Try delicious dim sum dipped in nostalgia
Andre Burgener has been immersed in all things food since she took over the making of the family's lunch box sandwiches aged eight (her mom could make a mean creme brulee and a staggering souffle, but could never butter the bread all the way to the edges.
"BLAH BLAH. New dim sum place in old Chinatown. Blah blah". I can't remember the surrounding words, or who spoke them, because all else fell away when I heard dim sum and old Chinatown together in a sentence. Nothing could be sweeter music to my ears.
Yum Cha, my favourite meal in the world (and the rightful place of dim sum), is now cooking again at the west end of Commissioner Street. For years (when old Chinatown was in its heyday) this was my favourite stomping ground.
For decades there were many large, even grand, places offering a full Yum Cha every day, and even a takeaway dim sum "deli". Then it all disappeared. When I heard the news of the new dim sum spot, I bolted from the house to follow it up. Turns out the "new" part isn't quite right; Ming Woo, in the old Yung Chen Noodle Den quarters, is already a year old.
After the last time I drove past the old site and saw a sign on the door which read "wors and pap R2', I'd assumed, as did many, that the Chinese reign of those premises had ended. I was wrong.
If you were a Yung Chen devotee, it's like going home. Everything looks a little cleaner, but all else feels the same. The main menu is pretty standard Western-Chinese fare (chop-suey, fortune cookies and so on), but the dim sum is what you're after.
If you don't look obviously Asian, ask for the Yum Cha menu, or it won't be given to you. All the greats are here, from slippery Cheung Fan steamed rice rolls and potsticker dumplings to turnip cake and the mighty Har Gao.
There's also Glutinous Sweep, which I have yet to try. Ming Woo is at 4A Commissioner Street (with great views of Johannesburg Central police station). Call 011-833-5924
Don't forget that one of the oldest Chinese superettes in the city is one block up, across the road from Ming Woo. Sui Hing Hong supplies many restaurants in the city.
It has fine greens, super-fresh bean sprouts, bamboo parcels and bao (steamed buns) . Shelves are stocked with a variety of teas, hoisins, sesame oils, assorted rices and so on. You will also find electric rice cookers in assorted sizes, woks, tea sets, crockery and those paper pineapple cocktail thingies so essential for topping cocktails.
Just like Harrods, it even has someone opening and closing the door (security gate) at the front for you, and helping you with your bags. Sui Hing Hong is at 17 Commissioner street. 011-838-7704
Burgener is the chef at The Leopard