang in the middle of Camden Town and is very affordable. If you live in the area, they do dim sum delivery - a novel concept.

For Pete's birthday I took him out for a dim sum lunch at Shanghai on Kingsland High Street in Dalston. We rocked up at about half two on a bustling Saturday afternoon, the main road brimming with all walks of life and the extremists: extreme hipsters, extreme evangelists, extreme Communists. Shanghai, a former eel, pie and mash shop is all tiled walls and tiled floors - a hangover from when Hackney was the main domain of the Cockneys. Some of the tables are in benches and booths in that front section, but the majority of the restaurant is in a fairly traditional parlour style restaurant with chintzy d├ęcor and linen table cloths.

The dim sum was totally top notch. We had fried cuttlefish and coriander cakes, which were salty, juicy and chewy in perfect proportions and served with a shallow dish of broth for dipping. The chicken spring rolls had real, discernible (!) bits of chicken and were packed full of tasty bits. Steamed buns with barbecued pork were soft, fluffy and then sticky in the middle and very satisfying, and the steamed dumplings (vegetable dumplings in carrot juice pastry, crystal prawn dumplings, steamed minced meat & chive dumplings) were also perfectly formed and flavoured.

The bill was a scandalously good value £18 for six dim sum portion, drinks and service. And there are savings to be had if you go for dim sum between 3 - 5pm, even on weekends. Utterly scandalous for such delicious food. Being just 10 minutes walk from my flat, I know I'm going to be a regular diner at Shanghai!

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