After over twenty years of knowing the magical Stealth, I was pretty sure there was nothing left that she could shock me with. That was until we were discussing where to go to eat a couple of weeks ago and she loudly announced ‘I don’t like Chinese food’. Not only was this a terrible surprise, but it was also rather inconvenient as at the time I was attempting to try and entice both her and the Ewing to walk to Lewisham to eat lamb skewers and hand torn cabbage at Silk Road. (It will happen.)
I’m also sure, when this assertion is put under more scrutiny, it’s not entirely true. I seem to remember many of afternoons spent as students eating kung po chicken and prawn crackers at the Noodle Bar in Wycombe, and Stealth herself has often claimed noodle soup is her favourite food. I also feel obliged to point out at this point here is a woman who subsists almost entirely on frozen broccoli and chicken kievs and eats her breakfast cereal out of a mug, and therefore surely can't claim to be an arbiter of good taste (apart from, of course, in her choice of friends).
Luckily, she claims, this dislike doesn't extend to dim sum (or, under further interrogation, crispy beef or Peking duck), which is fortunate as she lives, literally, a stone’s throw from the great red doors of Dragon Castle; purveyors of some of the best value, hangover-blasting, dim sum London Town.
It was also lucky that we had all awoken on Sunday relatively hangover free (primarily as we had already incurred one on Saturday, and, currently unbeknownst to us, were due for another on Monday morning, too) meaning that we could do some sort of justice to the plethora of morsels on offer without breaking into a pale sweat every time we picked up our chopsticks.
Stealth completed abdicated on choosing from the menu (complete with helpful pictures) which left the Ewing and I to decide on three choices for each of us, plus a ‘bonus dish’, a method that had served us very well at Royal China a few weeks previously. I also insisted on clay pot rice with steamed spare ribs and chicken claws, a choice that Stealth surprisingly endorsed, despite the Ewing repeatedly warning me ‘you know you don’t like them….’
As it turned out chicken claws are still the pinnacle of gristly, bony in edibility, not helped by Stealth helpfully pointing out what most chickens spend their lives pecking about in. Fortunately the spare ribs, Chinese greens and fluffy rice were a delight. In fact, I first tried steamed ribs while eating at Dragon Castle many moons ago, and still remember the dish of strange bony bits and gristly cartilage chunks that were presented to us.
Fast forward a few years, and as long as you aren't expecting a plate of glistening baby backs, I like these little, meaty nuggets as much as any other type of ribs; especially when they've been marinated with salty black bean sauce.
The selection fried nuggets we ordered included pork puffs that were a little denser and sweeter than the ones we enjoyed at Royal China, but no worse for it, and crispy cuttle fish fritters, hot from the fryer and deeply savoury.
Minced prawn, shaped around sugar cane and breaded before its bath in boiling oil, tasted how you imagine those packs of 'classy' Iceland party bites - the kind advertised by D List celebrities at Christmas - are supposed to taste. We all loved them.
Japanese squid, served cold with a vinegar based marinade, may have looked fairly gruesome - complete with its flailing tentacles and plump bodies, but had a springily toothsome texture and pleasing sweet/sour flavour.
Our steamed choices, including the Ewing's favourite pork buns (decent), were all good; the scallop dumplings and the seafood and garlic dumplings were beautiful; sweet, fresh and delicate. Although the turnip, pork and peanut version had a strangely gluey grey filling rather reminiscent of a chip shop Pukka meat pie.
Decent, slippery cheung fun noodles came with crispy char sui pork; a good texture combo, although not quite as tasty as my preferred prawn filling. While the vibrantly hued spinach and prawn dumplings both looked and tasted delightful.
Cheap, tasty dim sum; restorative pots of green tea; a giant fish pond in the entrance hall; surely there's not many more reasons needed to grab some friends (preferably ones that like Chinese food, even if they don't admit it) and get down to this unloved stretch of the Walworth road for a weekend dumpling feast.