Caribbean Round-Up

Wah gwan bredren? For a long time now South Asian cuisine has been our most beloved ethnic food here in Brum. But on every street in every inner-city neighbourhood of our fair metropolis, Caribbean cafes and takeaways have been serving up proper soul food for decades. Who doesn’t like curry goat, jerk chicken, fried chicken, ackee saltfish, dumplings, rice and peas? Preferably all at the same time. The menu is pretty standard in all of them making a comparison easier to do. When is goat mutton? Who’s jerk is proper smokey? Fried chicken that is actually crispy not microwaved to soggy?

Unless you “keep it locked” on Newstyle or then you probably won’t have heard of many of these places but if you ever drive by you should check them out. None of these places are pretty. Don’t be expect Turtle Bay decor, faux Island Time flourishes and synthetic palm trees. You might get a few posters telling you when the next bashment night is at The Drum. You won’t get a discount with your loyalty card but these Brum independents will make you happy for not much money anyway.

I’ll keep adding to the list as I find them. If you have any favourite please let me know. My buddy Jack Spicer Adams and I are always hungry to check them out!

56 Lozells Rd, Birmingham, B19 2TJ
Tel: 0121 551 0904

The daddy on Lozells Rd, a large cafe space in a slightly intimidating part of town. I only ever have the curry goat here, it sets the standard, lip-smackingly nice and nice. People swear by the house patties here but they are not a patch on Fenkys or Tasty Pastry.

Blue Marlin
26 Coventry Rd, Birmingham, B10 0RX
Tel: 0121 772 4667

Under the railway bridge on the way out of town past Digbeth, it’s easy to miss Blue Marlin. The faded sign doesn’t help. Standing room only, with a narrow counter along one side if you really have to eat in. The jerk chicken here is splendid with a proper smokey flavour and good amount of sweet brown sauce. The curry mutton here is a solid rendition, sometimes a little tough but rich with marrow.

Mish Mash
406 Dudley Road, Birmingham B18 4HH
Tel: 0121 448 1242

A promising sight of a jerk pan at the front of the shop. The jerk here is quite decent, if it was fresh then it would be great. The fried chicken doesn’t really cut the mustard, soggy and dry. The gloopy mutton curry has a nice flavour but didn’t rock my boat. The sides were good though, excellent hard food but then you don’t come just to eat hard food.

Portland Lagoon
3 Great Hampton Street, Birmingham B18 6AQ
Tel: 0121 236 8119

Anyone who’s ever sat on The Church’s roof terrace will not have failed to notice the smokey jerk aromas wafting up their nostrils from this takeaway next door. It does have a couple of small tables so you can devour things on-site because good jerk chicken waits for no-one. The jerk here is probably the best you’re going to find in a shop but don’t overlook the rest, it’s all really good too.

Chris’s Restaurant
72a Cape Hill, Smethwick, West Midlands, B66 4PB
Tel: 0121 558 0435

A door, just a door on Cape Hill high street in Smethwick. That’s all Chris’s appears to be. Oh that and a big sign alludes to something tasty. Follow the winding corridor back ever back to the extension of the extension to find a good space for hunkering down. The curry mutton here is excellent, the best I’ve eaten in Brum. The jerk juicy but lacking a nice char flavour. The fried chicken as always is the big let down, nice flavour but that coating is not crisp.

Tasty Kitchen
About to write about the tasty jerk chicken in this place in Nechells but it got closed down by the police. Some allegations of unsavouriness or another, best not to go any further. A shame because the chicken was definitely savoury.

Sharians, Esmies, The Jerk Man and other Streetfood Caribbean

Your best bet for jerk chicken is in a streetfood or festival scenario where you can see the jerk pan and the chicken slowly smoke grilling away on it. To be honest it’s difficult to mess up fresh jerk chicken, chargrilled chicken in any flavour is the universal language of good food. The problem with shops is that they have to hold them for an interminable time. Good if it’s fresh off the grill but when’s that? Sometimes, the jerk pan only comes out once a week so they cook all their chicken for the week. What you’re getting on a non jerk pan day is some reheated chicken from X days ago. Sharians is a regular on Brum market days, I always seek them out at Harborne Farmers Market and at KingshEATh Streetfood market. They is propa! Lovely one-two of jerk and curry always makes me happy. Esmies is a favourite of the Digbeth streetfood scene. Their freshly fried dumpling filled with mutton curry maybe the best streetfood item in Brum. There I said it!


