Vietnamese spring roll
Prawns, noodles and vegetables wrapped in rice paper served with chilli fish sauce
A month. I can't believe it's already a month that I've been in London and a third of my Basic diplomas are over. Wowsa. Time just flew by and it kinda feels like I've been here forever. To be honest I don't have any feeling for time whatsoever anymore... One reason might be that I had 48 hours of class this week, also on Saturday, and I volunteered at the Superior Cuisine event aswell. Loved it. Just like I'm totally loving all of this! Is it weird that I could already well up simply thinking about the fact that this is gonna be over sometime?!
Char sui bun
Honey barbecue pork in a fluffy white bun
Well anywho. As I had a crazy busy week I wanted to do something relaxed today and what would be better than food? Coz it's not like I'm surrounded by food 24/7, right? hehehe. Ever since I went for Yum Cha in Sydney I wanted more of it but as that's always around lunchtime, which clashes with my schedule, I decided on the very similar Dim Sum instead.
Spinach and prawn wrap
Prawns rolled in spinach, steamed and served with a light garlic and ginger sauce
Conveniently enough there's lots of lovely Asian girls at school whom I asked for some inside scoop on London's Dim Sum scene and they recommended several places. The deal was sealed when I was told Ping Pong offered "Lazy Sumdays" where you can gorge yourseld on as many dim sum as your heart desires for a set prices. Bargain or what?! Ping Pong in Soho it was on today's sunny London Marathon Sunday afternoon.
Prawn on toast favoured with coriander and garlic sprinkled with sesame seeds
The placed is in a very central location just off Oxford Circus and has a modern and refreshingly un-Asian interior but I can't say I was very impressed with the service... I was expecting a buffet but really we could just order whatever we wanted from the menu, excluding certain dishes like Chef's specials, and it was freshly prepared for us. The selection was pretty good, the food always arrived scoldingly hot and stacking up all the baskets in front of us was fun.
Scallop and shitake dumpling
Scallops and king prawns with shitake mushrooms in wheat four pastry
Altogether we ordered 17 things. That sounds like an awful lot, doesn't it? We did leave pretty full and quite tired but hey, it's supposed to be quite healthy food... I think. Some dumplings I liked more than others and some I wasn't exactly fond of at all. Yeah, scallop & shitake dumpling I'm talking about you. You smell funny and no, you didn't taste very nice either - which is why I ate all of half a piece. The prawn toast was pretty boring and dry, too.
Crab spring roll
Crab meat with prawns, coriander and chilli in crisp pastry - two served with Thai fish sauce
Of course there's other " little steamed parcels of deliciousness" which I loved. BBQ pork buns, oohh yum. I first had them at Yum-Cha where everybody was mad about them and so they obviously were the very first dish I ordered. Twice. There was also this really lovely Prawn, coconut and water chestnut soup: a fragrant coconut soup with king prawns, straw mushrooms and water chestnuts of which I forgot to take a picture, boo.
Spicy pork dumpling
Pork and spicy sautéed vegetables in translucent white pastry
One dim sum in particular left me puzzled because I simply didn't know how to eat it exactly... Was I expected to eat the lotus leaf or not? I will never know but at least I tried fearlessly and chewed on it until I decided it was too rubbery to enjoy and preceeded to unwrap the rest of the dish. Not that this tasted anything like I expected either. All I could taste was rice and then some but surely no duck and tropical foods.
Duck, orange and pineapple
Two steamed parcels of sticky rice with duck, orange and pineapple wrapped in a lotus leaf
That's the thing with dim sum, sometimes I'm not really sure what they taste of were it not for the labels on the baskets... All I know is that most of them taste better dipped in one of the sauces, Hoisin sauce in particular.
Chicken and cashew nut dumpling
Chicken with chopped cashew nuts in a chilli hoi sin sauce
... which is what these little gems were served with. I can truely say these were the surprise hit of the day and therefore I re-ordered them. The reason I went for these in the first place was funnily enough to humour my boyfriend. He used to always go for Cashew Chicken at our local Chinese take-out back in Galway and it was the blandest and most boring dish ever. The reason I told him he could never ever order it when I was around - a good decision because it ended up broadening his culinary horizon. Something I've been working on for quite a while now, successfully at that. There was nothing bland about these dumplings though. They tasted much more exciting and delicious than the ones you would initially think better and more special. Never judge a dumpling by its reputation!
Crispy prawn ball
Chopped king prawns and spring onions in shredded egg pastry served with sweet and sour sauce
Don't these look like aliens? Or something living in the ocean. Utterly funny to eat, I didn't even know where to begin! Very crispy and crunchy indeed and served alongside a delightful sauce which didn't taste anything like your usual sweet and sour sauce.
Black prawn dumpling
Delicate black pastry with King prawn Chinese mushroom and garlic butter
Maybe it's just me but these don't really look as appealing as they sounds, or do they?! A bit like alligator eyes and the black of the pastry is suspicious-looking. I felt like the prawns were never really taste-able in any of the dim sum and these tasted mostly of garlic and I'm still wondering what it was that made the pastry black...
Scallop and prawn with onions and ginger in flaky puff pastry
If there's one thing I've really had enough of recently it's puff pastry. Indeed, you figured correctly, we made puff pastry in school last week and we'll be doing it again for pâtisserie this week. So no, I didn't order these for myself but I tried them anyway but they didn't impress me greatly. Probably because of the puff pastry.
Prawns and scallops in a pastry made with carrots
The Vietnamese spring rolls, these seafood dumplings and the squid cakes were nice although I could neither see or taste the noodles in the spring rolls. The spinach wraps tasted mostly of spinach and not prawns but the crunchy and very unexpected fried onions made for a great contract in texture against the soft legume and added a surprising flavour unusual to Asian cuisine.
Just now I'm coming to the conclusion that dim sum just mightn't be about being able to taste what exactly is in them but rather their interesting over-all flavour. Then again some can be quite bland and you need the sauces to pimp them up and the dipping takes them to a whole new level. They're meant to be eaten whole and dipped, that's the key to enjoying dumplings.
Chilli squid cake
Squid, prawns and coriander with chilli served with fish sauce
Trying all the different little dishes was fun and in general it was a nice dinner. Most of the dim sum tasted good and it's to be expected that you can't love every single one of them. I mean we did try 17 different ones after all! They were fresh, well made and delicate but at times not as exciting as their descriptions made them out to be. It stands in no comparison to Yum-Cha though.
The service was somewhat of a let-down but not when it came to our actual waitress serving the dishes as she was nice and smiley. It was that we were seated, left without any further explanation when we asked about the special offer and ignored for a while that was frustrating and didn't make for a good first impression. Neither did twice receiving a wrong bill which is why I would probably go and try different dim sum restaurants like Royal China first before going back to PingPong. The lazy sumdays offer is great value though: It's Sunday, you're lazy ( i.e. not in the mood for cooking ), hungry and in want of (dim) "sum"? Pardon the pun but do try for yourself!