As it’s Chinese New Year tomorrow, it’s only fitting that I write about a visit to the CBD’s Chung Ying Central, fast becoming a darling of Colmore Row.
Since opening in early 2014, it’s been a fixture of the Colmore Food Festival and won numerous awards including ‘Brummies Choice’ Best Restaurant in 2016’s Birmingham Mail Poll.
The restaurant has no shortage of pedigree either as part of the Chung Ying Group, which has been established for over 35 years. It started with Chung Ying itself, then branched out to Chung Ying Garden a few minutes walk away and now, Chung Ying Central.
Central offers a differing selection to the main two restaurants, focusing on a more business-like crowd. The main menu focuses on one of the widest dim sum menus ever seen, with over 100 options paired with a selection of delicious cocktails (such as the Shanghai Rose above).
Tonight’s evening was about introducing myself and some fellow bloggers to some of the wide range of cuisine on offer, ranging from Cantonese to Thai to Szechuan and Japanese. Central understands that people’s tastes are steering away from the traditional sweet and sour chicken. Consumers are a little more savvier nowadays and wanting to experience a wider range of tastes in their cuisine, alongside a selection of teas (Iron Buddha, Oolong (Bao Li to the wife and in-laws), Jasmine and Pu-Erh) or Asian Beers (Sapporo, Tsing Tao and Chang).
Post snacking on some moreish Prawn Crackers paired with a sweet and spicy chilli dip, it was time to get down to business with our selection of food for the evening which I decided to go with Oolong to pair up.
To start off: Szechuan “Dan Dan” Noodle. Originating (as you guessed) from the Szechuan area of China, know for their liberal use of spice and pepper. The noodles are usually served in broth, accompanied with pickled vegetables and minced meat, usually pork.
According to Wikipedia, the name refers to a type of carrying pole (dan dan) that was used by walking street vendors who sold the dish to passers-by. The pole was carried over the shoulder with two baskets containing noodles and sauce attached at either end. As the noodles were affordable due to their low cost, the local people gradually came to call them dandan noodles, referencing the street vendors. Literally, the name translates as “noodles carried on a pole” but may be better translated as “peddler’s noodles”.
These wheat noodles (also available with egg noodles for those wishing to avoid the gluten) weren’t as spicy as expected but still rich in flavour, and a healthy portion of minced pork gave a good umami texture to balance them out.
Next up was Honey and Garlic Chicken Karaage. Steering away from the ubiquitous Korean fried chicken technique, this Japanese style is done in a tempura style batter and then deep fried in oil to get the crisp just right. Chung Ying uses chicken thigh rather than breast meat as they believe (and I agree) the flavour is much richer.
This was my favourite dish of the night; the smoked garlic and honey were in harmony and the chicken had just the right amount of crisp for my personal taste. I’d have been happy with just a bowl of this for the night and a quiet corner to tuck myself away in.
To follow was the Pei Par Tofu, named after a pear-shaped Chinese string instrument. Though you may think this dish would be vegetarian due to the tofu, you’d be mistaken. These were deep fried with prawn and pork mince inside, served with spring onion and mushrooms. Delicious and moreish.
The next one along was Pan Fried Pork and Vegetable Steamed Bao. The char siu bao are my biggest weakness in life. Those sticky sweet fluffy white balls of heaven are my all time fave dish and I have to restrain myself when we have them at our fairly regular dim-sum trips. This version was a little different: sweet dough served open with a savoury pork and vegetable filling. Some may find sweet and salty an odd combination but I always like a mix up with my tastes.
If you have been wondering what my header image was, this was perhaps the most left field of the nights dishes: Stuffed Pork Intestines in Salt and Chilli. Now this might sound like a nightmare to some but that’s what most sausages (well good ones) were made from for centuries. I mean, black pudding and faggots are a Midlands staples so we can’t say much on that front! These were stunning, not dissimilar to pork belly in texture and taste, with a slightly more offal-like note to them. These were nice and had a spicy topping of finely chopped chilli.
The final savoury dish of the night was X.O. Lap Cheong Fried Rice. Colloquially known as ‘Chinese Sausage’, this covers a wide range of cured meats. This version was a dried hard sausage with a rich taste, which was laced throughout the fried rice with the usual peas. I do love Chinese Sausage so these was perfect for my taste.
We also had some desserts to round off; some traditional, some not so traditional. Originally Chung Ying Central didn’t serve desserts on opening but the clamour about the lack of pudding put change to that tactic pretty sharpish.
Covering the brownie side, these were supplied to Chung Ying Central from Mrs Mills Makes Cakes. Having met them at a food event, James and Will were impressed enough to have them start regularly supplying the restuarant. Good call I think! The Salted Caramel Brownie was my fave of the two but the Triple Chocolate Brownie was no slouch either.
On the more traditional side of the desserts was the Steamed Caramel Bun and Pan Fried Water Chestnut Paste. Again, I’m no stranger to a good custard bun, made with sugar and rich egg yolk to give that golden colour with a hint of caramel flavour. The chestnut paste was a new one on me. From the outside, its colour and shape reminded me of raw honeycomb; lmost jelly like in texture with big crunchy pieces of water chestnut (which I’d associate with a sir fry) buried inside. For a dessert, it was mild on the sweetness and quite pleasant as a palate cleanser.
This was perfect as we had one last little treat to try. I’ve previously had Canadian ice wine but Will introduced us to Changyu Golden Diamond Vidal Ice Wine. This fruity dessert wine had aromas of pear, lychee and honey. The process of icing allows a cleaner taste than usual.
And with that it was “joy geen” to Chung Ying Central until the next week but more on that soon…
Disclaimer: For this visit, I was a guest of Chung Ying Central & East Village PR, this provides no bias to the post. This blog is my own personal opinion and strives to provide an independent view, promoting, enjoying and reviewing the range of exciting food and venues in and around Birmingham.
Where: Chung Ying Central, 126 Colmore Row, Birmingham, B3 3AP
Who: Chung Ying Group