I’ve written about Fenky Janes patties already and if you ever see them in a shop you should without hesitation buy them. But, and it’s a big but, in a cafe without a pattie warmer you should never buy them. There’s no sadder sight than a microwaved pattie. Tasty Pastry patties made in Handsworth are a close contender to Fenky Janes. Some even say the pastry is better, but Fenky’s fillings are superior especially the saltfish and ackee. If you like the Island Delight patties you can get in supermarkets you need to give yourself a slap and wake up. They’re disgusting.

Don’t forget the Simmer Down festival is going on in Handsworth Park this Sunday 19th July. It’s a paradise for Caribbean food, I had the very best curry goat of my life there last year from Right Stuff Cater Inn, I hope they’re back.

Birmingham Chinatown Roast Meat Battle II

An update of the previously seminal (not so now) BCRMB on my Foodist Blog. A new point on the Brumfoodmap, Malaysian delight, who aside from tasty roast meats do some decent Malaysian food too.

Here are the results:

New Sum Ye 新意美食

Duck 3.5 (out of 5) Pork 4 Char siu 3 Other 4.5
Total 15 (out of 20)
£10.20 (£8.20, £1 duck leg supplement, £1 tea) ouch!

China Town Noodle Bar 中華美食

Duck 3 Pork 2 Char siu 3 Other 2
Total 10
£9 (£7.50, 50p dls, £1 tea)

Ken Ho 双喜

Duck 4.5 Pork 4.5 Char siu 4 Other 3.5
Total 16.5
£10.30 (£9.50, 80p tea)

Ken ho - glistening
Ken Ho – glistening

Peach Garden 桃園

Duck 4 Pork 4 Char siu 4.5 Other 4
Total 16.5
£8.10 (£7.20, 90p dls)

Meat sweats
Peach Garden – hot under the collar


Malaysian Delight 馬來風味
8 Ladywell Walk, Birmingham, West Midlands B5 4ST
Tel: 0121 622 3909

The name of the restaurant might lead you to think it’s not a Cantonese roast meat place at all. But with Chinese chefs this cafe has always served up some decent roasts alongside Malaysian classics like Assam laksa and nasi lemak. If further proof is required then the hanging roast meat display is the most prominent in the whole of Chinatown, facing the main road for all to see. Not usually as much meat on display as Peach Garden or New Sum Ye so you need to get there early for the best cuts. The plate I had was fine indeed. The roast duck is flavourful and juicy with the meat slipping off the bone easily. I’d have liked more as only a drumstick was presented. The roast belly pork was a little tough and the crackling although thin could have been crispier, good flavour meat and well seasoned. Char siu was a great cut of meat, a good ratio of collar collagen for a nice bouncy texture. The flavour was a little sweet for my liking but there was a good char flavour too. Rice was slightly too cold and firm served with a measly amount of pak choi. Typically for a Malaysian cafe the chilli oil had plenty of shrimp flavour and had good heat. Overall portion size was a little on the small side.

Duck 4.5 Pork 3.5 Char siu 4 Other 3
Total 15
£9 (£7.50, £1 dls, 50p tea)

Delightful duck
Delightful duck


Joint winners! Peach Garden and Ken Ho have the best roast meats in Chinatown. As a single plate of food Ken Ho probably edges it but pricewise Peach Garden is unbeatable. For £7.20 you have a triple roast and a cup of tea and know that you absolutely cannot eat a better meal for the money in Brum.

Manchester Seafood

When Chinese people eat seafood we don’t mess around. There’s no pan-fried fillet of John Dory with seaweed butter foam perched on a bed of samphire. Forget. That. Give me two lobsters from that tank over there, chop them up whilst they’re still twitching, flash fry them in a screaming hot wok with a mountain of crispy garlic. Whilst you’re at it, steam us a whole turbot, braise an eel, poach prawns, prepare half a dozen crabs and let’s have it all in 15 minutes. Ok? No problem.

