Many people in the UK think they know what to expect when they go to a Chinese restaurant: sticky sweet and sour pork, beef with black bean sauce, egg-fried rice, maybe some wonton noodles and a spring roll.
However, this is not representative of the whole of China – merely the most popular exported cuisine from Hong Kong or Guangdong province: Cantonese food.
According to this article, Cantonese cuisine really took off after the Second World War in Britain, but it is only very recently that other types of Chinese cuisine are starting to gain in popularity.
My wife is from Lanzhou in China’s Gansu province, and the food that she cooks and that I’ve experienced whilst visiting China is nothing like the Cantonese food I know from take-aways growing up. In fact, as is stated in this article, I’m sure that many from mainland China would not find standard Chinese restaurant fare in the UK particularly appealing – and would rather cook for themselves.
However – increasingly there are more options available in London to try ‘Mandarin’ food from provinces like Sichuan or Hunan. Here’s some of our favourite restaurants and some of the great dishes that they serve:
- Leong’s Legends, Soho: There’s two of these in Soho, both serving the same top-notch delicious dishes. Try the Shanghai speciality ‘Xiaolongbao‘ – little chinese dumplings surprisingly filled with hot soup! ‘Braised Pork Belly’ is very tender and delicious too.
- Old Place, near Liverpool Street: You have to try the long ‘BBQ Lamb skewers’ with cumin – delectable at £1 each! Pair it with a huge bowl of ‘Poached Sliced Pork in Hot Chilli Oil’ and some rice for a great after work meal for two.
- Sichuan Folk, near Brick Lane: Try the ‘Hot Pot’, not to be confused with Lancashire Hot Pot! This is a bubbling cauldron of hot water and spices, which you then drop in wafer thin beef or vegetables to cook in front of you. A great dining experience to try with friends!
As further research for this article, we asked a 2000-strong London-based Chinese community mailing list for their top recommendations for restaurants, and here are the results (to suit a range of budgets and in no particular order):
- Hakkasan, Tottenham Court Road and Mayfair
- Kai, Mayfair
- TianFu BuYi, Shepherds Bush
- Hutong, in the Shard
- Yipin China, near Angel
- Silk Road, near Oval
- Local Friends, Bethnal Green
- Ba Shan, Soho
- Bright Courtyard, near Baker Street
- China Tang, Green Park
I don’t know how adventurous your taste buds are, but I intend to try some of them out. See you there!
- Chinese Food in the Eye of Chinese (keay207.wordpress.com)