Tuesday, 27 January 2009

royal china baker street

a 9 to 5 work week doesn't lend itself easily to dim sum eating. generally speaking dim sum is an afternoon offering. royal china serves it between noon and five and i'm not entirely sure i want to be having dim sum at tea. so i decided to capitalize on a day off from work to indulge in some chinese dumpling eating. my dim sum afternoon was nearly threatened by a rather harassed and packed last day with my mum who was due to fly back to pakistan the following morning at a very ungodly hour. however my perseverance (more like immense disappointment) managed to rescue my dim sum plans. and luckily for me royal china served up such good dim sum that even mum was glad that i had pushed for it.

mum and i are both partial to steamed dim sum. i personally feel that there is greater delicacy and depth in steamed offerings... there is satisfaction in seeing a semi translucent pastry that gives only a hint as to what is inside the dumpling. the vegetarian dumplings were round with a twisted crown studded with a fresh pea. the prawn dumpling assumed a semi prawn shape, it's crescent edges softly crimped. the scallop dumplings were a fuller semi circle and bursting with flavour. the chicken and mushroom buns were fluffy and had an edge of sweetness that contrasted well with the strong salty flavour of the meat and mushroom filling. along with the bite sized dim sum i ordered the cheung fun – these are longish flat dim sum made from rice noodle sheets that come resting in soy sauce. the beef ones come stuffed with a combination of beef and water chestnuts that offset each other well. of course no chinese meal is ever complete without tea and a very meticulous waitress kept refilling ours.

to end our dim sum experience mum and i decided to try some of the sweet offerings. i've always associated fruit as the end of a chinese meal and was quite intrigued by the dessert dim sum. eventually we settled on an almond bean curd with fruit cocktail and steamed sweet egg custard buns. the almond bean curd came along looking rather unsophisticated but a bite of it proved that its flavours were sophisticated coming through in gentle waves. the texture is smooth and cool and both mum and i could instantly tell that the almond infusion was not artificial essence but a real extract. we both personally felt that the fruit cocktail was unnecessary as it overpowered the delicacy of the almond. what turned out to be the real treat though were the steamed sweet egg custard buns. they came as a trio resting in a bamboo steamer and were hot round white balls with a small sunshine dot to mark the top. when i cut across the centre revealed yolk yellow custard that was thick and dense and tasted rich with the steamed shell of the bun.
so now, when you have a dim sum craving in london, make your way down to royal china and indulge in some steamed deliciousness ending a sweet note.
p.s. whilst writing this entry i discovered that if dim sum were to be translated from cantonese into english it would render it as ‘delights of the heart’.