Dim Sum is always enjoyable when you have a reasonably large group of people and so one Saturday a group of us arranged to meet up at the Royal China in Queensway, London, to partake a dim sum meal together. The choice was also made in part that most of us there went to the same taiji class, and that we all also enjoyed our food very much! What better combination, lots of taiji to combat the food that we love to eat! Well that is my reasoning… Royal China is one of the best places to experience dim sum in London, more for the better quality of traditional dim sum food rather than creative alternatives as other places may offer. For Saturday dim sum, they do not take bookings, so there is always a queue outside the restaurant before noon in order to secure a table. We also had a challenge on our hands for this lunch, one of our party is a vegetarian – this time definitely so, meaning seafood and meat are not part of the diet. The challenge? Well Chinese food doesn’t quite cater for vegetarians – they may say they cook for vegetarians, but they unfortunately forget that they may use say oyster sauce for the flavouring, or cook another vegetable dish in pork fat but still claiming that both these examples are vegetarian dishes. So while the rest of the table were choosing their favourites, I scrutinised the menu to locate dishes that would be acceptable for our vegetarian party. If you are a vegetarian, your options are: the Chinese vegetable of the season stir fried (I went for a Singapore/Malaysian option which is Morning Glory stir fried in a chili sauce, 95% vegetarian), Crispy dough Cheung Fun, vegetarian spring rolls, and vegetarian dumplings. The rest of us had what I call the usual dishes: Prawn Dumplings (Har Gow), Prawn & Pork Dumplings (Siu Mai), Turnip Paste (Lo Pak Ko), Glutinous Rice with Meat wrapped in Lotus Leaf (Lo Mai Kai), Chicken Feet in Black Bean Sauce, Prawn Cheung Fun, Steamed Pork Buns (Char Siu Bao), Yam Croquettes, and Xiao Long Bao.
It may sound a lot, but really you get to taste a few dishes this way. Classically we ordered chicken feet as everyone (not the vegetarians) had to try this at least the once! Needless to say, it was then left to the Chinese at the table to finish off. The other fun dish is Xiao Long Bao – which when made well is a very thin steam pastry filled with pork (traditionally) and soup. It is sometimes referred to as a soup dumpling. The trick to eating this is in one go, and not to break the pastry so that the soup is still contained within the dumpling until you burst it in your mouth. We tried a couple of methods to achieve this: as the soup was hot inside, first was to let it cool down but we found that too cool meant the pastry was very sticky and broke easily; next was to bear the heat of the soup, still not successful as there as a lot of huffing and blowing or when attempted the dumpling couldn’t be placed in the mouth due to the heat.
We did manage to finish the dishes, we actually ordered several dishes of each type, and managed to try some desserts as well, but only just! So that left us with a full stomach and we now required to work off the food that we had just ate.