Royal China Baker Street – Dim Sum

One of my very first grown-up food experiences was a regular outing to the Yang Sing in Manchester. I must have been in my mid teens and really, it was the highlight of my week. Compared to the haimische cooking we had at home (think Eastern European peasant food and you won’t go far wrong) it was incredibly exotic.

Looking back, this was quite an adventure, especially for my father, who was fairly conservative in his food tastes. Not only that, but he was fairly kosher as well, which meant that he didn’t eat meat which hadn’t been certified as kosher, nor did he eat any shellfish. That was fairly limiting at the Yang Sing, especially with the dim sum menu, so I think that it was probably as an act of food-selflessness, enjoying our enjoyment as much as anything else, that he took us so often.

Not that he didn’t find something to eat – you don’t get to be five foot four inches and over 17 stone without managing to find a little morsel or two to eat – but it wouldn’t have been his first choice.

And I remember that we had to get there no later than midday, otherwise there was no chance of getting in without major queuing. And we didn’t do queuing.

And what I remember of the Yang Sing then, is that there was no menu and they brought everything round on trolleys and you just chose what looked good. Steamed baskets, piled high, straight from the kitchen. It was incredibly exciting and you never knew what you were actually eating. We tried all sorts of things that, had we known what they actually were, we would have refused to even try, but they came in such pretty parcels and were so delicious, that it was a case of don’t ask, don’t tell.

So we were coming back through the snowy wastes to London and our thoughts naturally turned to where we might get something to eat. we needed comfort and carbs. Blueberry pancakes were mooted, but from that bit of my brain which is constantly thinking about food, there floated into my head a review that I’d read of the dim sum here and I persuaded C that he wanted to try it, more than he wanted yet more blueberry pancakes.

We got there at about 12, and it was already 80% full. It’s not the most glamorous of Chinese restaurants – it’s not Hakkasan, or Yauatcha, but the price reflects that.

The dim sum menu is fairly straightforward, but to help those of us who, like me, sort of know their way around the menu, but could do with a little bit of help, there are photos of some of the dim sum on offer. Yes I know, normally I would run away screaming from a menu with photographs, but here, it really helps.

And I wouldn’t dream of critiquing the dim sum themselves, because this is a cuisine in which I’m not an expert, even though I have demolished quite a few in my time, Three were, however certain dishes that were particularly wonderful and whether or not they were the best in their class, I neither know nor care, because they were utterly delicious.

We ordered the Royal China Cheung Fan. This was three steamed rice noodle rolls, each with a different filling – barbecue pork, prawn and vegetable. The three of them came on a plate of soy sauce. The fillings were intensely flavoured and the mix of textures was interesting. The rolls were the right side of soft and slimy (in a good way) and I ordered a separate portion of the prawn one because, quite frankly I knew that one was not going to be enough.

Then some wonderful delicately-flavoured minced prawn and chive steamed dim sum, wrapped in a translucent case of silkiness. And minced pork and prawn. All interesting textures and flavours and beautifully presented.

Because obviously, a meal cannot just consist of steamed and healthy food, we had to add some bad carbs, but nothing can actually really be bad when it is this good, can it? And the roast pork bun was outstandingly good. Melt-in-the-mouth delicious. Sweet-and-sour roast pork, in a flaky, warm puff pastry bun, topped with a glaze and sesame seeds. I ordered an extra portion as soon as I had taken one bite. Really. And also steamed pork buns, which were light and fluffy, pure white parcels of loveliness, containing a sweet onion-y sticky mixture – the whole thing slightly palate-cleaving, in a good way.

I’m afraid that having only ordered five dishes between two, I panicked after getting the first two and ordered two more. We could have stopped at the five, but that would have been moderate, not something I’m generally accused of in the context of food.

The whole thing came to £35. Brilliant value, great fast food, tasty and interesting – I can’t believe that I haven’t been for the dim sum before now, but I can believe that I will be back again and soon.

And when we left, at around 1, they were queuing out of the door.

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