Sunday, November 03, 2013

London's Chinatown

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Size shouldn't matter, but in all honesty, Chinatown in London seemed disproportionately small considering the the size of the population in general. Certainly one cannot expect all Chinese Londoners to live in one place, but as a central source for Chinese culture, traditional foods and community this chinatown would not set any records. As tourists, we are admittedly there "for the food" where size only counts when it comes to portions of food served in the restaurants.


Having grown up on the Pacific Rim in San Francisco, I was exposed to Chinese food at a young age, so it is an adopted comfort food for me. When I'm not eating pasta or risotto, I'm eating chow fun or fried rice. When traveling we occasionally need a break from local cuisine and head for the local Italian or Chinese restaurant to see how recipes have been adapted for local consumption.

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The young man who was hired to solicit customers into Oriental Dragon seemed so uncomfortable with his assignment that we decided to give him a bit more confidence and eat there, especially when we saw it was a dim sum restaurant, offering few surprises. Although I'm all for trying new dishes, sometimes only the familiar seems appealing. With further investigation it was made clear that the kitchen employs 5 chefs that make specialties from 5 different regions. That was a surprise.


If it weren't for the dim sum, I'm not certain this restaurant would have been as predictable as we had imagined. Luncheon meats and potatoes with vinegar seemed quite an adaption to local tastes.

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Ha gow and siu mai were just what we were looking for on this particular evening. Although no one can make a bad ha gow, it does seem that sui mai is wide open for personal interpretation. While we have been bombarded with the slogan, "Pork, the other white meat." was it too much to expect a bit of color and flavor in this dumpling? Was this siu mai even made with pork? Could luncheon meat be this pale? Needless to say, we did not argue over which one of us would claim the last dumpling in the basket.


Ah, barbequed pork fried rice, another stalwart of Chinese cuisine that seems to translate well, no matter what country in which it is served. This was the taste of home we were trying to find. It's true, we have never met a fried rice we didn't like and this was no exception, however it was not exceptional in taste either.

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Char siu bao, another dim sum staple, was an excellent example of a well rendered interpretation of a classic. While the meal was mundane, that may have had more to do with our ordering than anything else. I should have at least tried the stir fried lily bulbs or the marinated mooli, if only to discover what they were.

31 Gerard St
London, W1D 6JT
020 7734 2763

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