Imperial China – Review (Teddington) Dim Sum in the suburbs

Guilty as charged, I’m in the burbs again in Teddington which is also known as the arse-end of no-town for any London dining fan. But look, to be an enthusiast you have to go where the food is, no matter what part of the country or world for that matter. Specifically, I’m here for the dim sum, which you’d probably associate Chinatown for, which makes this spot quite unusual, particularly as it’s in Teddington. A friend and dim sum devotee recommended that I come. I’ve now become a regular. On the inside, every edge seems to be finished in black marble, Chinese ornaments, white table clothes and of course a token fish tank. Even the chairs are draped with gold coloured covers, from top to bottom. Quite pointless, but it looks nice. For the purposes of geeking out on this post, I’ll give you a comparative view on 3 of my visits.

Dec 2011 visit

Char siu pork was moist and meaty with good sweet-stroke-sticky notes. You can tell this piece of tenderloin was marbled and time was lavished on it. It was decent enough, but more functional than something that jumps out at you.

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Thai style chickens feet is an alarm clock for the tongue. The whole dish is marinated in zingy chilli vinegar, served cold and comes boneless with crunchy texture.Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

Kai larn stir fried with garlic. Tender, bitter and sweet. You need these encouraging greens to balance out the rich dim sum.

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Vietnamese spring rolls. They are some of the best I’ve had, crisp, piping hot and comes with prawn, pork and wood ear mushrooms, all minced together and allowed to mingle to create a drool-worthy filling.

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Har Gau. Four beautiful little har gua, translucent skin and well seasoned hunks of prawn. Simple yet effective, a classic done well here.

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Chiu Chow Fun Gor. Elastic skins filled with a filling that hits you with salty, sweet and savoury flavours. There’s palate coating white pepper, radish, carrots, dried shrimps, minced pork, chopped chives and a whisper of 5 spice. They are my favourite!

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Prawn and Chive dumplings – translucent skins wrapped around filling that packs a flavour punch. There fresh and moreish.

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Prawn cheung fun – silken pastry, juicy and pert prawns left to swim in umami soy.

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Yam croquettes with their frilly edges, arrived hot & crispy, like how they should. The mashed yam, of which there is plenty, is wrapped around brilliantly seasoned minced pork and shiitake mushrooms.

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Pan fried chive dumpling are little pot stickers, one side steamed and one side golden brown. They’re not as compelling as the others but inhaled nonetheless.

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Char siu bao – steamed fluffy clouds with generously flavoured char siu. The round ones are the egg custard buns which were equally as gratifying to eat. Get them both if they’re you’re thing, you won’t be disappointed.

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Yolk Porn.

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Siu mai – a dim sum classic that are juicy, succulent and seasoned perfectly.

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Xiaolongbao – look at those plump dumplings filled with hot soup.

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Si choi ngao yuk – steamed beef balls on a bed of watercress. Gorgeous, beefy, and pops with the preserved orange peel it was seasoned with.

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Malaysian steamed sponge cake. Soft, light and enriched with the molasses of brown sugar – they come out piping hot just like the rest.

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Burncurd skin rolls are one of my personal favourites. Inside the skins you have long slithers of bean shoots, shitake mushrooms, pork and prawns. Mouth-watering and delectable is what they are, there is so much flavour in them.

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Chicken feet with black beans and chilli. Some are freaked out by the mere concept of chicken feet but other nations around the world have been eating them for centuries, as they are actually really tasty, especially these ones which have taken on all the flavour of the spices and soy. The skin and cartilage dissolves in your mouth –  conquer the mental hurdle and get involved!

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Cheung fun with crispy dough sticks drizzled with seasoned soy are the type of snack that brightens up a bad day.

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Visit in August 2012.

Thai style chicken’s feet – just as good as the Dec 2011 visit.

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Braised oxtail – this was mouth-watering, rich, unctuous and enriched with a combination of soy, star anise and other spices synonymous with Chinese cooking.

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Chiu Chow Fun Gor – translucent pastry skin bursting at the seams full of filling and flavour.

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Malaysian steamed sponge – I couldn’t take a picture fast enough!

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Chickens feet – drenched in flavour, just like how they should be.

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Some yam croquettes and fried radish cake.

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Steamed pork rib with black bean. Not the fall of the bone tender variety so skilful gnawing required for the best effects.

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Beancurd skin rolls – just as delicious as before.