The inauspiciously named Manchester Seafood Retail and Restaurant is just that, a seafood shop with a restaurant at the back. I say inauspicious only in the sense that us Brummies are a little

wary of our bolshy Northern counterparts. What have they got that we don’t, apart from two world-class football teams and our national broadcaster? They’re about as land-locked as us so to come down here with your live seafood tanks and Chinese seafood chefs who know what they’re doing, well that’s just marvellous! And whisper it, it is marvellous. For the first time in this country I felt a little like I was in one of the seafood towns of Hong Kong. The seafood is tinged mostly Cantonese with splashes of colour from Sichuan in their meat dishes, but they’re less successful. Stick to the fish the clue is in the title.

It’s best to come mob handed to Chinese restaurants like this. These are big dishes that are meant to be shared family style eaten with rice. Many times I’ve read reviews by old hacks that read like this: “I ordered the salt and pepper squid as a starter for myself and the steamed sea bass for main.” Don’t do this please. Go with like minded food lovers, order 1.5 to 2 dishes per diner, depending on how greedy. Order rice and get stuck in together. Eat Chinese if you want appreciate real Chinese food.

Manchester Seafood
Wrottesley St, Birmingham B5 4RT

18th Feb 2015 An update! We ordered this eel dish last night and we’re blown away by it. The best dish of the year so far. A fresh eel cut and skinned in such a way that it curled into the bowl like a chrysanthemum flower. Each piece still attached to the last by a merest strip of  succulent flesh. This amazing piece of cooking skill also proves that a whole eel is served to you and the kitchen isn’t cheating. It’s been known that unscrupulous chefs will take a chunk out of the middle! The taste and texture of the dish is the best I’ve had anywhere, so clean and fresh. The eels in Asia can be very muddy tasting, there was none of that here. Cantonese cooking at it’s very best.

Ken Ho

叉燒酥 – Char Siu Sou

People who really know good food know that to yum cha or eat dim sum at a good Cantonese restaurant is a sure thing. It’s the equivalent of putting Stevie Wonder on the playlist at a house party (Superstition not My Cheri Amour), people will start grooving. Ring around, anyone up for dim sum? Yes! People are moving. There’s no better breakfast/brunch/lunch to be had anywhere in the world.

Ken Ho 双喜 (“soeng hei” lit. “double happiness”) is next door to The Hippodrome theatre and is currently my favourite place to yum cha in Birmingham. The selection of dim sum is smaller than the Chung Yings but what they do is all excellent. All killer and no filler, like the Har Gau 蝦餃. Bursting with juicy prawn. Roast meats are excellent, on par with the specialist roast meat shops in Chinatown. The flowing sand buns 流沙包 are a recent thing in global dim sum. They have a salty sweet runny duck egg custard centre and have to be eaten with care. So much better than the boring old custard buns 奶黄包 we had growing up. Pork chitterlings are prepared in such a way to make it look and eat like crispy suckling pig crackling. But best of all, is the off menu item pictured above. I’m loathed to tell you about it but I’m assuming anyone actually reads these blogs and acts on them. Then also assuming there’s enough of you to eat them all before I get there when the place opens at midday. BBQ pork puffs, char siu sou, are as good as Yauatcha’s famed venison puffs. I would go for these alone.

The only gripe is the tea charge, a minor gripe, and maybe the chicken feet in black bean sauce 豉汁鳳爪 could be better too. But I’m the only one who really appreciates that dish anyway.

Ken Ho
41-43 Hurst Street, Birmingham B5 4BJ
Tel: 0121 622 1323

Kabayaki unagi


I’m a bit of a fan of eel, you might have read my thoughts on smoking one in an earlier blog. Love eating them but hate having to deal with them. But with anything sometimes you have to do the dirty stuff in order to get to the good stuff. The good stuff in this case being one of my favourite dishes. Simple grilled eel done the Japanese way with a sweet sticky soy based kabayaki sauce. “Oh yeah so what” you murmur “I can get frozen eel from Wing Yip “. Yes you can, it’s also the same kind of eel that’s on top of everyone’s favourite nigiri sushi. It tastes great but you really don’t know how great until you’ve tried the real thing fresh off the coals. Come on, think about that hot eel fat dripping down onto the hot charcoal, igniting, the vaporised lipids bonding with the kabayaki sauce as you lacquer it on. If you like Japanese food, then you owe it to yourself to try kabayaki unagi as soon as possible. It’s one of the most beloved dishes in Japan where specialist unagi restaurants exist to perfect it.

