Kung Hei Fat Choy! 새해 복 많이 받으세요! Happy Lunar New Year! We are celebrating the Year of the Rat. For all of you rat zodiacs, this is your year! Even if you're not a rat, you can still enjoy Chinatown in London. If you need to satisfy your dim sum cravings on the weekends like I do, you'll be look for a local, authentic dim sum restaurant asap. Where better to find one than in Chinatown? I'll let you in on where to find the most authentic dim sum after scouring reviews, asking locals, and trying out some shops.
London really knows how to celebrate the Lunar New Year in Chinatown! There was a parade, dragon dances, and many stage performances. I love that locals and tourists alike were really getting into the celebrations. But I have to warn you. This is a weekend when Chinatown is packed! Bubble tea shops had lines out the door. Dim sum restaurants were booked in advance or full upon arrival. Our best approach was to show up for dim sum at 11:00am right before the parade was ending. Once the parade was over, the shops flood with hungry people and you want to beat that hangry crowd. If you're not familiar with Chinatown, take the tube to Leicester station and you'll find yourself in Chinatown. Just follow the lanterns.
My first option was a familiar international brand, called Din Tai Fung. It's a Taiwanese restaurant that specializes in soup dumplings, better known as xiao long bao. I've tried the Din Tai Fung in Singapore and one in New York City. Since I knew what to expect as far as quality and flavor, it was a safe place to visit first.
If you go on a busy day like I did, you can give your name and number to the staff at the door and they will text you when your table is ready. Our estimated wait time was 30 minutes and they were punctual. Din Tai Fung is actually located in Covent Garden, but is about equidistant from the Covent Garden station and the Leicester station. You may want to take the tube to Covent Garden, give you name/number to the staff and then stroll around the lively streets.
For all of my non-meat-eating friends, do not fear going for dim sum. There are vegetarian options on many of the menus for dim sum nowadays. Din Tai Fung has vegan options, like the mushroom & truffle xiao long bao and vegetarian jiao zi. Each soup dumpling (5 pieces) keeps you under our £10 budget.
Din Tai Fung makes their xiao long bao in house all day long and you can actually see the kitchen staff at the London shop through the glass walls. It's an amazing assembly line! I think this is how they consistently deliver the same texture and fresh flavors any time you eat here. I'm never disappointed and you won't be either.
If you're looking for a more traditional dim sum experience, I recommend the Golden Dragon Chinatown. It's located a few shops passed the Chinatown Gate on the left side. Do not get this confused with other shops called "Golden Dragon". We went with a large group and the staff was accommodating.
In lieu of the Lunar New Year and many famished friends, our eyes were bigger than our stomachs. Half of our party were vegetarians and we were able to order half of these dishes just for them. In my experience, it's often difficult to go to a restaurant known for this or that and cater to to people with dietary restrictions. At the Golden Dragon Chinatown, it's easy to find choices for everyone and the food really hit the spot.
One other surprisingly good dim sum place was in Paddington, called Pearl Liang. It's located at the bottom of this sort of outdoor arena. My friends and I walked by it without noticing it at all. There are several shops down in this arena and a perfect place to sit outdoors with you family or friends if you wanted takeaway.
I found Pearl Liang to have the best dim sum that I've tried so far in London. They have tasty, traditional dishes that I would expect from dim sum menus but without the traditional carts being rolled around. If you come on the weekends, make sure you make a reservation at least one week prior because it gets booked up fast. You also are limited to 2 hours of table service here. But dim sum usually never takes longer than that.
I hope you had an amazing Lunar New Year! Whether you celebrate this holiday or not, try out some dim sum in London and let me know what you think. Can't wait to hear from you! Send me an e-mail or DM me on instagram.
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