Arang and Royal China
I had an Asian food marathon over the weekend despite my upcoming trip to Nepal and Hong Kong. This clearly indicated I was desperately craving for Asian cuisine.
My first stop was Arang for Korean food located in Soho. Unfortunately, I am ashamed to post some of the photos that I had taken. But that being said, my poor photography skills that day could have reflected on the disappointing meal I had there. I used to like Arang. Three years ago when I first visited, I essentially became Arang’s walking advertisement, raving about the restaurant to all my friends and family that Korean food was quite decent in London. Perhaps my tastebuds are now spoilt after sampling food from New Malden (London’s Korea town). But I still feel that Arang is not the same as it used to be.
Arang used to do excellent panjeon which was a regular staple every visit. A panjeon is a Korean pancake which should be crunchy on its exterior with a contrasting chewy centre. Yet, this panjeon was just oily, and lacked the distinct textures that usually make it so enjoyable.
I am not sure whether I should even describe the next few dishes that we ordered – in summary the following:
- soondobujigae (tofu seafood stew mixed with rice)
- yukhae (korean version of beef tartare)
- bulgogi Korean bbq (marinated thin slices of beef)
- nyungmyun (spicy kimichi flavoured cold buckwheat noodkes)
Were all disappointing.
After the unsatisfactory meal at Arang, the next day we tackled Chinese cuisine by having dim sum at Royal China which overlooks the Westferry riverside.
I used to think Royal China was a reliable place for good Chinese food. However since their closure for refurbishment two years ago, and revisiting them right after they reopened, I remember that standards had dropped. The dishes were cooked without much heart, and my most recent visit has confirmed my suspicions that Royal China, sadly like Arang, was not what it used to be.
Roasted salted peanuts and chili sauce
We didn’t order the standard har gau or siu mai dishes that one would always expect to have on the table having dimsum. Instead, it somehow turned into a dumpling fest.
Chiuchow fun guo (vegetarian dumpling)
This is a vegetable dumpling stuffed with shrimp, chives and a bit of egg in a tapioca based wrapper, giving the dumpling a translucent appearance. It was the favourite amongst all savoury dishes. The filling was generous and flavours comparable to ones I would have in Hong Kong. My only complaint is that the tapioca skin didn’t have a nice chew to it, indicating that the dumpling dough was not kneaded enough by the chef.
Sichuan pork dumpling
The Sichuan dumpling was on their special menu and came immersed in a bowl so called ‘hot’ chili oil. The oil was not spicy and rather bland. The skin to this dumpling was flour based, and similar to the tapioca skin, the dough was not worked enough to give it a chewy texture. The filling was decent, but I would stay away from this dish and spend your money (and calories) elsewhere.
Pork dumpling in soup
My dad would always get one of these back in Hong Kong – these are soup filled dumplings served in a pot of clear stock. As it seems that the chef responsible for making the dumpling skins cannot bother to adequately knead the dumpling skin dough till it develops an elastic consistency, similar to our previous dishes, these dumplings had very limp skin and were extremely fragile.
They immediately burst open when gently scooped onto the spoon – releasing the best part of the dumpling (that being the pork infused soup) into the broth the dumpling was served in.
Spare Ribs in black bean sauce
Ribs were also interesting too. Normally the ribs should be cooked with black beans, however we received a plate full of garlic covered ribs instead. Only one piece of black bean was in site.
Plain Cheung fun with peanut sauce
I like having cheung fun since it has a much lighter taste to balance out the other more oily dishes. The cheung fun should have a slight spring to each bit but tasted like eating baby food.
Beef Hor Fun
Instead of having a ‘Sunday roast’, this was THE dish of my family’s household for Sunday lunch. Eating hor fun brings on waves of nostalgia. Back in Canada my mom would be responsible for this dish, but when we moved to Hong Kong, my dad would wake up early to visit the local market specifically too buy fresh hor fun noodles to cook for lunch.
I was excited when this dish arrived. However, the noodles were missing a springy texture indicating that they were not fresh. There was a good helping of beef though, and everything else was pretty much standard. To be honest, I know I sound a bit harsh but this dish is not much different from what you could get at a Chinese takeaway. I guess after all those years of cooking hor fun from both my parents nothing really beats their home cooking (although I could be semi-biased).
The mango pudding was a bit too sweet and I missed the ones my mom would make with mango chunks. Usually the pudding should be doused in evaporated milk but this had a sparing amount on the plate.
Royal China is a good place if you live near Canary Wharf and don’t want to trek to Chinatown to get your fix of dimsum. But I don’t think I will come here very often unless I am desperate to satisfy my Chinese food cravings. Luckily I was in good company over the weekend which still made both meals memorable.
“Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.”
― M.F.K Fisher