But now we come to the crunch! Where can you actually eat this dish? Certainly not in any Yo! Sushi or other high street Japanese restaurant. Even the high end places such as Tetsu, Shiori, Roka or Umu don’t do it. From my extensive research the closest is Nodaiwa in Paris, an offshoot of the Michelin starred one in Tokyo! You know I love this dish so much that I recently went to Paris and ate it there. But then I wouldn’t be much of a cook if I didn’t try to make it myself too. I mean how hard can it be? Well it’s not that hard at all except for one caveat. You have to fillet them and eels are the most difficult fish to fillet. But after that it’s all downhill!

Dispatch your eel
I’m assuming of course that you’ve bought a live one because what would be the point of buying a dead one? Eels go off very quickly so cook them as soon as possible. My preferred method of dispatch is to lock one up in a pot with a slurry of salt. An hour should do it. Remove the eel and scrape all the slime off its leathery skin. Cut off the long fins that run along the top and bottom.

This is the hard part. Because of the shape of them and the tough leathery skin they’re tricky to fillet conventionally. But when you come upon a fish conundrum you just have to ask yourself “what would the Japanese do?” as no doubt they’d have come up with a simple elegant solution. In this case the shape and tough skin has been turned into an advantage. Make a small drill hole in the top right-hand corner of your largest chopping board (if you’re right-handed) and peg the head securely to it with the belly facing away from you. Make an incision behind the side fin and zip your knife along the backbone to release the top fillet and open the eel out like a fishy baguette. Cut out the guts (hardcore unagi eaters skewer these and grill them separately). Snip the backbone near the head and cut out the bone in one long piece starting at the head. The tough skin will make sure the head is still firmly pegged to the board so you can give it some power if the bone is being stubborn. This is a lot easier with a traditional Japanese style single-bevelled deba knife, a useful investment if you eat a lot of fish or have a knife fetish.

Steam and Grill
Cut the fillet in half and thread the two halves onto thin metal skewers so that they are easier to grill. You can grill the eel from raw with just a little salt if you prefer but if you want to brush them with kabayaki sauce then it’s better to par-cook the eel first as the the sauce is likely to burn over prolonged grilling. Very gently steam the fillets for 7 to 8 minutes before gently grilling them directly over coals brushing with the sauce:

Kabayaki Sauce 4 parts light soy, 1 part mirin, 1 part sake, 2 parts white caster sugar by volume. This is the basic sauce, simmer until thickened. I like to add star anise and a whole clove of garlic too.

The grilling should not be rushed, take your time, brush as often as you like with the sauce. I like to do it six or seven times on the flesh side only as I like to make sure the skin is nice and crispy and plenty of the fat has rendered off. Give the flesh a final lacquering before cutting into bite sized pieces. That’s it, told you it was easy. Just serve over a mound of tender Japanese rice and lashings of the sauce drizzled over the top. Or if you’re a real Japanese food nerd, give it another grill over a tabletop Konro before you pop into your mouth. Truly one of the best mouthfuls of food there is.


Chilli Bean Paste – Taste Test

Reorganising my jar and bottle cupboard in the kitchen, you know the one with all the different vinegars (3 types of balsamic, white/red/rice wine, cider, strawberry), I found that I’d accumulated 5 different brands of chilli bean pastes. I don’t really know how this has come about but it’s a handy opportunity to do a taste test on them!


Chilli bean paste is a Chinese store cupboard essential. A mixture of chilli and bean (broad bean or soy bean) that’s been fermented together to give a deep complex umami flavour. It’s used in stir-fries, braises, hot-pots or anytime you want that addictive chilli hit. Particularly in Sichuan cookery where the chilli bean paste produced in Pixian county, Chengdu is considered the best. I’m not a Sichuanese expert so can’t comment on authenticity but I’m comparing them to chilli bean pastes from other parts of China so each of them is assessed on taste alone.

1. Lee Kum Kee – Chilli Bean Sauce 李錦記辣豆瓣醬
Salted chilli pepper, water, fermented soy bean paste, fermented broad bean paste, white sugar, garlic, modified cornstarch, chilli pepper powder, soy bean oil, acid


This is the one most people who cook Chinese food at home will have. LKK are a Hong Kong brand so is the most established in Chinese supermarkets here in the UK and in Western shops. Unusually it’s the hottest of the lot with a sweet garlicky flavour that doesn’t linger long. It doesn’t really have that fermented lactic flavour so it’s not really suitable for Sichuan dishes. The pale colour gives the game away a bit. I can’t imagine big vats of this having been fermented in the open for years at a time. A bit one dimensional, however it is good in stir fried prawns.

