I haven’t been able to do a post recently as I’ve been a little under the weather, but now I’m on the mend I thought Friday after work deserved a meal from the ethnic homeland.
My favourite Chinese restaurant in Leeds was the well loved, family-run Lucky Dragon just off Vicar Lane and Eastgate. I’d had many a great meal there, then I remember with much clarity we went on a Friday night. I already knew what I was going to order and when we got to the door it had a message on it saying it had closed indefinitely with immediate effect. I was absolutely gutted and must have bored my husband with my ramblings on and on about it. I later found out that it had closed due to the plans for the Eastgate development, those plans are still to be realised.
So we started going to another Chinese restaurant called Maxis, which is also very well known in the city. A lot of the staff from the Lucky Dragon moved here. This one is located between Burley Road and Kirkstall and on the same site as Napoleon’s Casino.
Chinese restaurant menus are always very comprehensive and have every combination you could imagine. The menu is divided into dim sum (served daily 12 – 6pm), vegetarian soups, vegetarian starters and main course. Next come the non-vegetarian dishes of soups, appetisers, aromatic crispy duck, sizzling dishes and a whole host of dishes for different meats, e.g. duck, chicken, beef and pork, bird’s nest, curry, seafood and sweet and sour. Lastly are the chow mein, fried rice, side dishes and speciality dishes. For those wanting a good mix of dishes there are also the set meals and banquets to cater from couples to large parties.
I had gone before the 6pm deadline for dim sum, which is a bit of a favourite of mine, all Chinese people have been brought up having ‘Yum cha’ which means ‘drinking tea’, where families normally gather together in the morning and/or afternoon together for dim sum. We used to do this on Sunday afternoon’s in Cardiff’s chinatown @ the Riverside restaurant. I immediately ordered a pot of chinese tea, I remember that as a young child I wasn’t really a fan of the tea and would always let it go completely cold before I drank, just to prolong me having to drink it. Now it’s tends to be the drink of choice for me, just because it’s so good at cleansing the palate.
They have an extensive dim sum menu with little pictures so you can see what you are choosing. I have a number of favourites but decided on two – ha gau (prawn dumplings) and prawn cheung fun (beef in rice noodle rolls) and then dry fried beef with ho fun noodles from the speciality dishes.
The ha gau and prawn cheung fun are steamed, so it can take 10-15 minutes to cook properly. When they arrived the ha gau are brought in their bamboo steamer. For those who are unfamiliar with ha gau, they are made with wheat starch and the skill in making these is shown by the number of pleats the chef can put when making the little pouches. It’s then filled with prawn and bamboo shoots and steamed until the wrapper is translucent. Perfectly cooked once the prawn turns pink which should be seen faintly through the very thin wrapper. I have always loved these since I was a child and this has not changed, the little morsels in my opinion are gems of dim sum. Just the right size for a mouthful of dim sum goodness. The prawn lovely and sweet with a little crunch from the chopped bamboo shoots. The rice flour wrapper sticky and doesn’t have much flavour on it’s own, but with a little dip into Kikkoman soy sauce or chilli oil cannot be bettered.
The prawn cheung fun are also a very traditional example of dim sum. Made from a mixture of different rice flours, there are many variations and fillings to choose from. Similarly to ha gau they are steamed and should be translucent in appearance showing off their filling with little slashes across it’s length. The fillings provide the dish with flavour and the sweetened soy sauce that is added has exactly the right balance of salty and sweet that works brilliantly with them plain or filled. These were filled with large prawns which were absolutely delicious, tender and sweet; the rice rolls soft and slippery, just as they should be. Now in terms of food looking pretty, these steamed delights are not particularly pleasing to eye, but damn do they pack a punch in terms of moreishness and taste!
My noodle dish of dry fried beef with rice noodles is a classic yum cha dish, in fact all 3 dishes we would order when my family went out for on a Sunday.
The dish is made of wide rice noodles with strips of beef that has been wok fried quickly so that they are very tender; sliced onion, bean sprouts and spring onions are added giving a mild onion flavour, which helps to cut through the rich soy sauce that flavours the whole dish. This dish is probably the one I will always order and the only time I manage to eat the whole thing is without any starters.
For one person these 3 dishes are a lot to eat, but I always take half the noodles in a doggy bag for the following days lunch or dinner.
All in all, a very satisfying and filling meal at a very good price. Two dim sum, one main course and a pot of chinese tea for £20 including a tip.Maxi’s Restaurant 6 Bingley Street Leeds LS3 1LX 0113 244 0552