Aside from the Cantonese style of Chinese food which has long been dominant in the UK, Sichuan has become by far the most popular region for London restaurants. The cuisine’s hallmark flavour is the combination of hot chilli and numbing Sichuan peppercorns, along with a liberal use of garlic. Spicy dan dan noodles and kung pao chicken are among other well-known Sichuan dishes, though the latter will often be made particularly inauthentically.
Sichuan Folk in Spitalfields
and Barshu in Soho
are two of London’s best and best known Sichuan restaurants. The slightly grittier
Chilli Cool near Euston is also popular with expats.
2). Hunan Province
The food of Hunan has similarities to that of Sichuan, but does not tend use Sichuan peppercorns, instead opting for larger amounts of chilli to create spicier dishes. Stews, dry-wok dishes and a pork belly known as ‘Chairman Mao’s Red-Braised Pork’ are popular menu items.
The best example of Hunan cuisine in London is at
Local Friends in Golders Green (a Bethnal Green sister site has now closed). It is also served at
Yip in in Islington and at
BaShan in Soho, though if you want the authentic spicing you’ll need to specifically ask for it when you order.
3). Fujian Province
Fujian food is generally lighter and more subtly flavoured than other Chinese cuisines, with a stronger emphasis on letting produce speak for itself. Due to the region being both coastal and mountainous, many less common ingredients from sea and mountains are used — including wild herbs, mushrooms, oysters and crab. Popular dishes include oyster and seafood omelettes and a lot of soups, such as a variation of shark-fin soup known as ‘Buddha Jumps Over The Wall’ made with over 30 ingredients including abalone, dried scallops and pig’s trotters (and not necessarily the offensive fin itself ).
The cuisine is hard to find in London bar a few dishes here and there, but
NewAroma in Chinatown specialises in it.
In Shanghai city and its surrounding area, cooking involves larger amounts of wine, vinegar, soy and sugar than elsewhere — sweet and sour is a typical example of its flavours. Other characteristics include a lot of seafood, a predominance of rice over noodles and lots of salted meat and preserved vegetables.
Shanghainese food is served at
RedSun in Marylebone.
Ask the staff and they will direct you towards the most traditional dishes.
5). Shaanxi Province
Dishes in Shaanxi tend to be both spicy and sour, similar to that of Hunan, but seasoning tends to be heavier on salt, garlic and onion. Pork and mutton are the most widely used meats, while steaming is a popular cooking method.
Xi’an Impression in Holloway
serves this cuisine, and takes its name from the province’s capital city of Xi’an. Also look out for streetfood stall
Mama Wang’s Kitchen.
6). Guizhou Province
Like Shaanxi cuisine, the typical food of the Guizhou Province is reminiscent of that of Hunan, but with more sourness. As a point of difference, Guizhou food is less salty than Shaanxi while many dishes are often cooked to match the flavour of locally-made baijiu liquor, such as Maotai.
London’s best bet for Guizhou cooking is
Maotai Kitchen in Chinatown,
which is named after the popular drink.
7). Liaoning Province
The food of Liaoning is highly regarded across China and very different to other regional cuisines thanks to a strong influence from cuisines — in particular Japanese, Korean and Russian. It can be characterised by strong flavours, saltiness and oiliness. Popular
TopTaste near Bethnal Green
serves Liaoning dishes as part of its menu.
8). Xinjiang Province
The Xinjiang province borders Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, and is home to many ethnic groups including ethnic groups including the Uyghur, Han, Kazakhs, Tajiks, Hui, Kyrgyz, and Mongols. As such the cusine includes many different influences.
Typical dishes include kebabs, roasted fish, lengmen noodles topped with stir-fried meat and vegetables and polu, a form of pilaf rice. Mutton is the most-used meat, and because much of the population is Muslim much of the food is halal.
SilkRoad in Camberwell
for a taste of Xinjiang cooking in London.
The food from Guangzhou is easiest to find in London as this is from where Cantonese cooking hails. If a restaurant fails to specify what region the food it serves comes from, it’s probably from here. This will also be what is being referred to if something is described as Hong Kong style.
Some of the region’s most common dishes include sweet and sour pork, wonton noodles, chow mein, congee, char siu and roast duck as well as dim sum.
Good places to eat traditional Cantonese food include
Royal China Club on Baker Street,
Phoenix Palace in Marylebone and
DragonCastle in ElephantandCastle.
For roast duck,
GoldMine in Bayswater and
Four Seasons restaurants in Chinatown and Bayswater are especially good.
Of higher-end venues,
Hakkasan serves a modern take on Cantonese, while
Yauatcha specializes in dim sum and tea.
Better known as Peking cuisine, the food of Beijing and its surrounding area takes influences from the whole country. By far its most famous dish is peking duck. For the best peking duck in London visit sky-high
MinJiang in Kensington,
or try less pricey RoyalDragon in Chinatown
—where you can also partake in karaoke.
11). Xizang Province (Tibet)
The Chinese ‘autonomous region’ of Tibet has a cuisine far removed from most of China, though Sichuan food is increasingly popular there. Flatbreads, dumplings, steamed buns and stir-fried meat (usually yak, goat or mutton) are among the staples, with steamed buns called momos among the most famous.
There is only one fully Tibetan restaurant in London —
Kailash Momo in Woolwich.
It might not be part of the People’s Republic of China, but the food of Taiwan — officially titled The Republic of China — is extremely closely linked to that of its neighbour
Steamed buns known as bao are the most popular and best known Taiwanese dish, while noodle soups and pancakes are also prevalent. Another famous export is the drink yung marc, better known as bubble tea.
Leong’s Legends in Chinatown
serves a mix of Taiwanese and Cantonese dishes, while
Bao in Soho
is leading the way in the bun department.
Hunan in Pimlico
also serves mainly Taiwanese food.