2. Juan City Brand 鹃城牌红油豆瓣
Chilli, broad bean, salt, wheat flour, vegetable oil, spices, food additives (potassium sorbate)


This plastic jar has a handy carry handle but unhandily if you don’t read any Chinese then it might be difficult to spot that it’s a Pixian style chilli bean paste. Ok there’s a clue in the company name in small print Sichuan Pixiandouban Co Ltd otherwise the jar I have has no other indication in English, not even ingredients. Which I’m sure is pretty illegal in this country. The importers need to sort this out. However I’m glad they’ve smuggled it in because the taste of this red oil 红油 version is fantastic. Rich red colour, well balanced flavour, mild to medium chilli, not too salty, perfect for twice cooked pork, the oily richness is lip-smacking.

3. Chuan Lao Hui – Hong Yau Dou Ban 川老滙郫县红油豆瓣
Chilli, broad bean, salt, wheat flour, sugar, pickled ginger, pickled garlic, vegetable oil, flavour enhancer


Comes in the same plastic jar with carry handle as the Juan City Brand. I wonder who is copying who? At least this jar has some English stuck on it from the importers Day In. This is also a red oil version of Pixian style chilli bean paste with extras. It has the same deep lip-smacking flavour but, probably due to the pickled ginger and garlic, is really too salty to use in the same quantities as the Juan City Brand. But the less you use the less umami impact you get in your food. I struggled cooking with this until I started using it as a base for hot-pot flavouring lots of chicken stock.

4. Fu Chi – Chilli Bean Sauce 富記辣豆瓣醬
Chilli, soy bean, barley flake, salt, sugar, sesame oil, acidity regulator


Taiwanese brand, the only one not to have any broad beans in but not lacking in deep rich flavour. The mildest of the lot, least salty, sweet round flavour so great to use in larger quantities. My favourite for fish-fragrant aubergines.

5. Sichuan Dan Dan Seasoning Co Ltd – Pi-Xian Fermented Broadbean 丹丹郫县豆瓣
Chilli, broad bean, salt, wheat flour


The purest Pixian chilli bean paste here and it comes in the most darling wicker basket! First saw this on Fuchsia Dunlop’s blog but could never find it anywhere so when I spotted it recently on I snapped it up. There are two plastic sachets of the chunky paste in the basket that you have to decant elsewhere. This is not a red oil version like the other two Pixian pastes, it’s quite dry, slightly saltier than Juan City Brand. Even used sparingly it gives a great hit of flavour. I definitely wouldn’t waste this in a hot-pot! Great in braises.


Razor clams. Musings and some recipes.


I was thinking the other day that I don’t eat enough razor clams. They’re plentiful, cheap and delicious. So to address that I bought a kilo of them and scoffed them all on my own! Almost 30 of the buggers for £8, I was in razor clam heaven for an evening. They don’t take much to prepare either, the six dishes that I tried out only took a couple of hours from start to finish. Seafood is fast food.

The first two dishes require no cooking at all. There is an adage that you should do as little as possible to fresh seafood. All seafood loving cooks know this. So what’s simpler than just eating raw clams? But first you have to clean them, razor clams notoriously can be full of sand. Shuck one open and see how much grit you have in there. It will wriggle a little, you’ll see the main fleshy muscle ‘foot’ where most of the sweet meat is surrounded by the stringy abductor muscles that keep the clam shut. At the top is the siphon, at the centre there’s the digestive tract where half-digested food and most of the sand will be hiding. Check this part carefully with your fingers. If it feels soft then you’ve got a clean batch. If not then soak your clams in cold water for an hour, this will help degrit them. Luckily I bought a clean batch this time so I was ready to go!


Shuck open half a dozen clams, take out the prime fleshy muscle ‘foot’ only, butterfly them open, scrape along them to make them curl up like ferns. Dress them with sea salt, lemon, caper, shallot, parsley and olive oil. Eat.


Moving away from the Mediterranean, I hear that the Japanese like to eat raw seafood too. Again using only the fleshy foot, slice it on the bias and return the pieces to the shell on top of finely shredded daikon. Dress with salmon roe, ponzu and very fine Thai basil (I couldn’t get hold of shiso).