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March 2016 visit

It’s the only way to order your dim sum in my humble opinion.

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The beef dishes are well worth checking out such as the oxtail and brisket.

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As are the vegetables:

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Condiments – to the right you have the Vietnamese nuoc cham dipping sauce for the Vietnamese spring rolls, Worcestershire sauce for the Si Choi Ngao Yuk (beef meatballs) and finally the chilli oil & sauce.

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Roast pork puff £3.30 (for 3). Flaky rich pastry with sweet char siu pork filling. Quite delicious but more filling is required to make them really outstanding.

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Baked egg tarts £3.30 (for 3). Silky creamy egg filling with a butter rich puff pastry – naughty and nice.

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Deep fried won tons with sweet and sour sauce £3.30. This one is good for the novice, as they are made for people who don’t really want to be here.

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Yam croquettes £3.30 (for 3). They have stayed consistent in taste after all this time, although they have shrunk a bit, that includes the filling too.

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Thai stye chicken claws £5.50. Crunchy and fresh tasting, albeit a tad sweeter this time – my preference is the former, a more acidic style.

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Beef cheung fun £3.80. If you’re a lover of cheung fun, this will quench your urges for the stuff, the beef was a riot of flavour inside that silken rice wrapper. It was probably the the dish of the day.

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Plain cheung fun with spring onions £3.30 – it would be silly not to make use of that silken cheung fun in whichever styles available.

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Deep fried spring rolls Vietnamese style £3.80 (for 3). These were a let down, totally insipid and a huge disparity in taste in comparison to my previous visits.

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Grilled Japanese chive dumpling – avoid this uninteresting one, it fell into the bland pile.

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Chiu chow fun gor (steamed dumplings Chiu Chow style) £3.30. Fresh tasting but somehow not as memorable on the taste buds as my previous visits. Still good though.

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Prawn & chive dumpling £3.80. They don’t mess with the originals here and it’s hard to stop eating these delicious dim sum until they’re gone!

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Steamed mini glutinous rice dumplings £3.80. Sticky rice seasoned with soy, chopped shiitake mushrooms, chicken, mince pork and Chinese sausage. Another classic done well.

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Steamed mince beef balls £3.80 – 3 little balls of deliciousness hustled up on a bed of watercress.

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Har gau £3.80 – not a bad dim sum, but the plump-ness and flavour profile changed this time round. The game needs to be stepped up on these as they tasted average.

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Spicy chickens claws in black bean sauce £3.5 – theres no elegant way with eating these, as gnawing on them is the only way, using your tongue to navigate through the bones, cartilage and the flavour soaked skin. They lacked the love this time though and we’re a tad insipid.

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Steamed Malaysian sponge cake £3.30. Just as good as the last time.

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Egg yolk buns £3.30 – still good but not as creamy and eggy this time round.

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Lotus paste buns £3.30 – have gooey nutty filling inside clouds of steam bread. It’s incredibly satisfying to eat.

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Kai lan or Chinese broccoli £8.80. Eating your greens is a must kids, don’t go without them, they do them good here.

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Sautèed spicy “Tung Choy” (morning glory) with shredded chillies £10. Cooked with fermented bean curd which gives it a deep savoury/salty flavour.

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Sautèed spicy “Tung Choy” (morning glory) Malaysian style £10. Cooked with Malaysian shrimp paste – there’s a good fermented funk going on. There is a caveat though, the morning glory is a stalwart order, this time around though it was like chewing the roots of a rose bush – they just seemed to miss the lush green tenderness which is unlike them.

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Beef brisket hot pot £10.30. Order this melting rich beefy goodness or you will miss out.

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The verdict:

When did I go? December 2011/August 2012/March 2016
The damage: £15-£25 per head for dim sum.
The good: This is the perfect place to dim sum when you’re in the South Western part of town. The dim sum is generally skilfully made and well priced. The beef cheung fun and chive dumplings are a must as are the brisket/ox-tail hotspots.
The bad: After several rolls of the dice I’ve been quite impressed with this restaurant. However, from my last visit they seemed to have lost their way on some of the dishes. Perhaps the chef has changed or I caught them on a bad day? If they can iron-out the inconsistencies then this place is will move from good to great.
Rating: 3.5/5
Address: 196-198 Stanley Rd, Teddington, Middlesex TW11 8UE
Phone: 020 8977 8679
http://www.imperialchinalondon.co.uk
Closest tube/train station: Teddington

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