Regular readers will know that I am prone to developing food obsessions – be it ingredients, whole cuisines, sushi (always), a restaurant, a wine, a whatever. This time round – its dim sum. I decided that I absolutely must learn more about dim sum, pronto. So, on Sunday morning a group of us (including Lizzie and Helen – my teaching volunteers), trekked down to Greenwich for a belly busting feast for five. I even skipped breakfast to make sure I was properly ready and hungry for my education and I hardly ever, ever miss a meal so you know I meant business.
It seemed that every aspect of our visit happened on a grand scale. The journey to North Greenwich was convoluted, the place itself is basically a massive open space dominated by crazy skyscraper structures, the Peninsula restaurant is also huge, accommodating a potential 400 covers and the dim sum, well – what was lacking in portion size was gained back tenfold in quantity. I’m just going to highlight the dishes I really enjoyed – because to blog the lot would leave us all rather fatigued I’m sure.
The first dish to reach our table was the jellyfish – exciting for me as I’d never tried it before. Definitely a ‘texture thing’, it has no real flavour of it’s own but comes doused in a mild yet delicious chilli sauce. The toothsome texture was kind of like eating rubber bands (I imagine), but in a nice way (honestly) and strangely addictive. It had me craving it today, the same way that I crave the octopus.
Next to arrive were these yam croquettes – again exciting because I’m really not sure I’ve eaten much yam before – of any kind. Strange considering you can barely walk to my local station without tripping over piles of them. The exterior was light and crunchy and the filling sweet and moreish.
For me, the highlight of the entire meal was the ‘fried dough stick cheung fun’ (above and in the top photo, where Lizzie is pouring sweetened light soy over it). This was honestly the most delicious dim sum I have ever eaten - soft and silky rice noodle roll with the sweet, fried dough stick within. The dough was both crispy and chewy – contrasting textural heaven!
I ticked another one off the ‘must-eat’ list with the turnip cake. I’ve been intrigued by this since I saw it on a few different blogs around Chinese new year and the fried slices had the exact pleasing stodgy texture inside that I had hoped for and a mild savoury taste with little surprise nuggets of bacon, shrimp and mushrooms. The cake, although delicious did highlight my insecurities about chopstick etiquette as it needed cutting into pieces for sharing and I only realised after the meal that there was a separate pair of chopsticks specifically for this purpose. I just hope I didn’t dive right in and greedily snatch anything.
And finally, the custard tarts that I almost didn’t order – even thinking about that possibility now makes me breathe a sigh of relief. Quite different from the British version, that pastry was so very thin and flaky, like shortcrust but layered (the primary ingredient is lard, which explains why it tastes so good). This is filled with a wibbly wobbly bright yellow egg custard – I was forced to eat two. I have no idea whatsoever if these tarts were a good example of their kind but they tasted damn fine to me and I will certainly be ‘testing’ as many as possible, as soon as possible.
So there’s my small selection of the many plates which just kept on coming – steamed tripe with ginger and spring onions, spare ribs in black bean sauce, coconut mousse, squid in satay sauce, beef balls with greens – I could go on. We hoovered up the whole lot rather excitedly if the mess on the table at the end was anything to go by. Come to think of it, the mess was mostly on my side but, like I say, my chopstick technique needs a little work. If I run with my newly acquired dim sum obsession though, I reckon I could be an expert by the end of the month.
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