Cantonese Steamed Clams


There are two classic variations we have in the Cantonese repertoire; Black Bean Sauce and Ginger Spring Onion. Prepare the clams first by opening them and loosening them from the shell. When cooked most of the clam is good eating, even the half-digested stuff in the sac.
Traditionally the black bean version is stir-fried because the razor clams you get in Asia are quite small. But with bigger clams I like to make an extra rich black bean sauce separately and dress the raw opened clams with this sauce, mild red chillies and steamed for two minutes. The sauce is made by frying garlic, ginger, spring onion and crushed fermented black beans together till aromatic. Add a splash of shaosing then stock, chicken preferably but instant dashi is a good for convenience, simmer for 5 minutes. Season with sugar and soy then thicken with starch. Strain the sauce before using it.
Even simpler is the ginger and spring onion variation. Dress the raw clams with this finely shredded stuff, add salt then steam for two minutes. Add a splash of soy to the clams before sizzling with smoking hot groundnut oil. Finish with some fresh curls of spring onion.

Grilled Clams with Fried Shallot and Sherry Vinegar

Nick was raving about this dish he had at the Quality Chop House in London. Sounded simple enough but I couldn’t quite get my head round the taste combination. So like foodie monkey sees he does… Deep fry the shallot first and season them with a little salt. In a searing hot pan or hotplate place your clams so they open downwards, add a little olive oil, a splash of lemon and clamp a lid on for one minute. Remove the clams right away, slice them and return to the shell, dress with the shallots and a drizzle of the best sherry vinegar you can afford. Any doubts I had about this dish were dismissed with the first bite, it’s a taste sensation. Try it now, I dare say this combination of crispy fried shallot and sherry vinegar would work with a lot of things.

Sautéed Clams with N’duja

I’ve been curing my own n’duja, as you do, that spreadable spicy Calabrian salami. Except I couldn’t find any Calabrian pepper powder so I used the reddest chilli powder I could think of, Korean Gojugaru. The addition of the fish sauce has seen it renamed Kim Doo Ya! But the essence of deep spicy funky pork fat is still there.
Shell your clams first and slice them into chunks. Start frying off the n’duja in a pan, it should melt into a crimson slurry of pork fat, cook it out a little then add garlic and then the clam meat. Cook for one minute, at the end season with lemon juice and smack it with parsley*. That’s it, serve them back in the shell or just as it is with some bread to mop up all those juices.
I think frying some breadcrumbs till crispy in the n’duja first would be a good variation, will try it next time but as it stands clams with n’duja is pretty good eating. Pork and clams eh?

Hopefully you can see that preparing and cooking Razor Clams is actually really simple. Try out these dishes and let me know which is your favourite. I know which are mine.

* yeah I said it.

BBQ Village 串串香

What do you think of when you think of Chinese food? Sweet and sour chicken, beef in oyster sauce, fried rice, sesame prawn toast or maybe dim sum? You won’t find any of that in BBQ Village, or actually you will if they give you the English menu. But why would you go to this Sichuan-Beijing hybrid Chinese restaurant and order the usual westernised derivative Cantonese dishes. I’ve been a little reticent to put this on the Brumfoodmap because of the recent bad news about it’s hygiene rating. But in a way it makes the restaurant authentic because by the standards of food safety in China, if it doesn’t kill you then it’s considered safe over there… and I haven’t died yet. So in the interests of finding the tastiest food in Brum, BBQ Village is up there with the best.

If you’re not familiar with this kind of Chinese food then you may be surprised by the flavour of some of the dishes. The name of the restaurant in Chinese 串串香 means tasty or fragrant skewers (see how the simplified character for skewer 串 looks like skewer of meat, it’s a simple language really!) Order these to whet your appetite and prepare your tastebuds for the full on assault of spicy flavours about to follow. Skewered morsels of lamb, beef and chicken are encrusted with chilli and cumin, for the more adventurous try the chicken hearts and gizzards or the tripe skewers. Don’t miss out on the bread skewers either, toast but not the usual prawn toast. Move on to a cold starter of mouth-watering Chicken 口水雞, the unmistakable tingle of Sichuan pepper dances on your tongue balancing the moreish hot, sweet and vinegary dressing. If you like that then try the fearsome Beef in Chilli Oil 水煮牛肉, my favourite dish, a cauldron of sliced beef that you should pick out of the chilli oil-slick. Do not spoon the oil over your rice! Dry fried chicken with chillies 辣子雞丁 ups the ante on the Sichuan Pepper vs Chilli stakes. By now the Sichuan pepper should have sufficiently numbed your tongue so that you are immune to the chilli heat, perfect then to appreciate the wonderful textures of the classic Mapo Tofu 麻婆豆腐. The silken cubes of bean-curd slipping down your now distended gullet. To balance your meal, the dry fried green beans 四季豆 and garlicky aubergines 燒茄子 are wonderful accompaniments and actually great standalone main dishes in their own right. If you like your food spicier then ask for it so because they will adjust it down to what they perceive as Western tastes.

