Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Anti-Takeaway: In Search of Decent Chinese Food in London


Before I'm due to go "home" back to Washington, my mom always asks the same question.  "Hey, do you want to go to Vancouver?  If so, we have to book the Radisson early."

You see, every so often (read: frequently), my family and I make a pilgrimage of sorts to the shrine of Chinese food, which lays in the heart of Vancouver, B.C. in a little city called Richmond.  Richmond is now overrun by ex-Hong Kong Chinese, many of whom emigrated to Canada after China's 1997 takeover of Hong Kong.  For us, it means we are closer to some of my relatives.

But it also means that we're that much closer to really, really, really good Chinese food, which isn't as readily available in Seattle (and certainly not Edgewood).  And that's why we go.  

The best way to explain, describe, illustrate, etc. our trips is by the following example of a typical day's schedule:

12:30 pm - Upon arriving and passing Canadian customs, pull into parking lot of famous wonton noodle house and eat copious amounts of wontons and noodles.

1:15 pm - Pull out of parking lot and drive to the Chinese mall next door to eat "snacks" in the Food Court (mango milkshakes, sweetened condensed milk on 2 inch-thick toast, etc.)

2:00 pm - Check into hotel.

2:10 pm - Call restaurant to reserve a table for dinner.

3-5 pm - Snooze

6:00 pm - Dinner at the famed Sun Sui Wah restaurant in Richmond, where they serve fresh whole fish, dungeoness crab, etc.
8:00 pm - Return to hotel to watch television.

11:00 pm - Leave hotel to go to the number of 'late night' restaurants that are open for "midnight snacks" i.e. platefuls of noodles, congee (Cantonese style rice-soup with various ingredients) and more condensed milk toast, etc.
12:30 am. - Return to hotel to sleep.

Next Day - Repeat, with slight variations.

It is a good idea to starve myself a week in advance and go prepared with indigestion tablets, as I often need them.  The hotel does have a pool and gym which we occasionally use but there simply isn't enough time between the eating.  And I never bring my skinny jeans.

I admit it.  I haven't tried very hard.  But I can't seem to find really, delicious, consistent and most importantly, authentic Chinese food in London.  I've had my share of Chinatown fare and aside from Wong Kei (which greatly amuses me as horrified non-Asian patrons are subjected to the Wong Kei style of no-frills service, including unsmiling waiters who slam plates of food down and ignore desperate pleas of "Excuse me ... excuse me ... could I have some more ... oh nevermind") and another Taiwanese eatery (can't remember the name) on Gerrard Street, I haven't encountered anything I'd enthusiastically recommend or for that matter, visit again.  On the other end of the Wong Kei spectrum are places like Plum Valley and Yauatcha, which are grossly overpriced but offer "gourmet" Chinese cuisine.  However, I still consider these two establishments to serve fusion, rather than authentic, Chinese food.  I'm not saying I don't enjoy honey and champagne-infused fillet of trout, I sometimes just want the fish cooked in the pure, traditional Cantonese style - with lots of spring onion, ginger, sesame oil and soy sauce. 

In the meantime, I'm waiting for my friend Cherry to get back from Hong Kong so she can enlighten my tastebuds.  Please hurry.


  1. delicious. and now i want chinese food even though i just ate lunch and couldn't possibly eat anything at the moment.

  2. Thanks, Rhea! But that's the point ... stuffing yourself even though you're full ... try it ...!


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