Banish all thoughts of orange, sticky, anglicised Cantonese cuisine in foil containers. It’s time to seek out the full variety of China’s culinary offerings at London's new generation of Chinese restaurants...
From the land of rice and fish in Hunan, which you can sample at Yipin China and Local Friends, to the fiery trail blazed by Sichuanese cooking brought to you by JinLi, Sichuan Folk and My Old Place, or even the newly touched upon foods of the north-eastern provinces Xinjiang and Dongbei from the likes of Dilara Uyghur, Top Taste and Silk Road, there’s no need to sniff out the latest regional Chinese restaurant from secret Mandarin printed menus or by word of mouth. The full range of regional flavours is now right on our doorsteps, with a whole new breed of London Chinese food restaurants.
Soup dumplings at Din Tai Fung
Take the arrival of the eagerly anticipated dumpling giant Din Tai Fung, for example. They’re opening their first UK outpost this month, bringing their iconic xiaolongbao (soup dumpling) to the masses. London’s not shy to a dumpling craze, though – the guys behind Dumpling Shack have been churning out their signature shengjianbaos to meet the demands of hungry street food enthusiasts since 2014, and they’re producing some of the best lamb hand-pulled noodles to boot.
Speaking of noodles, there’s been oodles of them making the rounds. Xi’an Biang Biang Noodles is the sibling site to the much raved about Xi’an Impression, newly opened near Spitalfields. Their wide, hand-pulled ‘belt’ noodles, which is one of the Xi’an region’s specialities, is why you’ll join the crowds and get in line to slurp up the goods.
Hotpot at Shuang Shuang
Even hotpot is having a moment. What was once a typical dish for an at-home gathering with family and friends is now luring in diners to speciality hotpot joints like Mongolian-style Little Lamb or Sichuanese Shu Xiangge Chinese Hot Pot, with their all-you-can-eat offers. Before, the concept was relatively unknown to Western palates with only a handful of places knocking about; now, there’s even an anglicised sushi-conveyor-belt-type hot pot experience at Shuang Shuang.
All of this isn’t new to those who’ve been in the know. Regional Chinese food has been around in the UK for over a century. What’s changed is our tastes and attitudes towards the cuisine. All good news for everyone who loves Chinese food of all kinds. There’s never been a more exciting time to sink those chopsticks into today’s expanding Chinese food scene than now.