BBQ Village do not only do prepared dishes but also hotpot where you cook your own food at your table. In fact you’ll see a lot of the Chinese clientele hovering over steaming pots of stock poaching raw strips of meat. I’ve never ordered it myself because I believe hotpot is better done at home and besides I can’t get past all those amazing skewers and Sichuan dishes.

BBQ Village
Tel: 0121 643 5723
55 Station St, Birmingham B5 4DY

Chung Ying and Wing Wah


A Cantonese foodie can only live for so long without blogging about Dim Sum. Since my last post about Chung Ying Garden I’ve done some extensive research on your behalf.

Wing Wah next to the Chinese hypermarket Wing Yip in Nechells has probably the best Cheung Fun 腸粉 in the whole city and generally the standard of the Dim Sum there is very good indeed. However I don’t know if I’ve been unlucky because everytime I’ve been I’ve had the noisiest migraine inducing experience. It’s just too popular with the buffet crowd who descend en masse at most lunchtimes. All-you-can-eat-Chinese-food seems to pull in some big noisy families which makes the vibe somewhere between that of a theme park and feeding time at the zoo. A shame for those eating from the Dim Sum menu and looking for a more relaxed meal. But try it out yourself, there’s plenty of free parking at least!

No I think I’ve found the best overall Dim Sum experience a lot closer to Chung Ying Garden, at the original Chung Ying. The ex-chef of my old favourite the Golden Pond has moved there and it shows. Every dish I’ve tried has been excellent. Har Gau 蝦餃 (pictured) is the litmus test for me. Like good nigiri sushi it looks simple but it’s in these apparently simple things that you can really judge the skill and discipline of the kitchen. These I can’t fault. Though I still think the steamed chicken feet in black bean sauce 豉汁鳳爪 not as good as they were at GP! Never completely happy am I?

Chung Ying
16 – 18 Wrottesley Street, Birmingham B5 4RT
Tel: 0121 622 5669

Wing Wah
278 Thimble Mill Ln, Nechells, Birmingham B7 5HD
Tel: 0121 327 7879

I had high hopes that China Court would surprise me after so many years. But recently eating over 50 items there in one sitting with 12 other Chinese diners, I realised those hopes were completely unfounded. None of us thought it was any good. There was one dish I actually thought was decent, but the rest was poor to middling. The taro puffs 芋頭角 were actively offensive, appearing to have been reheated several times over a considerable length of time. One to avoid!

Shanghai Blues (ex Golden Pond) is decidedly average and for some reason don’t do crispy fried squid 魷魚鬚 which is a must amongst my circle of friends. Though some of the Sichuan options can make it a little more diverse, the basic quality of the Dim Sum isn’t really up to level of the Chung Yings.

Min Min Noodle Bar


Min Min Noodle Bar opposite the Arcadian car park entrance offers something a little different to the rest of Chinatown. And not just in terms of decor which can only be described as funky fresh lime green. The menu noodles its way around Asia. From classic Chinese stir-fried noodles to Japanese soup noodles. Their flavours are always clean, they eschew the heavy sauces and chemical enhancements that is so common with this kind of food. It’s part of their philosophy.

My favourite noodle dish is a Hong Kong classic, beef brisket hor fun (pictured). The appetisers are fun and varied. Vietnamese cheung fun and special skewers are particularly good. They’ve got an evening menu too, dishes more for sharing like soft shell crab, Thai style fried fish and pigs trotters. Some dishes are more successful than others but there’s always something interesting on the menu. I can’t wait till they actually get that ramen machine though. That broth and pork deserve better noodles!