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Chinatown: A Personal View

Bonnie Yeung of Yang Sing gives her Chinatown recommendations

Published on October 21st 2013.


Chinatown: A Personal View

CHINATOWN is a real foodies trail and home to some of the city’s top kitchens. It is a microcosm of Asia’s culinary geography. There is Vietnam, China and all its regions, Japan, Thailand, Korea and more. I love that Chinatown is so very cosmopolitan, it represents the growth of Manchester and the burgeoning multiculturalism that can only be found here in our city, where different identities are embraced and communities grow up alongside each other. 

So know that when you visit Chinatown and contribute to the local economy you’re not ‘driving growth’ but supporting small independents, and local families.   

When you’re in the midst of the authenticity and verve of Chinatown, there is no façade, no pretensions, or concerns about faddish diets, for the food here keeps us Asian girls looking good, and wrinkles at bay. We are the Dorian Gray’s of the globe and this can be attributed by in large to our food. The great thing about the local restaurants is that there’s very little marketing wizardry or smoke and mirrors, you will find genuinely delicious foods that will delight and linger on your tongue and in your memories.

Manchester’s Chinatown is a melee of families, eateries and businesses. The clinking of porcelain, chopsticks against china, the clatter of teapots against teacups are the score to which life in Chinatown is set. There are eateries catering to every niche, palate and budget. 

Wong Wong's and Ho’s bakeries are bastions of Chinatown attaining almost cult status in the city. The fluffy cloud like brioche buns that sandwich an array of various fillings and toppings, both savoury and sweet, plague your thoughts day and night. Buns are thirsty work so make sure you grab a bubble tea or iced tea. One of our favourites is ICFT which stands for I Come From Taiwan. 

There are numerous purveyors of southern Chinese cuisine that serve dumplings, homely casseroles and the famed Hong Kong style roasts that can often be seen hanging like tempting curios in a display window. The Kwok Man and Pearl City open late into the early hours of the morning, supplying community night owls, weary off duty waiters and late night revellers with their fix of food from ‘home’.

I have sampled dim sum all over the world; from China to the Americas and it is a rarity that any betters that of the Yang Sing which has been in my family for three generations, it specialises in exquisite dim sum and traditional Cantonese cookery. In his youth my father Harry, and his father before him, were renowned in Chinatown for two things: their frightening tempers, but also their impressive dim sum. In his twilight years my father's temper shows some signs of abating but his dedication to his kitchen remains’ unprecedented. As a result I am proud to be able to say the reputation of the Yang Sing's dim sum has spread far and wide. Each dumpling is expertly crafted by deft fingers, nimbly folded and filled with fresh fabulous ingredients. Serving locally sourced produce and buying seasonally always, Yang Sing has become a Manchester institution.

Yang Sing

Yang Sing

I’d also recommend trying some of the titbits at the Great Wall restaurant too. Their head chef YoYo produces spring onion pancakes and Beijing style dumplings that are unlike anything you will have tasted before. His hand pulled noodles are also a fantastic speciality.

The non-Chinese retinue that make up Chinatown are also numerous and alluring: Thai, Vietnamese and Japanese to name but a few. There are old favourites such as BYOB Phetphailian and classic Koh Samui for Thai, Ban Di Bul for Korean and Wasabi for rotator belt sushi - venture upstairs for their delightful dessert room and absolutely try the sweet tofu and durian snow ice. There are also rising stars in Chinatown such as I am Pho and Yuzu which are oft written about but warrant another plug. I eat often at both, favouring their light dishes and grazing style menus when I’ve eaten out 10 nights of the week. 

Northern Chinese settlers in Chinatown have brought us great gutsy contenders such as Hunan and Red Hot; where intestines and lung are commonplace; and where garlic, chilli and pepper are also used in abundance. This is food you will recall for a long time afterwards because your body, your pores and taste buds won't let you forget about it. Pungent Hot Pot or BBQ dining are a convivial style of dining. Dunking in a vat of chillis and broth or grilling one’s own food; is casual dining at its best. This kind of eating isn’t a meal to be hurried: it’s more an event than a feeding opportunity. 

