Welcome to the second of my three Chinese restaurants for Chinese New Year! The second installment in a trilogy is sometimes regarded as a disappointing filler, but let's just say Pearl Liang is The Godfather Part II - a shining gem in the depths of Paddington Basin. The last post focused on C&R, where you can drop in for a bowl of noodles whenever the fancy strikes; meanwhile, Pearl Liang is definitely reserved for more special occasions. Walking in here stirs up fond memories of Chinese New Years past, lunches with family friends, and lobster noodles on the day I secured a training contract last July. Needless to say, it's the food that induces us to return time and again.
Lychee martinis all round. We ordered these for the first time in a glitzy bar in Shanghai nearly a decade ago (I only had a sip, okay?) and now they're the cocktail of choice in our family.
Starting on a high point with a majestic Peking duck and pancakes. Usually we order a half roast duck or crispy aromatic duck with pancakes, but apparently Peking duck is more befitting of a formal meal at CNY (and crispy aromatic duck is a British invention - who knew?)
It's also incredibly tasty - a strong contender for my desert island dish. Succulent meat, crispy skin with a lacquered shine, cucumber and spring onion strips, fragments of keropok and sticky plum sauce to tie everything together. Honestly the stuff of dreams. Tread softly because you tread on my duck (an excerpt from that well-known poem, Tamsin wishes for the pancakes of heaven). I'm delirious with the memory.
There's a few prescribed dishes you must eat if you're seeking maximum luck at Chinese New Year. Some are chosen for their names - for example, the word for glutinous rice cake is niangao, which sounds like 'getting higher year on year' - excellent for increasing the height of your children, your grades, your performance at work, etc! Tangerines, too, are great because they're 'golden' and are called chéng, which sounds the same as the Chinese word for success. Meanwhile, dumplings are mandatory simply because they look a bit like boat-shaped Chinese ingots, so eat them for maximum prosperity and wealth!
Wasabi prawn dumplings.
Sticky pork xiaolongbao bursting with soup.
King prawns with chilli and onion.
Noodles are also de riguer at New Year - unsurprisingly, their length denotes longevity. Apparently the longest noodle ever made was over a mile long, so whoever ate that should live to 1000.
Sister's favourite fried ho fun with beef.
And finally, we went panning for gold in this miniature lake of coconut milk, the tapioca spheres within themselves reminiscent of seed pearls. Ending on a virtuous note. I'd like to think so, anyway.
Pearl Liang also does fantastic dim sum, but although it has an evening dim sum menu (the source of the dumplings), it always feels slightly wrong to order dim sum when the sun has gone down. Do you have a favourite dim sum restaurant to recommend me? There's one last weekend of festivities for me to indulge on dim sum with minimum guilt, you see...