Dim Sum, according to Chung Ying Central owner James Wong, originates from an ancient Chinese love story. The Emperor would lay on lavish feasts for his concubine, and when she expressed concern over her expanding waistline, the Emperor ordered his chefs to create tiny but beautiful dishes to satisfy her. When he presented them to her, he said “these are little pieces of my heart I give to you” (the translation of dim sum is akin to piece of the heart) and this Chinese tradition began. I don’t know whether this is strictly true, but I was impressed with James’s story!
What I’m really getting at though is the fantastic food at Chung Ying Central. I got invited to an evening of dim sum and cocktails courtesy of Mr Wong on Wednesday and was very impressed.
The cocktail menu is an interesting one, where the first page features a selection of cocktails based on the Chinese Zodiac. I was born in the year of the Dragon, whose cocktail featured chilli and coriander which I didn’t much fancy! So I ventured a bit further into the menu and opted for an Aviation Cherry Blossom, with gin and maraschino cherry syrup. Very pretty.
The food started arriving soon after. We were served a selection of Chung Ying Central’s favourite dim sum, kicking off with Vietnamese pork spring rolls. These crispy little morsels stuffed full of succulent pork and vegetables were really good, and decidedly a different flavour profile from the Chinese spring rolls I’ve had before.
We had cuttlefish cake, deep fried and flavoured with fresh coriander, prawn har gow, traditional pork & prawn siu mai which was succulent and very flavoursome, beef & ginger dumplings and even deep fried baby octopus with sweet & sour sauce.
I have to be honest though, there was only one thing on my mind for the duration. Their Char Sui buns.
They were a thing of beauty. Served from the bamboo steamer, white and fluffy as a cloud, with the most delicious char sui pork (Chinese barbecue style) nestled inside. They are my favourite of all dim sum so I am somewhat biased, but these really were fantastic. I even had a second, but only after a stern word with the gents from Out In Brum who were in possession of the extra buns!
Our final savoury dish was somewhat controversial. I doubt there are many people who would be daring enough to try the delicacy of chicken feet. I, on the other hand, just had to give it a go. Got to try everything once, right? After a short introduction from James, where he explained how they’re made, from trimming, to deep frying, to steaming in garlic, spring onion & black bean sauce, he brought the plates to the table and told us how to eat them Chinese style. I didn’t quite manage to suck the skin from the bones in the traditional way, but I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t what I expected at all as the skin is softened from the steaming, so it’s reminiscent of roast chicken skin when you’ve accidentally got your gravy on it, but the taste was really good. There was a distinctive chicken flavour as it really is all skin and no meat, and the black bean sauce was rich and sticky. It’s not something I’d rush back to get, but I wasn’t disappointed.
Then the meal was rounded off with a sweet little caramel bun for dessert. Made from the same fluffy white dumpling as the char sui bun, but with a caramel paste hiding at it’s centre. Only a mouthful, and not the kind of dessert most people would hope for, but very fitting and quite delicious.
Sadly I was driving so I didn’t get to sample any of the other cocktails, but I was furnished with as much green tea as I liked, which was a refreshing end to the meal.
I really loved the food here, you can certainly tell everything is made fresh and not just bought in frozen and warmed up. The decor was modern and stylish, and the staff, including Mr Wong himself, were a pleasure all evening. If you like dim sum, it’s definitely worth a trip, and there’s even an express menu during the day so you can enjoy on the go.
Lunch meeting anyone?
You can find Chung Ying Central on Colmore Row, Birmingham. Dim Sum is available all day including evenings, and the express menu is available for lunch daily.