YUM CHA: DIM SUM FOR THE ENGLISH
I was in the lift at work the other day. An Australian lass was chatting to her oppo, an English lass, about eating out.
“Anywhere around here to get decent Yum Cha ?”
“Yum Cha ?”
“Yeah – Yum Cha”
“What’s that ?”
“You know - Chinese food, like Dumplings”
“Oh, you mean Dim Sum”
“No, Yum Cha”
“I think you’ll find it’s called Dim Sum”
“No, I think you’ll find it’s called Yum Cha”
“No, you’re wrong, actually, it’s called…“ etc etc
Anyway, the situation escalated, talons were bared, clothes were ripped and there was a lot of jello to clean up afterwards. Once I’d cooled down a tad it got me wondering about the difference between the two phrases. The Brits go for Dim Sum, which is what you eat, but the Aussies go for Yum Cha, which is what you do. I consulted with my boss, who’s from Hong Kong, and he said Yum Cha is what they say over there. And you know what, he’s absolutely right. No doubt or debate about it. So I went for Dim Sum the other day to a place called Yum Cha and it confused the feck out of me.
Dim Sum, sorry, Yum Cha is situated on the stretch of Chalk Farm Road just before it becomes like an Hieronymus Bosch depiction of hell: that fire they had here earlier in the year – it went out far too soon. Anyway grim High Street aside my mood was much lightened by the fine weather. So fine, that even at midday the outside tables were already filled with people sucking on beers and smoking like it had just got banned or something.
Inside, the restaurant was pretty café like and functional with, very incongruously, Reggaeton thumping out of the sound system (A ella le gusta la gasolina indeed). A quick word with one of the helpful staff ruined it for all the kids but I’m sure their parents were silently applauding me (go on, you give ‘em what for).
The Dim Sum menu is a pretty bog-standard affair with all the usual suspects present and correct. But despite this, or maybe because of this, the execution wasn’t bad at all. I suspect most or all of the stuff is brought in – it has to be at these prices - but it’s all cooked to order and is a notch above Chinatown’s increasingly grotty norm.
This was most noticeable in the Baked Char Sui Puff which usually comes, cold, at the start of the meal. These ones came later into the meal and appeared to have been freshly baked and had a good flaky pastry. The Crystal Scallop Dumpling and the Dried Shrimp and Mushroom Cheung Fun were pretty good too.
Taro Croquette were a bit leaden and the tasteless Siew Long Bao gave up their precious cargo of stock as soon as they were lifted.
There weren’t any specials so I went for a couple of the more unusual dishes from the Cold section. Spicy Duck Tongue was in fact lots of duck tongues which were as promised, spicy. They were good and crunchy and oddly morerish. Japanese Baby Octopus were best described as, er, a texture thing. Tea was on the menu as Pu-Er but actually it was ok and although it cost a few quid there were unlimited refills. Like most DS meals it was over quickly but didn’t leave a bad taste in the mouth. And the prices are reasonable too.
I like making pointless analogies so here’s another one: Dim Sum joints as Premiership Football Teams. Assuming Hakkasan is Chelsea (the loathsome Yauatcha being Man Ure, naturally) and say Royal China is Portsmouth, then Yum Cha is probably a Wigan or a West Brom. Not likely to challenge for anything but probably going to stay up. The poor Chinatown examples are of course Newcastle or Tottenham (tee hee).
Post Script. The English girl won by the way. The Aussie girl was fit but she was giving far too much weight away.