Issue 247
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What is dim sum? I mean obviously we know what dim sum is, but come on, what is dim sum? And more to that point, how bad is our etiquette and technique every time we order and eat it? If you're a dim sum sensei (oooh, check you!) skip to the end of this feature for 20% off at Chung Ying Cantonese and Chung Ying Central. If like us, you have a little to learn, be schooled by the owner of both restaurants, James Wong, right here, right now.
You try timelining when dim sum originated, because we've been working up this feature for a fortnight and definitely can't. James will have you believe it all started when the concubine of an emperor wanted smaller portions than the feast she was at allowed. We'd point to the traders on the Silk Roads eating snack-sized bites with tea somewhere around the tenth century. What everyone can agree on is that dim sum as we now know it arrived in the western world via Hong Kong and Guangdong Province in South China, where the steamed, baked and fried pic'n'mix is typically devoured over weekend brunch.

Order from your waiter, or by ticking every dim sum you want from a menu slip, or from moving trolleys in super traditional spots. There is no correct amount or order to the process — the steamed baskets of joy will arrive as they're ready, with three or four bites in each.

Tea is critical. Pour for others before filling your own cup, just to 80% capacity mind. And if you end up being poured for, thank yous can be dispensed by tapping the table with two fingers — no break in conversation necessary. Leave your teapot's lid open, or turn it over in the pot when a re-steep is needed. Just don't leave the spout pointing at anyone: a sign of aggression.
蝦餃皇Har Gow
Whole king prawn, steamed in a translucent wrapper

Chung Ying serves more than 500 pieces of this specific dim sum every week — typically flavoured with pork and bamboo shoots. Chef's skill here is getting the skin thin and slightly chewy, yet sturdy enough to hold a perfectly cooked prawn. Practice is the answer.
燒賣 Pork Siu Mai  
Open-topped dumplings filled with ground pork and prawns
Like all dim sum, the standard rules of chopsticks apply: don't spear your food, don't tap them together or against the table, or leave them sticking up in rice. All are considered bad form, so stop air drumming, yeah? Chung Ying'll totally let you have a knife and fork, but any utensil you can kill with is traditionally banned from Chinese tables.
叉燒飽 Char Siu Bao
Fluffy white bun with roast pork

The third of the "Guangdong Big Three", the casing is completely different here — a soft, dense and surprisingly sweet concoction, which is 100% steamed. It's typical for the filling to be both sweet and savoury — a classic example is roast pork with a sweet honey sauce.
煎餃子 Gyoza
Steamed and pan fried dumplings

These little beauts can be filled with ground meat, seafood or vegetables, which are then crimped to seal in the filling. Contrary to the typical Western condiment of choice, gyoza are served with vinegar, to cut through the dish. While soy is used in moderation in Southern China, it's very much a dipper rather than the main event.
上海小籠飽 Shiu Lung Bao
Steamed pork shanghai dumplings

The dish that got us obsessed — "soup dumplings" typically consist of ground pork, with a rich, hot broth, visible when you pick the dumpling up. Chung Ying serve with a hole at the top — critical to let out some steam so you don't burn your mouth. Make the hole bigger for immediate consumption. 
豉汁鳳爪 Chicken Feet
Steamed with black bean

Super common back in China, suck and don't bite this one — it's as much about the sauce as the chicken. Other popular plates for you advanced level dim-summers include some of James' favourites: tripe and satay, turnip pâté and baby octopus are all findable at Chung Ying, which says it has the biggest range of dim sum in the UK.
炸奶皇飽 Caramel Buns
Deep fried

Whether a dumpling, bun, wrap, puff, tart or noodle roll, and whether savoury sweet or a mixture of the two, if it's snack-sized and Chinese, it's dim sum. These buns make particular sense with all that tea you'll be practically IV'ing by this stage — for extra deliciousness be sure to eat before they go cold.
From today, it's 20% off dim sum at both Chung Ying Central (menu) and Chung Ying Cantonese (menu), from 12pm until 5pm every day. There's a wider selection of dim sum at the latter (in the Chinese Quarter) but there's 2-4-1 cocktails directly afterwards at the former (on Colmore Row).


