Thursday, 18 February 2010

Dragon Castle Dim Sum

Plain rice noodle rolls (left) and fried turnip cake (centre)
Two-in-one celebrations require twice the amount of food, right? Since Valentine's Day and the Lunar New Year both fell on the same day this year, I felt it was my duty to eat for two (no, I'm not pregnant, I'm just fat!).

If you've read any of my other paltry attempts at 'restaurant reviews', you're probably aware that I tend to order  waaaayyyy too much food; I wonder if my being born in the Year of the Pig has anything to do with it?

Anyway, The Mancreature and I trooped down the hill to Dragon Castle, just behind the Elephant and Castle. It's hard to miss, housed in a Soviet-style blue square building with huge red doors and the obligatory pair of stone lions standing guard in front. We got there just after they opened, which proved to be a good decision, as the place started filling up pretty soon after that, and there was a fairly long queue by the time we left.

On to the food; I'm not exaggerating when I said we ordered too much. The thing about dim sum is that everything seems so deceptively tiny, so you keep ticking off the dishes until, before you know it, you've got 11 dishes on the list, and someone (it wasn't me, I swear!) says "Let's make it an even 12." Infamous last words, indeed.

(A note on ordering: this isn't one of those places where you have the ladies pushing trolleys of food around, so you can't point at what you fancy. There is little dim sum menu with numbered pictures of the dishes, and the names of the dishes are in both English and Chinese. You'll have to tick off the dishes you want on a piece of paper provided - its got names in Chinese, so if you can't read Chinese, just match the numbers up. There's also a separate a la carte menu you can order from.)
Minced prawns wrapped in fried bean curd skin.
I didn't take photos of everything we ordered (because I was too busy chowing down) and I can't remember everything that I ordered, so I'll just describe what I remember.

Fried turnip cake (first photo): sooo good! It was soft and smooth on the inside, with little bits of Chinese sausage scattered around, and the crisp, fried bits on the edges were just right. Best of all, it wasn't too greasy, so I didn't feel like I was just sucking down oil, even when it got cold.

Minced prawns in fried bean curd skin (second photo): Possibly my favourite item. Juicy pink prawns with a really 'bouncy' tender, wrapped in crispy layers of golden fried bean curd skin. Bean curd skin is really underrated, it's awesome!

Plain rice noodle rolls (left, first photo): These are called 'cheeong fun' in Cantonese, I think. We ordered the plain, steamed ones, and they came in a little layer of soy sauce and sesame oil, which kept them from getting dry. They also gave us a little dipping bowl filled with hoisin sauce and peanut sauce (like a really smooth, more liquid version of peanut butter). I've never had them with that peanut sauce before, and I'm definitely a convert! I reckon I could eat it for breakfast for a whole week (not more than that though, I'd probably get bored with it).

Steamed turnip dumplings
Steam turnip dumplings (both photos above): I think these were the Mancreature's favourite. They have some minced pork and bits of peanuts in them, and they were surprisingly most inside, unlike the...

Shanghai Xiaolongbao: Ok, maybe it's just me being stupid, but I always thought that a 'Shanghai xiaolongbao' had broth inside them? They were described as 'Shanghai minced pork dumplings' in English, and the Chinese characters seemed to say they were 'xiaolongbao'. My Chinese is fairly rudimentary though, so it could have been my fault. Anyway, these ones didn't have any broth in them, just a lot of very dry pork. I had one and could barely finish it. 
Har Gow (steamed prawn dumplings)
Har Gow (photo above): I order har gow as a yardstick to test how good a dim sum place is. There's no good reason for that, now that I think of it. I just like these dumplings, and they're fairly simple, so I tend to think a place is no good if they can't even pass the 'har gow test'. Dragon Castle's were awesome - pale pink balls of prawn wrapped in soft, yet firm and translucent skin. I didn't even dip them into any sauce because I just wanted to enjoy the unadulterated taste of them. (Oh, by the way, they actually come in fours, I ate one before I got around to taking a photo.)

Steamed beef balls in bean curd skin: Bleuurgghh! The bean curd skin couldn't even save these from being crap. They just tasted weird - a little too vinegary, and bland too. I've never ordered them here before, so I don't know if it was just an off-day, or if that's how they are. 
Siu Mai (more steamed prawn dumplings)
Siu Mai (photo above): More steamed prawns - not horrible, but not especially memorable either. They come in fours too, one of us ate one before this photo was taken. 
Mango pudding
Mango pudding (photo above): Another of my inexplicable 'dim sum yardsticks'. This was sitting in a pool of condensed milk, giving it just the right touch of sweetness (the pudding itself isn't very sweet). The pudding was very creamy, unlike the more jelly-like ones you get at some places. I love it - not so sure about that glace cherry on top though.
Steamed bun with lotus paste filling
Steamed buns with lotus paste filling (photo above): I love you, my little bunny-wunny. There was also half a salted egg yolk instead, which was a pleasant surprise. It was like eating a light, fluffy version of a mooncake. I find most mooncakes too dense, but I could have eaten at least 4 of these on my own, if I wasn't so close to exploding. 

Dragon Castle
100 Walworth Road
SE17 1LJ


  1. It is 8.30 am in the morning and the first thing I see when I click your page are those amazing fried turnip cakes. Looks so delicious! Please keep posting food, henceforth I will click your page in anticipation for the glorious images of food in close-up mode.


  2. Hahah they were delicious! Damn I'm hungry just thinking about them ;)

  3. wow, that dim sum looks AMAZING! :)

  4. Oh it was! Definitely one of the better places around