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)
14 replies on “In search of Chinese food in London”
Food looks delicious…I’m jealous. It’s been way too long since I’ve had good dim sum. 😦
You can try making some yourself (I’ve not tried it myself but I have the excuse of a tiny kitchen counter!)
Ahhh…finding Asian food in a Western country. Living in Melbourne, I miss eating po piah, chicken rice and prawn mee. Especially popiah – it’s a pretty easy dish to make but surprisingly you can’t find it anywhere here 😦 in my opinion, Chinese and Asian food in general doesn’t taste the same as in Singapore, Malaysia and the rest of Asia. Still, these recreations are better than nothing 🙂
It’s all in the spices!
Heyyyyyy I’ve been to Leong’s Legend! We were in London for such a short stay — only about four or five days — and we were coming off three months in Scotland and Iceland, so we of course went to Chinatown in search of food, and were so happy to stumble upon Leong’s Legend. It pleases me immensely to know it’s your favorite in the area, as we found it by accident (relying on luck and my good instincts about unknown restaurants). I still think of that meal as one of the happiest of our travels, since we were ever so grateful to be among our people eating the kind of food that still isn’t common in many Chinese restaurants in the West.
Heyyyyyy indeed! I think you and I probably have a similar reliable instinct for restaurants 😉 I can definitely empathise with your delight at finding a good Chinese restaurant when in Europe. Every time I go back to Singapore, I make a list (just a short one) on all the local foods that I want to eat (and miss) 🙂
How can you keep the list short?! And is it often the same foods, or do you have different cravings each time?
“Short” is relative. I probably have around 10-15 items or places on my list. Anyway, the list acts as a reminder as there’s always so many other dishes that I didn’t think of and that I like. Lucky me, my family and friends are very accommodating to where/what I want to eat whenever I’m back in Singapore 🙂
Hi. I came across your blog when you commented on Savidge Reads and have been poking around a bit. I’m from Singapore too but live in Northern California at the moment. There are a few Sg restaurants around although most of them offer Singapore/Malaysian/Thai cuisines. Not authentic but it will have to do!
Hello, thanks for ‘poking around’ 🙂 At least you have some decent options to choose from where you’re at. I live in Brussels and the most authentic Singaporean food I’ve had (outside of my apartment) was during a national day event hosted by the Singapore consulate. The mee siam and laksa were just like what you could get back home. I wish I had remembered to ask for the contact details of the caterer!
Nice wink to Martin Parr in some of those 😉
Nice blog, will have to check out some of those places when I’m back in London. Although I do really like English-Chinese food (as long as it tastes great i’m not too fussy about authenticity) there are so many dishes that are hard to find here. If you want peking duck or sweet and sour you’re fine, but it took me ages to track down any proper dim sum outside of the Chinatowns in London and Birmingham. I’ve also eaten some wonderfully unusual dishes in Taiwan that I don’t ever expect to find here.
Good dim sum is something that I’ve not yet managed to find in Europe. There’s always something not quite right – e.g. the dough in the rice flour roll is too thick/gummy, the dipping sauce is wrong, etc. Maybe I should try making my own dim sum one of these days!