Great Wall

 

Great Wall

It is gratifying to be part of a community that safeguards the traditions, the conviviality and the quirks that make it unique. Chinatown has nourished, added to and served Manchester for many years, its identity and continuing preservation is vital to the geography of the city. Come and visit, check out the local businesses, try food that you might not ordinarily, ask questions and enjoy the stories, many of the families and businesses that inhabit the area have been around for more years than myself and have seen new pretenders come and go.

A lot is set to change in the city and for Chinatown in particular; we’re the ‘baby’ of the city, with little secrets and discoveries to be made and nobody puts baby in the corner. So know that when you visit Chinatown and contribute to the local economy you’re not ‘driving growth’ but supporting small independents, and local families. 

Yuzu

Yuzu

 

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9 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

rinkydinkOctober 21st 2013.

I love Asian food but most if the restaurants I have seen in Chinatown are dated and uncared for. Shiny new modern versions would be nice. A bit like how Pacific started out years ago until it started to feel tired itself

pollolocoOctober 21st 2013.

I've been going to Yang Sing on and off for over 25 years and can safely say that things have changed since Harry and Gerry parted company and their offspring have taken over. Had lunch there yesterday and whilst the food was decent the waiting staff were poor and many customers looked visibly"hacked off". Having worked in the industry myself there are 3 golden rules for waiting staff that the management(none yesterday afternoon) would do well to instill.....1. every time you take something out of the kitchen, bring something back (it'll save on shoe leather) 2.Look at your customers not the floor..there was a lot of hand waving going on yesterday. 3. Acknowledge people...it's amazing how they visibly relax when this happens! I recall when this place was busy on 2-3 floors at the weekends...it's got a long way to go.

Alex24October 21st 2013.

Kwok Man and Pearl City both do decent dim sum (rest of respective menus very average) and KM in particular very scruffy looking. I'm always shocked to see the Kwok Man flooded with Chinese - proves the old adage wrong that seeing native diners is a sign of high quality. They seem to do a very good trade off the coaches of Chinese tourists who park opposite. Most other things on that list are excellent, Yuzu/ Koh Samui in particular. Chinatown is a great place, just a shame about the position of the carpark - that spot has great potential as a square to tie to the whole area together and turn it into more of a tourist destination than it is already.

AnonymousOctober 21st 2013.

Bakeries are great value. Lovely tea aroma in Wong Wongs when I went there last weekend. Like Little Yang Sing but Cantonese restaurants here got complacent a long time ago. Not quite as good as eating out in Hong Kong. The car park bit needs sorting out too!

Eugene Spain)October 22nd 2013.

Anonymous,cannot agree with you about eating in Hong Kong.We went with our supplier to authentic Chinese restaurants and to the western palate,it was very different,to say the least.If you would enjoy eating dry monkey blood that's fine,but for me,I finished the dish out of politeness,but tasted horrible.Now Western style Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong,have to say fabulous. Every Chinese restaurant I have been to in the UK ALL serve Western style Chinese food,authentic ones would not last 6 months. I found the food in Thailand more like the Thai food here,though I would have to reserve judgement about food in non tourist places in Thailand.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousOctober 22nd 2013.

I was comparing what you called, 'Western style Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong' with restaurants in Chinatown. Eating dry monkey blood???

paulsouthernOctober 22nd 2013.

Monkey black pudding yum yum ;-)

Hero
Manc GuyOctober 23rd 2013.

'Monkey black pudding yum yum'? Probably THE most profoundly sexist rap lyrics ever. Even the Too Live Crew wouldn't have used those lyrics, Paul!!!

Hero
Manc GuyOctober 23rd 2013.

*yawn*...Chinatown? What a scruffy area. There's so much more food choice and variety in the U.K. now We have all moved on from the eighties haven't we? Turn the place into apartments. Manchester's desperate for them!!!

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