I love dim sum but I have never approached it in a structured way as I don’t have the breadth of experience to be able to do so. I mean this is a cuisine that I have never eaten more than 15 times a year in my entire life.
As with Japanese cuisine I think there is a particular skill that some people who have the requisite experience and interest in it can have and that is being able to order for the entire table. When done properly the order will encompass everyone’s likes and dislikes and result in a meal which entices people to try dishes that are new to them but will still leave everyone full and smiling at the end.
Before I fly off to live in HK Mr Noodles offered to take me on a proper dim sum outing and use his experience to show me the pacing and variety of a proper dim sum extravaganza. Not being an idiot I said yes.
So on a sunny Saturday a couple of weeks ago Mr Noodles, Krista, Su-Lin, Jen and I assembled in “Paddington Basin” to take advantage of Mr Noodles’ offer and eat at Pearl Liang. Pearl Liang and its dim sum has been reviewed to hell by various bloggers and I have to say I agree with them. It is very good. The only equivalent I have had in this country used to be Yauatcha but I fear their good days are behind them (to be the subject of a later post).
Therefore this post is more of a picture story of the basic components of our meal and a desert revelation (below). However, one thing I would note. Pearl Liang is tacky. It is lo-brow Hakkasan in decor. It is the Ikea of Chinese decoration. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. It is situated in Paddington Basin which is estate agent speak for a new build sink hole of averageness by Paddington Station. Pearl Liang does not seek to be more than its surroundings. This is a real shame as the food is very good and if they stole Alan Yau’s interior designer they could come up with something quite special.
Putting the dim sum and the surroundings to one side everything Mr Noodles ordered was exceptional. It was also exciting to try dishes I have not come across before and to also hear a bit of history on each type of dim sum and how it had developed from various culinary influences within and outside China. The one slight disappointment were the soup dumplings or xiao long bao which were a touch dry and prevented me from burning my mouth with their inner broth.
The greatest success was, however, something I didn’t expect from a Chinese meal and that was from the pudding. We have all had Chinese egg tarts and seasme balls before. They are fun but not a revelation. Then Mr Noodles ordered what I would describe as a custard Chinese doughnut. It was goddamn amazing. Its proper name is a deep fried chrysanthemum custard bun or guk fa lai wong bao. I would happily get in a taxi right now and cross town just to have one. Amazing.
All in all it cost £20 odd a head. This puts meals I have recently had at places like Viajante (here) in stark contrast. Viajante cost 6 or more times the price per head than the dim sum at Pearl Liang and I would rather have pitch perfect dim sum and the best desert I’ve had in months 6 times than fluctuating haute Bethnal Green cuisine anyday.
Price – £20 to £25 a head
PS thanks for Mr Noodles for being such a great ringmaster. If you look at the link on his name above he gives a cheat’s guide to ordering effectively in a dim sum restaurant which I will be relying on in Hong Kong