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Pearl Liang

Gong xi fa cai/Kung hei fat choi! It's the sixth day of Chinese New Year - the Year of the Dog, specifically. I may be late to the party as always, but in the spirit of making a new start, I'm breaking months of silence with three special posts on where you should go to eat this Chinese New Year and beyond. 

Nestled in Paddington Basin, Pearl Liang isn't one of London's most well known Chinese restaurants but is still a firm family favourite. The Lims have frequented this place loyally for years for their lobster noodles and lychee martinis, and it has added sentimental value for me as the place we went to celebrate on the evening I was offered my current job.

CNY is all about spending time with your loved ones, so Lukas and Briony's boyfriend were invited along for the ride (for Lukas's first CNY meal!) We toasted the new year with the classic lychee martinis and bellinis as well as a round of Tsingtao for the men. Then this magnificent plate of yee sang, or lo hei, was placed in front of us. It's a lucky salad eaten at CNY in Malaysia and Singapore, but is apparently not a typically Chinese tradition. I've asked mainland and Hong Kong Chinese whether they know about this dish and have been met with blank faces. While it might not be strictly traditional, it remains a typical example of a Chinese New Year dish made lucky through wordplay - if you flip 'yee sang' round you get 'sang yee', which translates roughly as 'thriving business'. 

Pearl Liang's yee sang is fresh and crunchy, with salmon sashimi used for the raw fish component, - my kind of salad! It's also a lot of fun to eat - everyone stands up and uses their chopsticks to toss and swirl the ingredients around while saying 'huat'. I reckon even the most staid of diners would derive a measure of glee from destroying that carefully constructed pile. Pearl Liang only serves this at CNY, so you'll have to make a special trip at this time of year if you want to try it.

Another dish you shouldn't miss at this time of the year is noodles of any kind - the longer the better! Noodles symbolise longevity, for obvious reasons, and if you go to a Chinese restaurant you'll probably see the waiters lifting them up high to emphasise the length for the expectant diners. You're sure to have a full and rich life if you're lucky enough to be eating these sticky noodles, heavy on the garlic and ginger, with a generous serving of plump lobster. 

Also on the table for CNY: crunchy kai lan with abalone (a Chinese delicacy - but essentially a sea snail!) and scallops, silky mushrooms with more greens and seafood rice for the 'fishitarians' at the table (that's me and Lukas, by the way). For the meat-eaters, soya chicken and a comforting lai tong soup.

To finish we ordered a trio of classic Chinese chilled desserts: mango pudding with coconut cream, coconut tapioca soup and a grapefruit and citrus tapioca. These instantly transported me back to a childhood of dim sums in London, coveting the heart-shaped mango pudding at Royal China.  

Thanks for reading! As I wrap this post up, I realise I've inadvertently organised my trio of CNY restaurant posts from oldest to newest. This post has been about an old family favourite, the next will be about a relative newcomer to the restaurant scene (but fast becoming a favourite) and the third will be about a brand new restaurant that opened this winter. Can you guess which restaurants I'm going to write about? There's already a lot of blog coverage about those two, but I don't mind - I'm so excited to write about them! See you next time and for my Chinese readers, xin nian kuai le (happy new year)!

30 Sheldon Square
London W2 6EZ

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