Dumplings’ Legend @ Chinatown

Are you wondering if my blog starts to morph into kind of a memoir or time-machine? Easter is just around the corner, yet my blog is still stuck in last January! I am so sorry.
The air quality in London today is absolutely atrocious. My chest feels tight and an urge to clear throat is constant. Let’s hope a fresh weather system will sweep away the smog pretty soon. Otherwise, going outside will be a problem for my respiratory system…

After feasting our eyes on those amazing exhibits at the Royal Academy, Fei and I agreed that we were quite hungry. ‘How about some dim sum and noodle?’ What a damn fine suggestion! So we beelined to the Chinatown.

It was the last day of Chinese New Year celebration and the lanterns were still on display…

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A restaurant famous for dim sum was Dumplings’ Legend on Gerrard Street.
Behind the glass partition by the entrance, the staffs were busy with crafting their highly delectable parcels, siu long bao (小籠包)…

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The restaurant was buzzing with excited diners but an usherette managed to find us a table and we rubbed our hands gleefully while studying a menu. It was a cold night so we both promptly decided upon soup noodle. Fei opted for a bowl of spicy beef noodle and I was to try their house special pork noodle. We also ordered two servings of famed dumplings – prawn & pork, as well as a plate of stir fried green vegetable.

As a starter, our dumplings were brought to the table…

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Each parcel was filled with hot meaty juice which we were extra careful not to burn our lips and tongues by biting into it too hastily. I couldn’t remember when was the last time I had a proper dim sum last so the dumplings tasted extra lip-smacking great!

Then, my pork noodle was served but the bowl placed in front of me was nothing like what I imagined…

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In a large bowl, there were pale broth and noodle only. However, the dish was accompanied by a separate plate with deep-fried pork, which sported a canny resemblance to Japanese Tonkatsu pork cutlet…

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What was I supposed to do with it? Was this breaded pork meant to be added to the soup? I was puzzled. Even Fei had no idea so I decided to eat it as a separate dish since soggy breadcrumb didn’t sound very appealing.

Fei’s noodle looked pretty fiery…

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Her eyes were filled with joy upon sipping her first mouthful of the spicy broth. She had a stomach bug a few weeks ago and had to stay clear of spicy foods since then. ‘Mmm… I think I’ve recovered fully!’

After dinner, we paid our customary homage to Maison Bertaux…

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We shared a pot of Darjeeling tea and I had an eclair…

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The showcase of the patisserie was filled with St Valentines Day theme…

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Each cake with a special message. Weren’t they lovely?…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Kowloon Bakery @ Chinatown

Contrary to the previous day’s wet weather, yesterday was dry and sunny. The air was crisp  but felt clean. Probably, that stormy rain which cracked the ceiling of the Apollo Theatre also gave a good hosing down to the entire city. I donned my vintage fur coat, hopped on a tube and headed to Leicester Square. My primal destination of the day was Trafalgar Square Post Office. I was there to apply for an international driving permit for my impending trip to Japan. Once the permit was sorted, I set out to the National Portrait Gallery, a stone’s throw from the post office…

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I had been wanting to visit the exhibition “Elizabeth & Her People” since I saw the poster in Old Street tube station. Conveniently I was nearby, I thought ‘Why not now?’ So I went in…

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No camera was allowed inside the venue, therefore, there is no picture to show in here.
The exhibition was well curated and if you have an appetite for this particular period of Tudor history, it will be well worth paying £12.50. The show’s final day is 5th of January,  so please hurry if you don’t want to miss out.

Whereupon leaving the NPG, I scouted for a place for late lunch. I wandered into the National Gallery next door and browsed the shelves laden with Peyton & Byrne’s sandwiches but didn’t fancy any of them. Then, I remembered a Chinese bakery on Gerrard Street which I hadn’t visited for more than 15 years. Why don’t I check out if it still exists, I thought.
On my way to Chinatown, I decided to pay homage to a Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square…

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How does the tree twinkle after dark? I probably have no time to see it this year. Should I take the car for a spin around the square one evening during this weekend?

Kowloon Bakery was one of the oldest bakeries in Chinatown…

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I used to take away their roast pork bun and coconut custard bun regularly and ate them as I sauntered around Soho. I also liked their crystal chicken bun – a bun stuffed with chicken & vegetable in clear chicken gravy, so alternated it with a roast pork bun time to time.
Certainly, lots of buns and cakes on display…

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The inside appeared very different from the time I used to frequent…

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Apart from a small goods lift in its original location, which conveyed trays of buns from the basement kitchen, everything else was sleek and modern. Walls were clad with beige ceramic tiles and tables were no longer Formica topped but neatly decked with timber.
A restaurant which adjoined the bakery used to be a normal eatery – foods to be ordered from the menu, but the present one adopted a buffet style serving.

Another way I used to eat my buns 15 years ago was to order a small bowl of wonton noodle soup at the restaurant and ate them together on the premises.
I asked a staff who was putting my buns in a paper bag if I could eat at the bakery rather than taking it away. A rapid exchange in Chinese ensued between a woman behind the till and the bakery staff. And the cashier said ‘Ok, you can stay’. Normally, all the tables were for buffet diners only but they made an exception for me because it was after 2pm and the place was less busy.
I was ushered to the seat and a cup of English tea was brought to my table shortly.

A roast pork bun…

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Mmm… Sadly, the bun I sank my teeth into was not exactly like the one I remembered. The bread was dry and chewy and the filling was not as generous as it used to be.

How about coconut custard bun then…

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The filling was the same as before but the problem was again, their dough. The texture I enjoyed 15 years ago was bouncer lighter and more moist even if it was not fresh like just “out of the oven”. Oh well, 15 years was a long time. Even though my trip down the memory lane didn’t turn out as exactly I hoped for, I left the bakery with a certain sense of closure.
Oh how I wished if I revisited them before too long… *SIGH*

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Day-glo gateaux @ Chinatown

One early evening, I was fleeting through a forever busy Chinatown, dodging, sidestepping and shimmying between the crowd who were in my way like traffic cones on M25.

A usual spectacle attracts tourists and locals alike…

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The steaming window is adorned with ducks and various parts of meat.
And behind it, a chef is busy wielding menacing looking knife.

While those stereotypical Chinese eateries appear as a permanent fixture, Chinatown as a whole has changed significantly in the past decades.

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The site which is now occupied by  Odeon Leicester Square, there used to be a large Chinese restaurant.
The floor was dimly lit and clustered with circular tables in various sizes.
For some unknown reason, there was a stage in the back of the restaurant. Sometimes, a colourful  decoration from the previous private hire was left on the stage, giving out a rather exotic atmosphere.
The restaurant disappeared as Westminster Council redeveloped around Leicester Square, being nibbled away by the wave of gentrification.

In recent years, Chinatown has evolved in… a colourful way!
Behold those day-glo hued cakes…

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Don’t you think it looks like a Barbie doll’s cake shop in a life-size?

The colours are too fantastic to be edible. Are they for real?

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I think they are real. They are definitely not made of wax.
Hmmm… They look mesmerizing…

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