Sunday, May 16, 2010

Dim Sum Brunch at Golden Dragon, Chinatown

I had a case of the green-eyed monster last week when Shannon told me she had gone on a dim-sum making course, courtesy of her partner, Mark.  "It was soooo delicious," she recounted, describing all the tasty dumpling she learned how to make, while I silently salivated beside her desk.  "That's ... great," I managed.  "You'll have to teach me," I squeaked, before running off. 

My family knows how much I love dim sum: whether we're in Vancouver or Hong Kong, they always make sure dim sum (or as we say in Cantonese, "yum cha") is on the cards, otherwise, I get a bit fidgety.  And my grandma tells the same story every time we sit down to the table.  "Jaime ah," she says in Chinese.  "Remember when you were very little, very little, and we ordered ma lai goh [a steamed sponge cake] for you?  Do you remember what happened?"  "Yes, Po Po," I answer patiently.  She covers her mouth as she laughs.  "You poor thing, you really choked on it!"  To put it mildly, I was traumatized.  The thing was too dry and I couldn't get it down my throat.  All I remember was coughing really hard and my mother anxiously slapping me on the back as I hacked up a piece of dry cake.  Then some tears.

So we don't order that anymore.

What I do order faithfully, every time we go out for dim sum, are the Chinese meatballs (which you can see below), my grandfather's favorite dish.  I used to like them when he was still around but since he's passed away, I eat them not only out of personal preference but also in his memory.

So I was pretty happy when my friend Cherry suggested we meet for dim sum today in Chinatown.  Despite feeling ill, I knew the food would be like chicken soup for the soul - both nourishing and comforting. 

Cherry is my go-to-girl for all things delicious in London (and especially for Chinese food).   You see, we kind of met randomly.  And by random, I mean I sat next to her on a 13-hour flight from Hong Kong to London roughly two years ago.  Within minutes of speaking to each other, I opened my beloved Tupperware container lovingly filled with four cocktail buns from my favorite bakery in Happy Valley and offered her one.  She, in turn, let me pick from her bag full of candy as we laughed about the astonishingly crappy food being offered on our Virgin flight (which included chicken so tough and dry, I nearly recreated my ma lai goh scene from my yesteryears).  Needless to say, what began as a torturous flight passed quickly as we chatted and we traded numbers at the baggage carousel. 

For the next couple of days, we exchanged emails and texts, both of us missing Hong Kong desperately and severely jet lagged.  She showed me where I could watch the latest Cantonese soaps online and I watched them when I couldn't sleep.  We met up a few times in Chinatown for food and she even introduced me to a restaurant on my (then) doorstep, Little Bay.

Today we met up at Golden Dragon, before she leaves for Hong Kong on Tuesday, where she's gotten her first job at a private clinic as a physiotherapist.  Now, I know what you've just done.  You've clicked on the link to Golden Dragon and thought, 'I'm not going there, people say it's got terrible service!'  Okay, let me let you in on a little secret.  Chinese people don't do "service."  Okay?  They give you the food, that's it.  Expect sour faces, barking at you, and no smiling.  Not. Ever.  Go to Claridges if you want that.  Go to Wong Kei for some good old fashioned abuse (personally, I like to sit and watch in amusement as guests try to get a waiter's attention, who seems to be daydreaming by the smoked duck in the window:  "Excuse me, excuse me sir ... um ... I don't think he can - oh - excuse me?  Excuse me, sir?  Can I have some - oh fuck it.")

But I digress.

The food is pretty decent.  And on a Sunday, it was packed full of other Chinese families (Cantonese speaking too!) having dim sum.  So that was reassuring.  The har gao wrapper was just ever so too sticky, but otherwise nice and thin and the filling was delicious.  Similarly, the siu mai was just as good.  I usually order the char siu buns (as shown above), but today opted for the custard filled ones instead and those did not disappoint either.  My grandfather's meatballs passed the test and the fried vermicelli with salted pork Cherry ordered was also delectable, albeit a tad salty. 

So I'd recommend Golden Dragon, if you're looking for some decent dim sum in the heart of Chinatown that won't rip your paycheck to shreds (this is not Yauatcha, as our bill came to £21 for two people, versus the £80 John and I usually spend at the Michelin-starred eatery).  But please - don't go for the service.  It simply doesn't exist. 


  1. Jaime, I didn't know you had a blog! Just found this through Facebook, which causes me some second thoughts about wanting to clean out my Facebook account...

    I went to Hong Kong this spring during the school vacation and I loved it--such a fascinating mix of East and West and old and new and all that stuff everyone else has already said but it's true! I didn't have as much Cantonese food there as I meant to, though, because I was so excited about all the western food...

  2. Thanks for reading, Marjorie! I'm so glad you enjoyed Hong Kong - I love it and usually go once a year to visit relatives.


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