Getting to Grips with Chopsticks and Dim Sum at Royal China Queensway:
Of course I’ve tried dim sum before – but, it’s been many years since I went along for a dim sum lunch where the majority of the meal is made up of these little steamed ‘dumplings’. There are a whole variety of different dim sum options, of which the best known are those little creamy coloured steamed mouthfuls, made by wrapping a filling in a thin sheet of wheat or rice flour and then steaming them. While I have vague memories of large quantities of excellent food, someone else ordered the dishes that arrived on our table that time. So, when I was asked to review Royal China, a well known Chinese Restaurant on Queensway that specialises in dim sum, I resorted to asking a friend. Apart from being something of an expert on fine dining, May from Eat Cook Explore also runs a Malaysian Supper Club and has a much better insight into Chinese cuisine than me.
I did put myself almost entirely in her hands – and since the menu was discussed and placed in Cantonese, I really wasn’t sure what was going to arrive on the table. We started with some roast pork puffs – small pastries filled with savoury pork mixture and topped with sesame seeds, which were warm, light and very tasty.
My photograph of the Seafood Coriander Soup really doesn’t do it justice. A light, gingery broth filled with seafood – prawns, scallops and white fish and a generous handful of fresh coriander was packed with flavour and yet beautifully light.
From the assortment of dim sum, my personal favourite was one called Shanghai dumplings. Filled with a soupy mixture, May busily informed me I needed to put the whole thing in my mouth at once. Now, I DID try. but there was no way an entire dumpling was a mouthful. The challenge is that as you bite into them, Shanghai dumplings explode, albeit gently, so unless you are quite skilled, you’ll end up covered in a delicious but perhaps not totally complimentary sticky brown soup mixture. You also have to be very careful picking them up because if you pierce them, you’ll lose the ‘soup’ into the base of the steamer. I have to admit cheating a bit here and using my spoon.
Anyway I survived.
We did seem to have something of a feast on our table. Perhaps the only dish that didn’t quite work for me was Chicken Feet. May tells me that Chinese like meat (and fish) on the bone and that these are something of a delicacy. But, for me, the effort of finding the sweet tender morsels of meat wasn’t worth the pain of the rather unpleasant sinuous parts of the food.
I DID like the crispy duck served in rice pastry which seemed to me like a more refined way to eat one of my favourite ‘easy’ chinese dishes. The rice pastry held together just the right amount of duck filling for even a chopstick novice like me to cope with picking up, dipping and eating.
I also loved the spicy dumplings – which had the perfect amount of ‘kick’ for a lunchtime special.
Our feast continued with three more different steamed dim sum dishes in bamboo steamers as well as the Shanghai and spicy dumplings and a slippery but delicious little number called Prawn Cheung Fun
May told me that the wrapper for these prawns is ideally paper thin. But with my lack of chopstick skills I was probably better off with the slightly thicker wrap that these had. Inside, there were large whole prawns, succulent and perfectly cooked.
Of course the focus of the meal WAS the dim sum. I get a totally illogical delight seeing that stack of steamers each holding a nest of dumplings. Those at the top here are prawn and chive – very light and tasty with what seemed like an impossibly thin wrapper.
It was one of those meals where the food seemed to go on for ever, and yet we still wanted to carry on eating. Somehow May and I managed to eat through almost everything there, including a plate of delicious soft shell crab and the crispy Vietnamese rolls you can see in the front of the photo above. A great introduction for me to Dim Sum – I understand why this place is so popular with groups of friends and large family gatherings, the food is superb and perfect for sharing.
We dined as guests of the restaurant, but our bill, including large quantities of tea would have been just under £64!