There’s nowhere in my town that does good Chinese food. There used to be an all you can eat buffet that did surprisingly passable crispy duck and yes, there’s a Wagamama-esque place that does pretty decent kung pau king prawns (although they’ve taken the wonton noodle soup off the menu).
And of course there’s a real Wagamamas with the great veggie katsu that surpasses the chicken one. But they are not the kind of neon lit places, on a corner, that you stumble into after a night on the beer for a foil tray of mixed meat chow mein and a big bag of prawn crackers, to use in lieu of cutlery.
I’m not even talking about ‘good good’ Chinese food, ‘bad good’ would be just fine. Ribs the colour of my scalp after half an hour on the beach without a hat on; mounds of crispy seaweed sprinkled with the mysterious powder that’s more addictive than opiates; Yeung Chow fried rice that tastes even better when slightly congealed and eaten the next day for breakfast.
Thankfully there is salvation not too far around the North Circular, at Bang Bang Oriental Foodhall, that I have previously written about here. While the bustle and the excitement of upstairs can't be beaten if you fancy a quick bowl of noodles or a bubble tea or slice of pandan swiss roll or a brightly-coloured Korean shaved ice dessert, I'm beginning to favour Golden Dragon, the more serene and refined Chinese restaurant that can be found in the ground floor.
We visited recently for Sunday dim sum, something I have pretty much given up trying to write about - there's only so many superlatives you can come up with to describe the endless baskets of dumplings and buns that a proper yum cha feast involves - but it would be remiss not to talk at least a little bit about our meal.
First out were the pork puffs, which have been a favourite since our visit to the original Tim Ho Wan restaurant in Hong Kong. Flaky lard-enriched pastry stuffed with sweet barbecued pork, these are a must order (even if my wife always seems to get the extra bun).
The main event was out next - some top drawer crispy pork belly - layers of sweet meat and wobbly fat, topped with a crisp carapace of crackling, even better when dipped into a sauce that was very reminiscent of Colman's mustard. Alongside were chinese greens, this time gai lan, stir-fried with big chunks of fresh ginger, to help bust the Ewing's cold.
We also had a selection of steamed dumplings, including some unmemorable, UFO-shaped ones stuffed with chopped scallop and some nice crunchy veg; verdant prawn and chive; excellent har gau (truly the king of dim sum) and the special cheung fun stuffed with scallop, char sui and prawns. Luckily the Ewing isn't really a fan of the slippery, slithery steamed rice dough wrappers. All the more for me then.
One of the best things about dim sum is the fact you get pudding at the same time as your main. My faves are the custard buns, either deep fried or steamed. Far better than a doughnut This time we went with the latter, the puffy, squidgy balls bursting with oozy yellow egg custard.
We were back again for a roasted meat fix not long after. This time for an evening visit following a visit to Go Outdoors to buy a new tent and mattress for our camping trip. The next day. As you can appreciate the icy Tsingtao was well needed.
One thing the Chinese are good at is elevating the humble pig and I have wanted to try mei cai kou rou – steamed belly pork with mustard greens – for a long while. Fortunately I managed to persuade the Ewing that she did too.
We also ordered some customary chinese greens, although the Ewing was slightly disappointed that the pea shoots were 'out of season', which lead to Googling later to find out when the pea shoot season is. (Answer: we still don't really know, but we are going to keep trying until they are available). The choi sum was on the menu, so we had that cooked with garlic.
Afterwards, as has become the custom, we went next door to Loong Fung supermarket and picked up some more veg, although if you're getting concerned this has become an #eatclean blog, this time they were in the form of deep fried spuds flavoured with cucumber. We also picked up a basket stuffed full of crackers and mochi and frozen dumplings and fresh noodles.
On balance, it's probably a good thing there's nowhere to get good Chinese food closer to home, as I've still got a cupboard full of ingredients to get through....