Friday, 9 September 2011

Dim Sum Dispatches: Croydon's Finest & A Return To Mayfair

Grilled squid cake 墨魚餅 (front) & Paper wrapped prawn 紙包蝦 (back)
I will go anywhere for good dim sum. Even Croydon. That's a cheap shot, given that this much-maligned London borough is home to a Chinese shopping centre anchored by a Wing Yip supermarket. Also within this shopping centre is Tai Tung, a restaurant that serves dim sum.

Yam paste w/dried meat 芋角 (left) & Cha siu pork puff 叉燒酥 (right)
Tai Tung's dim sum selection is very old-fashioned; this isn't the kind of place to discover new-fangled fusion creations or chef's specials. Not that there's anything wrong with that, as there's a lot to be said for sticking to the classics. In terms of the fried and baked offerings, they weren't greasy and were more than competent. My only complaint was that the filling in the cha siu pork puff (叉燒酥) was a bit too sweet.

Fish balls & turnip 魚蛋豬皮蘿蔔
The steamed stuff was just as good, with decent har gau prawn dumplings (蝦餃), the benchmark by which all dim sum joints are judged. Generously filled scallop dumplings (帶子餃) and a very traditional dish of fish balls & turnip (魚蛋豬皮蘿蔔) also hit the spot. Although, some might be put off by the pig skin that is served with the latter!

King prawn cheung fun 鮮蝦腸粉
The rest? I enjoyed the freshly made king prawn cheung fun (鮮蝦腸粉) but a bowl of wonton noodles (雲吞麺) let the side down. The wontons were fine but the noodles lacked bounce and were ever so slightly overcooked. We didn't order any Cantonese BBQ but I will next time, as a take-away portion of roast duck (燒鴨) proved to be first class.

Service was efficient and the damage came to £42 for nine dim sum dishes, a bowl of wonton noodles, tea and service – a mere £14/head. When ordering, don't be intimidated by the Chinese language-only dim sum ticksheet, as the numbers on it match up to a bilingual menu. The décor isn't going to win any design awards but I don't think the clientele really care.

However, words can't really convey the way I feel about Tai Tung. The thing is as I get older, I find myself getting increasingly nostalgic and sentimental (cue wistful Oasis B-side) and there was something about this restaurant's old school charm that touched my heart. And it wasn't just me; all around the dining room was the sight of friends and families, old and young, all having a great time. Or as the Chinese might say: 高興熱鬧, which is what dim sum is all about. So if you can get to Croydon easily then do pop into Tai Tung.

Wing Yip on Urbanspoon

Tai Tung Chinese Restaurant, Wing Yip Centre, 544 Purley Way, Croydon, CR0 4RF
(Tel: 020-8688-3668) Nearest rail: Waddon

Earlier in this post I alluded to Tai Tung's dim sum selection as being old fashioned. That was an observation, not a criticism. However, being the foodie trainspotter that I am, I do like to check out the latest trends in dim sum.

Baked cha siu bao 叉燒餐包仔
One place in London that serves innovative dim sum is a new favourite haunt of mine: Princess Garden of Mayfair. In particular, they offer miniature Cantonese buns such as baked cha siu bao (叉燒餐包仔) and baked custard buns (lai wong bolo bao 奶黃菠蘿包) that are very much in vogue in Hong Kong.

Baked custard buns 奶黃菠蘿包
I'm pleased to report that the buns didn't disappoint, both were oven fresh and had tasty fillings. I preferred the porky cha siu bao but I also loved the custard bun, especially its cookie-esque topping (called pineapple-style in Chinese, as it resembles the outside of a pineapple). Incidentally, if you like the look of these buns then man-sized versions are available at Chinese bakeries. However, I've yet to see the miniatures anywhere in London other than Princess Garden.

For a review covering my first couple of visits to Princess Garden, please click here.


  1. I love old-school dim sum, it reminds me of my childhood in HK so no shame in that! Which is why I far prefer the old favourites like Peninsula in North Greenwich and Dragon Castle on the Old Kent Road rather than the likes of Yauatcha. That fish ball braised with turnip looks delicious, pig skin and all.

  2. whenever I visit Chinese restaurant, I order king prawn cheung fun!!!!! looks really yummy!!!

  3. I loved the fish balls & turnip. So good.

    If anyone reading this fancies a Tai Tung dim sum lunch any time, just drop me a line – I live so close that I can get over there with very little notice.

  4. Lizzie - I think you'll like Tai Tung, especially as you can do some food shopping afterwards at Wing Yip. I've still not been to Peninsula or Dragon Castle, but old school places like that are definitely my cup of tea!

    Chiko - welcome! Glad you like cheung fun. IMHO, a dim sum feast is incomplete without it.

    Kake - I'll definitely be up for a revisit to Tai Tung.

  5. Great new dim sum tips - love them both and love the hint about what is in 'vogue' in HK at the moment.

  6. GChick - shame that you've left London! That said, if you're passing through HK on your way home to Oz then do check out the miniature buns for dim sum.

  7. visited recently for the first time, it was probably the wosrt chinese food + dimsum i've had in my life. The dimsum is no different to those sold in the frozen area of the wing yip supermarket. the fish ball noodle soup was tasteless, and the fish ball is not bouncy at all. the prawn cheong fun was not fresh, only taste of soya sauce. the roast pork rice was so overpriced. i thought the wong kei in chinatown was nasty, but taitung to me, is just worse. totally disappointed. will never go back again.