A. Wong – Dim sum lunch

London: October 2020. Previous visits: August 2020

After our memorable first visit to A. Wong, we were convinced that we had to come back for their dim sum lunch. The menu consists of 20 dim sum options, ranging from Cantonese classics to modern cuisine inventions from A Wong. An offering of 10 snacks or ‘xiaochi’ is also available. 

And, indeed, we decided to start with one of the snacks that enchanted us in August, bringing us back to Chendu’s street food markets.

Their Sichuan street tofu consists of  silken tofu, preserved vegetables, peanuts and chilli oil. It is a dish that plays on textures. The extremely soft tofu against the crunchy peanuts provides the biggest contrast. Over this, the chilli oil’s umami and soft heat adds a layer of complexity. But it doesn’t feel oily as the fat is delicately cut by the acidity of the preserves.

The next dim sums were very traditional. First, Andrew Wong’s xiaolongbao, which refines the Shanghainese original version by topping it with spherified vinegar and soy sauce. 

The dough is thin and very delicate. Usually served piping hot to blister your palate, here we were delighted by its soupy content at a humanly bearable temperature. 

We found the addition of spherified vinegar and soy sauce very clever. Traditionally, this sauce would be poured into a spoon and the dumpling would be pierced in it, mixing all the juices. Wong’s approach gives the same flavour experience with a more elegant execution. It also gives a further layer of texture. Not only the bao bursts, but the spheres pop.

We were then greeted by a flight of Cantonese dim sums. Har gow and shumai.

The har gow is served covered in a vinegar espuma that complements well the clean flavours of shrimp typical of this dim sum.

On the other side, the shumai is accompanied by a small pork crackling. The crackling gives an interesting textural experience. The original pork and shrimp combination are very clean, but it is the shrimp that shines texturally, as full pieces can be found within the dumpling. Adding the crackling gives an analogous experience with the pork, bringing balance.

The Gongpao bonbon was nothing but traditional: served in a thin deep fried crispy shell, hiding chicken and peanut pieces. A gongpao sauce is then injected by the customer through a hole in the middle of the shell, covered by espuma. Certainly an original way to present an international classic of Sichuanese cuisine.

After enjoying this range of upscaled classic dim sums, the first of Andrew Wong’s original creations arrived.  Condensing roasting, wok frying and dim sum making (three traditional Cantonese techniques) in one dish, the cantonese kitchen consists of a barbecued pork crackling with a fried prawn paste and sesame seeds. This is then served on a plum sauce and topped with truffle. Each component requires an intense amount of labour to produce, taking 4 hours to make a single dim sum. It is an ode to the complex yet seemingly simple Cantonese cuisine. For the inquisitive readers, the full recipe is actually available on the Great British Chefs website.

The result, a beautiful balance of intense and clean prawn flavours against the crusty nutty sesame and the pork crackling. The plums give composure to the dish with sweetness, while the truffle accentuates it with its pungent aromas. A very modern dish using the most traditional skills. 

Soon after, a Southern take on crispy prawn roll arrives at the table. It is served on a lettuce leaf, garnished with fresh herbs and accompanied by a bowl of fish sauce to dip into. The roll is very crusty and airy.  Similar to a Vietnamese nem, but with a filling made purely out of prawn. We are in love with the freshness of this cuisine, their use of citrous, fishy umami and herbs tickles your palate in the most pleasant ways.

Transitioning to sweeter dishes, two puffed spheres formed by an extremely thin layer of fried dough with sesame seeds appears before us. This aerated sesame glutinous dumpling is plated with a plum sauce to brush onto. As we bite into them they burst letting off a warm dough aroma and revealing its glutinous rice interior. Rich and chewy, the sauce (which is more commonly used on roasted meats) provides acidity and balance.

To finish this whole experience, we chose a traditional custard filled bao, the laughing buddha bun. Presented as a small peach, this bun explodes like a chocolate fondant with an extremely rich and luscious custard. What a delicious dessert. We could not help ourselves but to order two more. A perfect indulgent ending to another spectacular meal.

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