With less than a week to go before the publication of my first cook book, Chinatown Kitchen, I thought I'd share with you some of my favourite Asian restaurants in London. These are the places I visit often; I know what I'm getting and I know the quality is consistent. Do you agree? Disagree? Have I left anything off? Let me know!
Serving the more unusual Xinjiang-style food, Silk Road is wonderful. I love the tomato, green pepper and onion salad, but you mustn't miss the homestyle cabbage, homestyle aubergine, TEP noodles, dumplings and lamb skewers in particular. I don't think I've ever had a bad dish there.
49 Camberwell Church Street, London SE5 8TR - you can reserve tables.
Baozi Skewer Stall
There isn't room to swing a cat in here. It's simply a lady behind a counter with a bubbling pot of stock, lurid red chillis bobbing around, and the sting of Sichuan peppercorns in the air. They sell skewers at £1.20 each - I love the broccoli, and Spam. Simmered to just tender, plonked in a foil container and sprinkled with coriander if you wish, it is a most perfect snack. Don't bother with the Baozi Inn restaurant - standards have slipped since it first opened and my last meal there was a bit crap (company excluded).
I wrote about the rotis so recently, I won't bother repeating myself, just that - it's GOOD.
40 Doric Way, London NW1 1LH
Atari-Ya has several branches, and I've only visited James Street which is predominantly takeaway. The sushi is always of a very high standard, and the fish very fresh. You should call up to place your order before you wander over, as when it is busy (which is seemingly always) it can take a while to prepare. The menu is here.
20 James Street, London W1U 1EH
Bone Daddies / Shack Fuyu
The ramen at Bone Daddies is great. The toppings are plentiful, and the broth well flavoured. They've just opened Shack Fuyu on Old Compton Street, serving their take on Japanese dishes cooked in a huge pizza oven, a relic of the previous owners. Of this, the Kinako french toast with green tea soft-serve ice cream is pure heavenly. The rest of the menu is worth a visit too - prepare yourself for a flavour bombshell.
My favourite ramen of them all, though, is Sasuke's spicy miso. Sometimes it can be borderline too salty, but more often than not it is just right for my tastes. Austere and authentically Japanese within, I am always amused by Japanese businessmen slurping their noodles so enthusiastically. They do takeaway, too.
32 Great Windmill Street, London W1
My love affair with John Devitt's noodles started off at Koya, the original opening. These days, I tend to veer towards neighbouring Koya Bar instead - Koya is wonderful, but I find the atmosphere at the Bar much calmer and soothing. I love their breakfasts and I would eat there every day if I could.
49 Frith Street London W1D 4SG
Chang's Noodle are famous for this particular one - Henan lamb noodle soup. The broth is milky, sweet and strongly flavoured with lamb, and the wide wheat noodles are messily ripped into the broth. Braised and stewed lamb make up the rest of the bowl, with a light smattering of coriander. This is hearty stuff. This is great stuff.
35-37 New Oxford Street, London WC1A 1BH
This is a new one for me - I've only visited once, but I was so impressed with the quality of the xiao long bao - soup dumplings. Finally! Decent soup dumplings in London! They don't reach the heady heights of Din Tai Fung's yet, but they are decent. We enjoyed the black truffle version and the spicy pork, though don't bother with the 'special crab roe' of which seemingly a limited number of are made per day - I couldn't taste the crab roe. Other dim sum are decent, though it was a bit naughty of them to deep fry the 'grilled' pork dumplings. Beef brisket curry with rice is also excellent.
15 - 16 Gerrard Street, Chinatown, London W1
I've been going to Hung's for absolute donkeys years. Since I moved to London, 11 years ago, in fact. It is basic and service can be gruff, but the crispy pork belly and king prawn dumpling noodle soup (this is a hybrid of two and needs to be asked for) has remained the best noodle soup you can buy under a fiver. I also like Wong Kei's, despite its terrible reputation for service, but Hung's quality just edges it.
27 Wardour Street, Chinatown, London W1
I am fairly convinced that Gold Mine is the best Cantonese food in London. Yup, I'm going there. The roast duck is incredible, and I drool a little thinking about it. Steamed egg custard is also brilliant. Go with a big group so that you can order lots.
102 Queensway, London W2 3RR
My favourite of the Vietnamese restaurants in London, and possibly because of the Banh Cuon (rice noodle rolls). The pho is also excellent. It's in the wasteland that is Surrey Quays, but good for a pre-cinema feed. Or if you really like going bowling.
100 Redriff Road Surrey Quays Leisure Park SE16 7LH
I enthused about Smoking Goat here, and I still feel the same way. It is punchy and in-your-face Thai food, prepared to the highest standard. Som Saa would have been here too, if only it wasn't so damn inconvenient to get to for me.
So, those are mine. I'd love to hear about yours, both in London and elsewhere!
Oh, and you can buy Chinatown Kitchen here!