Living in Brussels, I’m often asked if I miss Singapore. My answer: Not really. I only miss my family and friends, as well as the food.
Regarding the latter, I miss the spiciness and wide variety of southeast asian dishes such as rojak, chicken curry, nasi lemak, congee, po piah and char siew rice. All of which I used to be able to readily order at the kopi tiam (coffee shop) whenever and wherever I may be in Singapore.
Almost everyone I’ve met who lives in Brussels tells me that the restaurants are really good in the Belgian capital. I beg to differ. While there are several restaurants here that serve good European and African food, I find that the food is too heavy for my taste. Plus Asian cuisine is poorly represented aside from a sprinkling of nice Japanese places.
So whenever I’m in London, I actively seek out Chinese food. Which was exactly what I did when I was staying near Chinatown in London recently.
After trying out a few new places and revisiting others where I had eaten on previous occasions, my favourite restaurant (to date) in this area is Leong’s Legend @ 4 Macclesfield St.
You have to knock on the door in order to be let into this Taiwanese restaurant. The first time I ate at Leong’s Legend, it felt like I was transported to a popular eatery in Taipei and eating amid the chatter of fellow diners with Chinese pop songs playing in the background. How delightful.
The sticky rice was greasy but good. As was the “Taiwanese kebap”, which turned out to be what I know better as kong bak pau 扣肉包, i.e. braised pork belly in a bun. The Taiwanese eat this with coriander, crushed peanuts and pickled vegetable.
Note: Do not confuse Leong’s Legend with Dumpling’s Legends, which is round the corner and along the main strip of Chinatown (Gerrard Street). While Dumpling’s Legend has received many positive reviews, their ‘legendary’ steamed dumplings (xiao long bao 小笼包) fell short of my expectations with its thick dough while the rice noodle roll (cheong fun 猪肠粉) had a sticky gummy texture.
Earlier in the day, I had another kong bak pau, which was appropriately named in the menu, at Old Tree Daiwan Bee @ 26 Rupert St. This was delicious and, for once, I ate every single bit of pork fat on my plate! The waitress seemed rather surly and unwelcoming but at least the food looked promising going by what I tried and what the neighbouring table of Chinese students had ordered.
Another restaurant that I would recommend in London’s Chinatown is Rasa Sayang @ 5 Macclesfield, next to Leong’s Legends. If you’re around Leicester Square, this is the place to go to for authentic Malaysian and Singaporean food such as satay, laksa, gado gado, achar and beef rendang.
While the spiciness of Asian food is often reduced in restaurants in Europe, the food served at Rasa Sayang was as spicy as what I would expect back home. Sedap! (‘delicious’ in Malay)