I am a creature of habit and I have my favourites when I go for dim sum. These mainly involve sticky barbecue pork in various unlikely casings, such as the slow burner Char Siu Cheong Fun. This is the aforementioned syrupy pig meat rolled in a freshly made steamed rice roll, glossy and glutinous. The dish is perfected with a generous pouring of sweet soy sauce. First impressions might leave a lot to be desired: the Cantonese alternatively call it Chee Cheong Fun: literally ‘pig intestine noodle’ as it resembles the small intestines of a pig. But don’t let that put you off because this dish is is as tasty as it is globular.
The pork is marinated using varying recipes, often with a mix of honey, five spice, red fermented tofu, dark soy, hoisin and rice wine. The result is tender meat smothered in a ruby rich glaze, superbly balanced by the gooey rice noodle. Another alternative is Char Siu Baau: the same pork filling encased in something quite unique, a steamed bun. I’d never seen or tasted anything like it before: the ‘baau’ bun feels pillowy, warm and moist. Imagine a sticky pork stuffed cloud and you’re close.
You need some crunch to contrast all that fluffiness, so order some fried sesame prawn rolls. The pastry is light and crackles as you bite through to the soft pink prawns in the middle. We always get squid chips to go alongside this- essentially deep fried crispy squid with a sweet chilli dip. They look like delicious fishy Nik Naks. But don’t actually ask for squid chips unless you want some funny looks and irate mutterings in chinese directed your way.
Last time we went we experimented with a few new dishes with happy results. The first was scallop dumplings, delicately steamed little bundles of joy crammed full of minced garlic chives, ginger and scallops wrapped in skin thin wanton paper. These were plump and juicy and very fishy. Second was Shangai dumplings, or Xiao Long Bao, soupy mouthfuls of pork, crab and roe. To create the soup inside the dumpling, the inside of the skin is lined with aspic, a savoury meat gelatin that melts when steamed, creating little soupy dumpling cups that burst when you bite. Delicious.
Lido is one restaurant among many in China Town that would have to be recommended to be discovered. The design is a puzzling clash between chic modern and the stereotypical trappings of chinese restaurants. Walls are lit in pleasingly muted pastel tones, with an impressive glass wall to the back of the restaurant lit up like the Northern lights. The tables are simply adorned with white paper clothes and fresh flowers. But drop your chopsticks and you’ll notice a depressingly beige carpet sullied with the foot traffic of hungry diners. Hang your coat on the back of your chair and you’ll notice a tatty cushion and cheap looking oriental lattice in the woodwork. But these are small flaws in what is overall one of the best priced (dishes hit around the £3.50 mark) and freshest dim sum restaurants in all of London. We strongly recommend.