THE ROYAL CHINA

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Middle and Little Brother went back to school yesterday. Until the Easter Holidays, they're resigned to a fate which, if not worth than death, definitely involves the consumption of more bland, stodgy food than is recommendable. Family tradition dictates that the day before they catch the school train, we head to the Royal China in Queensway and ordering enough dim sum to sink a battleship. 


I'm half Chinese, and we were raised by my Ma with a smattering of Chinese customs. We celebrate Chinese New Year, give our first paypackets to our Grandmother... and we're all fanatical about dim sum. My family are die-hard veterans at the Queensway branch of the Royal China (some of the staff  remember me in my highchair), and despite foody friends dragging me to almost every dim sum outlet in London, and in the Far East, I can still put my hand on my heart and say that this is where you will get the best dim sum in the World.

I'm considered very useful by my friends, as I am fluent in Restaurant Cantonese. I can politely and charmingly converse with a waiter, and without uttering a word in English, can order everything we want to eat and drink, thank them profusely, and get the bill. It's pretty impressive (little do they know, that's literally the full extent of my Cantonese. Ssh, our little secret, ok?).

I thought I'd show you my hit list - these are my very favourite things to order, in ascending order. This may be useful to any dim sum noobs, where as connoisseurs can feel free to shake their heads and sigh at my blurry food porn (camera issues).

6. LUO BUO GAO


This is amazing. It's let down by it's description though, which most first time eaters are put off by. It's a pan-fried turnip cake. When done wrong, it's either stodgy, or watery. But at the Royal China it's always right, and excellent at that.

5. CHAR SIU BAO


Little clouds of heaven. Char Siu is saucy barbecued pork, cushioned in fluffy sweet dough. When I lived in Beijing, a woman sold these from a market stall outside my flat. They were a daily staple. My waistline suffered, but it was totally worth it.

4. CHAR SIU SOU


The same filling as the Char Siu Bao, but this time encased in sesame-flavoured puff pastry with a sweet glaze. I can't tell you which one I prefer based on taste. However, these are smaller, therefore taking up less tummy room, therefore you can eat more. Boom! Logic.

3. HA GAO


Ha Gao is, to my family, the yardstick by which you judge the overall quality of a dim sum restaurant. Prawn cooked in thin, translucent skins, they are delicious, but very tricky to cook correctly (I struggle to steam frozen ones). The mark of good Ha Gao is that the skins shouldn't stick to the basket, and they shouldn't fall apart when you pick them up with your chopsticks.

2. HA CHEUNG FAN


Another prawn-based treat, Ha Cheung Fun is very popular with my family (we tend to order a dish each). It's served with a thick soy sauce, and I recommend you hold on to your dish when finished for dipping other dumplings. The main reason that this is such a popular restaurant dish is that it is utterly impossible to make yourself - trust me, I've tried. Order lots, eat it fast while it's still hot, and regret nothing.

1. XIAO LONG BAO


My all-time favourite dim sum dish, Xiao Long Bao are a Shanghainese specialty - soup-filled dumplings. The first time I ever encountered them, I bit straight in, unawares, and covered my dining partner in soup. It was very embarrassing.

To eat these bad boys without showering your loved ones in soup, carefully pick one up with your chopsticks, and put it onto your spoon (CAREFULLY! Tearing a dumpling is the second worse way to  lose your soup).



You'll be provided with some vinegar with shredded ginger. Pour a little onto your dumpling, and then take a small bite out of the bottom and suck out all of your soup. You may then eat the rest of your dumpling, and then sit quietly in wondrous refection for a couple of minutes.

The Queensway Royal China has the best Xiao Long Bao I've ever eaten outside of Shanghai, and that is high praise. These little dumplings of joy are, officially, my favourite. Dim sum. Ever.

By this stage of the meal, you'll be feeling that you cannot possibly eat another bite. This is where you're wrong.

Say hello to my little puddin' friends...

LAI WONG BAO


These are deep fried egg-custard buns. They are so good. I say I'm full. I concede when my brothers ask if I want any. I always say I'll have one. I always steal a second from one of my brothers, because they are just that good.


There isn't really a western dish I can compare these to. Crisper, and somehow less oily than anything we have deep-fried (in no way here am I belittling deep-fried Mars Bars, which are a guilty pleasure of mine), they save you from getting pudding guilt because they're tiny and really not too sweet. Sometimes when I'm walking past the Royal China, I cannot help myself, and pop in to pick up a takeaway portion, which I run away with and eat in Hyde Park, Whatsapping pictures to my brothers to give them ultimate food envy.

So here you have it. My most indulgent meal (it's reserved for holidays, birthdays and the like, so it's allowed). If you're hankering for some dim sum, I cannot recommend the Royal China highly enough. It always has a lovely buzzy atmosphere from the families, dates, and business parties, the staff provide impeccably good (if a little impersonal) service, and I think that the dim sum is unrivalled. They serve dim sum from 12-5 seven days a week, but be prepared to queue if you come at the weekend, as you can only book Monday-Friday.

You can find the Royal China at 13 Queensway, W2 4QJ, or make a reservation at 0207 221 2535.

I have to go and prepare myself some lunch now, writing this has made me hungry.

Mona.

6 comments:

  1. Oh man. I am starved. This is a really great post because I love dim sum but never have a clue what I'm really ordering! =) xx

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  2. this place looks amazing, I am salivating over my keyboard here. xx

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  3. I really want to go there now. And I really want you there with me to order it x

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  4. :) This is cute. And a good tradition. Also, now I want to get dim sum! Funnily enough, I lived in China for 3 months and I think the only thing on this list that I tried was the xiao long bao. My boyfriend might be visiting London in a few months; I'll have to tell him to stop at this restaurant :D

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  5. I have been craving dim sum forever. I need to go to my family's fave place!! :) And I love all those yummy things.
    xx

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  6. Looks delicious - thanks for sharing your dim sum secrets!!!! x

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All love notes are gratefully received. If you have a burning question, though, it would be better to hit me up with an email.

Mona x

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