Sophie Wyburd samples a Chinatown delight to celebrate the dawn of the Year of the Monkey
With Chinese New Year looming, I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to see what Chinatown had to offer. 2016 marks the year of the fire monkey, supposedly meaning that this is the year where one should seize the opportunity to be ambitious and adventurous. With this in mind, on a rainy and windy Saturday (thanks Storm Imogen), I braved the elements to delve into the dim sum menu at Yang Sing.The restaurant is located in a grand building in Manchester’s bustling Chinatown, still buzzing on this momentous weekend despite the weather. We were lucky to have had the foresight to book a table, since on arrival it became immediately apparent that the restaurant was at full capacity, filled with people of all ages. Despite the incredibly busy shift that the staff were experiencing, they were cool and accommodating, leaving us secure in the knowledge that this meal would be a relaxing treat.
Channeling the adventurous nature of the monkey, we tried to go off piste in our menu choices in order to sample some of the more unusual delights on offer alongside familiar favourites. Sui mai, small steamed balls of pork and prawn, were bursting with flavour and beautifully textured without the thick stickiness that dim sum so often has—the safest option of the day.
Much to our dismay the cheung fan steamer was broken, meaning that the glutinous parcels of joy we were so much looking forward to were off the menu, and forcing us to retreat further out of our comfort zone. My dining companion, a vegetarian, could often prove a risk in dim sum restaurants, however, the extensive menu at Yang Sing meant that he had plenty of exciting options to choose from. First came the pan fried pokchoi and root vegetable dumplings, incredibly fresh and light, not at all soggy despite being filled with the famously watery leaf. However, we thought that it would have been nice for this course to arrive between the other plates to serve as a palate cleanser. The steamed root vegetables and water chestnuts in a beancurd wrap were surprising in appearance—the dark, large, wrinkly beancurd wraps were a challenging texture to cut through, but boy was it worth it once you broke through the tough exterior. The filling burst with creamy nutty flavour, a nice soft surprise following the challenge we had faced in initially carving into it!
Next were steamed flower dumplings with mixed fungi and root vegetable filling, the earthiest of the lot and almost meaty in its pungency. These steamed dumplings were sitting alongside the contrasting textures of the paper-wrapped prawns, with water chestnuts and coriander; these were delightful, crisp yet light and filled with large meaty prawns that had kept their softness despite being fried. Each of the plates sung with their own individual voices, and came together in a sweet choir of flavours that did nothing but complement each other—they were all equal stars of the show, with no one letting the side down.
A very reasonably priced meal too: At £28 including bottomless jasmine tea and the service charge, we left feeling very full and optimistic that, despite the gloomy weather, the year of the monkey was off to a glorious start. I can’t wait to further harness the adventurous spirit of the year by returning to sample the other wonderful-looking things that I sadly had no room for in my belly, such as the mock shark’s fin soup dumpling and the steamed buns of mini belly ribs in garlic and black bean sauce.