You are closer than you think to one of the world's leading spoon-carvers. The excellently named JoJo Wood has been creating pretty much since she could walk, going around the world to meet craftspeople and hone her skills. And if you're wondering what this has to do with you, together with social enterprise Path Carvers, JoJo has opened a workshop on Stirchley High Street. Make a spoon ring, get some knife-carving skills (£30), or drop into the weekly Carving Club which takes place each Thursday. As well as offering public workshops, the team is working to bring creative arts to people who wouldn't normally get access to its benefits, engaging with alcohol and drug rehab services, low-income families and prisons to name a few. Caps very doffed to these guys.


Cripes! When did 2004 become a period setting? That’s not the only shocking revelation in this smart, zippy and fun heist flick. A first feature from doco maker Bart Layton — this is the true-ish story of four privileged college boys who decide to rob a priceless book from their Kentucky university. There are plenty of twists in the actual story, but the decision here to have the real-life perpetrators offer a running commentary – in some parts openly mocking the decisions the filmmakers have made – is an inspired one, and takes what could have been a bit of a throwback to the post-Tarantino boom in crime flicks into big-thinking territory. Your interest will be held and then some. Get a seat at the preview on Sept 5 and you'll also receive a free Wild Turkey Old Fashioned. Tickets


There's a fair that has a habit of selling out each year. But fortunately for you, Loki hasn't told anyone about it yet, which makes your chances of getting a spot on the excellent side of excellent. There'll be 300 different wines and spirits available to try, including owner Phil's favourite Champagne, Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve NV, which includes 12 vintages to make one stunning non-vintage. Taking place on Saturday November 17, tickets are £25 for three hours of trying. At Malmaison, choose from a 1pm kick-off, or the will-turn-in-to-a-very-big-night 5pm start time. Anderson & Hill is on nibblettes.
Venue: Holy Moly Macaroni, Grand Central, B2 4XJ; website
Choice: Shrimp Daddy (£8.50) Chooser: Waitress
Ever been to a mac-off? It was our second year of uni and there were seven types to choose from. It was a serious matter. And in terms of concept, fit-out and ambition, so is Holy Moly Macaroni. Their hero dish is however at once coagulated and mushy — the batch-cooked pasta having seen happier al dente days. We tried the chorizo and prawn Shrimp Daddy as well as Uptown Mac (which comes with mushrooms, truffle oil, crispy onions and chives). The cheese sauce tasted of nothing in particular — like we imagine a melted Kraft slice might land. The portions were a little bit obscene, with all the topping balanced perilously on your melty mound, toppling straight onto the reuseable menu-come-placemats. Good news comes in the form of the charred, bitey chorizo in Shrimp Daddy, the hot sauce you'll find on every table, and the speed of service. And there was no chicken when we visited, knocking out six potentially swoon-worthy dishes from the menu. But on the basis of what we were recommended and tried, Holy Moly would need to get considerably better at mac'n'cheese to stand a chance at a mac-off.


If you're still sitting on an adeptly graffitied fence about Digbeth, the recommended treatment is full immersion. Find the bestest ghost signs and wall art as part of a 2.5 hour guided walking tour, whilst learning about the area's industrial heritage and rapidly changing streets. On September 8, the ramble starts on Bradford Street at 1pm and includes a brief stint along the Fazeley Canal as well as the crannies and the nooks you're unlikely to find without a knowledgable sort. Tickets for the one-off wander are £7.50. It's happening on the same day as Digbo's street culture festival, High-Vis, so maybe hit them both up? The one-dayer's about all things visual, so think graffiti, illustration, skateboarding, plus zine and comic book cultures. It's free and taking place at the Custard Factory where, if we've understood this right, there used to sit an entire factory made of custard.  
From one of the chaps behind Clink, Cork & Cage is opening in Stirchley with Turkish mezze and small plates.

Sutton Coldfield news. We repeat, Sutton Coldfield news. Twins, Scott and Steven Lewis, who trained under Michel Roux Jr at Le Gavroche launch The Birdcage in the ever so lovely Sutton Park in November.
There's a rave happening somewhere in the city but you'll have to solve clues to find it. You'll get three hours to do so until the doors are locked.
Finders Keepers has opened its bar on Adderley Street with Wine Freedom on vin. Courtyard, performance space and food to follow. 

Caneat's doing Sunday dinner on September 9, then opening on Sunday for brunch from September 26. Book

What a time to be alive!

"Defeat isn't bitter if you don't swallow it."

Chinese proverb

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WORDS: Katy Drohan, Andrew Lowry
PICTURES: Tom Bird (Chung Ying), Andy Smart (Digbeth guided walk)

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