Friday, 27 July 2012

Traditional Sunday lunch - with a twist

If you're a frugal foodie feeling like a change, why not go for a traditional Sunday lunch Cantonese-style? Dim sum is a tapas-esque selection of small dishes either chosen from a selection wheeled round on trolleys or ordered from a menu, and is available in most Chinatown restaurants daily until late afternoon. My personal favourite is Lido - just look for the blue awning near the end of Gerrard Street.

Ask for the dim sum menu and don't panic about the Chinese-only tick sheet - the separate menu has corresponding numbers with both pictures and English descriptions. Simply find the number of the dish you like on the tick sheet and write how many you want (usually one) in the brackets. (Don't include the menu in your Facebook check-in pic and everyone will wonder how you managed it!)

 We tend to order seven dishes between two people, but I may well be greedier than you: for dim sum virgins, may I suggest a selection from the following:

Har gau* - called 'dumplings' but actually prawns steamed in a light translucent wrapper a bit like very thin pasta. Served in a steamer, these will be HOT so be careful - but then don't leave them too long, they are best eaten as fresh as possible. I like mine dipped in a dash of chilli oil, but soy sauce or just as they are is fine.

Siu mai - again, steamed 'dumplings' this time wonton wrappers filled with minced pork and prawns, open at the top.

Cha siu bao - steamed savoury buns filled with Chinese barbecued pork. Light, fluffy and delicious, but very filling!

Cheong fun - flat rice noodle wrapped around a filling of your choice, a little like slithery cannelloni. I'm a seafood girl, so I normally go for the prawn ones, but that's me.

Spring rolls - prawn and yam, or Vietnamese for a change.

Steamed glutinous rice in lotus leaves - this looks very exotic! A little package of sticky rice filled with mixed meats and Chinese sausage, all parcelled up in lotus leaves and steamed. Simply unwrap and enjoy (and don't eat the leaves!).

Turnip paste - yes I know it sounds very Baldrick, but it's actually made with daikon, a Chinese radish/turnip, and finely-chopped meat, cut into slabs and fried - kind of like a very mildly-flavoured Cantonese bubble and squeak, with a comforting texture. Do consider it - I am addicted to it dunked in fiery chilli sauce, I know not why.

Noodles - I'm a big fan of the flat, wide Ho Fun rice noodles with beef, stir-fried dry or with sauce, but these are fairly self-explanatory so take your pick. This will be a big portion, a meal in itself!

To finish - I love the little bite-sized custard tarts, but the coconut pudding is also good.

Some words to the wise. Don't wait for everything to arrive before starting; dishes will be brought to your table as and when they are freshly-prepared by the chefs, so just dig in and make room for the next set of plates and bamboo steamers to appear. Given this, remember the staff will be visiting every table at least five or six times so don't expect them to hang around and smile and shoot the breeze - they are lovely people and the service will be very efficient but you're not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

Traditionally dim sum is served with Chinese tea; if you plump for this option, refills are free and you will probably pay around £15 a head or less, depending on your dim sum choices. If you've over-ordered, just ask for some take-away boxes and there's your midnight TV snack sorted.

* PS: the English spelling of these dishes varies, so I have opted for the most common - not necessarily the ones Lido uses.

Have fun and share nicely,

Girl About Town xx

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