[Manchester, city centre] Little Yang Sing

I have a prejudice against restaurants in basements. They just never seem quite as good as you hope they’ll be (or as good as they think of themselves). Irrational, yes – but based on some experience. The Little Yang Sing is my exception that proves the rule. There’s good service, generally delivered with a smile (not a given in Chinatown), a decent menu that covers most of our bases and, for sure, nice food. Oh, and crockery comes properly warmed through, so your food isn’t going to go cold as soon as you look at it. Currently, probably the best place in Chinatown.

Starters came from the dim sum section of the menu. We’ve had the har kau before and rate it quite highly – the prawn filling nicely steamed through without any detriment to the texture of the wrapper. A new one for us was war tip – another dumpling, this time shaped like a small pasty and filled with pork. It’s very lightly fried, so the wrapper goes crispy in parts. They serve a very simple dipping sauce – just Chinese black vinegar enhanced with a few shreds of ginger.

We generally don’t care if something may not be “authentic” but we do care that it’s tasty. And Kung Po vegetables are very tasty. Good mix of veg including carrot, pak choi, Chinese lettuce, water chestnuts and peanuts. And a hot, slightly sweet, sauce that wouldn’t have been out of place in a very authentic Gong Bao dish in our favourite Sichuan restaurant. The other main was OK, but only OK. Described as “chicken in a satay and peanut sauce”, the dish was only on nodding terms with peanuts but the sauce was pleasantly savoury and had quite a chilli hit to it. There’s sliced chicken, onion and green pepper. We shared an order of steamed rice which was nice and fluffy.

4 Likes

Wor tip is this part-pan-fried/part-steamed dumpling of Shanghainese origin - which was probably why you’d never had seen it before, as dim sum are generally of Cantonese origin, with a different food culture.

Geographically, the two regions are pretty far apart - the distance from Canton/Guangzhou to Shanghai is about 1,434 km. Comparatively, the distance from London to Marseille is 1,246 km.

Thanks for the explanation, Peter.

I know what I’m trying as a main course next time. There was a guy on the next table eating something that looked fab. It’d come in a metal casserole dish. I asked the server what it was and she pointedto the “specials” menu where it was listed as “pork in a slightly spicy sauce”. As we were leaving, I asked the guy if it tasted as good as it looked - all dark gnarly bits of piggy. It did.

1 Like

Now you’ve gotten me all curious about which dish it could possibly be. :joy:

1 Like

Unfortunately, they don’t have their specials menu online (although I think the specials of the day are the specials of every day). Can’t recall if that menu is also writen in Chinese characters. I’ll try and remember to take a photo if it is and see if that makes any sense to you.

1 Like

Yes, the Chinese restaurants in the West have this habit of having a Chinese menu, with more authentic dishes which are not available in the menu given to Western/non-Chinese diners. I remembered a time I was in Cologne where, after 2 weeks of Teutonic fare, 3 Singaporean colleagues and I walked into Tchang, Cologne’s oldest Chinese restaurant for lunch. We wanted something Oriental for a change.

The restaurant was packed. The proprietress, who’s Taiwanese, came over and chatted with us in Mandarin, and offered to cook for us dishes “off the menu”, as she said “we won’t eat the things from the usual menu, which are really meant for locals”.

I remembered we waited & waited for our food to come, whilst other tables had their food served pretty promptly - obviously, the chef had to cook dishes which are out of his usual repertoire for our order.

The funny thing that will always stick in my mind was - the moment our orders came (after about 45 minutes’ wait) to our table - a hush fell over the restaurant and we could distinctively “feel” 60 pairs of eyes from the other tables looking at our food. Methinks the Germans were curious as to what we ordered. :joy:

4 Likes

This was our first visit to Chinatown since last summer and our first visit to the LYS since 2019. Although Covid measures are no longer mandatory, it was reassuring to see the restaurant was continuing with them – staff wear masks, tables are separated by glass partitions, photocopied menus and everywhere was spotless. And, unlike a number of restaurants in Chinatown, there’s a maximum rating of 5 on the “scores on the doors” official public health website.

We ordered some dim sum to start. Did we need three? No, we didn’t – it was over-ordering. Were they tasty? Yes, they were. Could we have left some of it? Yes, we could, but greed got the better of me. There was “fun kuo”, a fried version of the more familiar steamed prawn dumpling, “har kau”. I fancied the Shanghai style mini pork buns but they had sold out. Instead, the normal sized char siu bao – delicious but the texture of the bao was a bit sticky. And vegetable spring rolls, excellently flavoured with a light touch of five-spice. Soy and Worcestershire sauces were provided for dipping.

For one main course, it was honey and lemon chicken. More years ago than I care to remember, this was a regular order at the takeaway but I can’t recall ever eating it in a restaurant. It’s a seemingly simple dish with the chicken given a light coating of cornflour and deep fried, so the meat stays moist and there’s a little crispish coating. Yes, the sauce is sweet from honey but the lemon prevents it becoming cloying. I liked it. We also ordered a simple stirfry of mixed vegetables – water chestnuts, pak choi, carrot, broccoli and cashew nuts. Everything nice and crisp. Rice was as good as you’d expect.

Service is always efficient here. Their set-up has changed since we were last here. The restaurant caters mainly for Anglos and it’s rare to see someone of Chinese heritage in there. As such, places have always been set out with plates and a fork. Now, there’s a rice bowl and chopsticks, so I can make a mess of the table and the front of my shirt. But they still provide the fork as well - which I didn’t use - I have my street cred to consider after all.

4 Likes

It sounds delish. Back in the early 80s, I used to like a “crispy chicken in orange-honey sauce” dish from a Chinese restaurant in Perth, Western Australia, which was cooked the same way: lightly-battered and deep-fried chicken, then coated in a sweet-sour sticky sauce. The dish also contained Brazil nuts for the crunch. I liked the dish so much, and ordered it so often, the restaurant manager actually gave me the recipe after a couple of years, so I can cook it myself! Besides, he knew I was a student from the university next door.
I’d not cooked from the recipe for more than 30 years now! Maybe I’ll do it this weekend.

3 Likes

Given the fact that many Hong Kong people are arriving in Manchester right now with the new passport scheme, I think you will find more food aiming at Chinese.

1 Like

There are restaurants in Chinatown (and other parts of the city centre) that have long had mainly Chinese customers. Unsurprisingly, the cheap ones are popular with the large Chinese student population at the University.

I remember once going for lunch to Glamorous - a 200 (?) cover restaurant above a Chinese supermarket. It was packed. As far as I could see, I was the only Anglo. We used to go quite regularly to a Sichuan place called Middle Kindom - I don’t think I’ve ever seen another Anglo in there.

2 Likes

Finally did my “crispy chicken in orange-honey sauce” dish yesterday, after 30-year-long hiatus. It tasted different, though, despite my using the exact same recipe (I still kept my gnarled stack of recipe cards since 1982).

I surmised that the difference was due to the different brand of unsweetened orange juice which I used out of the carton. In Perth, I used to buy Aussie brands, especially from Woolworths or Coles. Here in Penang, we can’t get those, so I resorted to South Africa’s Ceres.

Lockdown in Penang still, with no dining out - it’s a ghost town on Sundays.

6 Likes

Maybe the memory plays tricks after 30 years, Peter.

Looks good. Did it taste good?

2 Likes

Quite probable - our taste memories tend to elevate some foodstuff in terms of their deliciousness, from what they really were…

That’s the thing - it looked the same, but its taste, whilst okay, certainly did not have that “wow” factor I’d always associated with the dish.
I’m going to try and cook it again soon.

1 Like

OMG! That looks scrumptious

1 Like
“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold