By Bonnie Yeung, Yang Sing.
Standing out amongst its UK counterparts, Manchester’s Chinatown reflects the city’s entrepreneurial and cultural spirit, flying the flag for independence and grassroots enterprise. The area has a real sense of community and camaraderie but is also diverse enough to offer a rich and varied experience. The growth of Manchester’s Chinatown can partly be attributed to a generation of traditional Chinese and Confucian thinkers, where family and community preceded the individual. My parents, and those of many of my friends, arrived in Britain with the mindset that success came only with hard work. This family structure coupled with infamous Chinese thrift, and an indomitable work ethic paved the way for self employment, enterprise and economic accomplishment.
There is a sprawling assortment of South East Asian cultures and independent businesses in Chinatown. Purveyors of Southern Chinese cuisine are still popular; serving dim sum, homely casseroles and the famed Hong Kong style roasts that can often be seen hanging like tempting curios in display windows. Many of these open late into the night, supplying community night owls and weary off duty waiters with their fix of food from ‘home’. The Northern Chinese settlers in Chinatown have brought us great gutsy mealtimes; where intestines and lung are commonplace; and where garlic, chilli and pepper are used in abundance. This is food you will recall for a long time afterwards because your body won’t let you forget about it! Pungent Hot Pot or BBQ dining are a convivial style of dining. Dunking or grilling your own food; is casual dining at its best. This kind of eating isn’t a meal to be hurried: it’s more an event than just a feeding opportunity. You’ll be provided with an array of condiments and soy sauce to make up your own dipping sauce: spicy chilli paste, barbecue sauce, peanut paste and dried fried garlic, which can become addictive.
The non-Chinese retinue that make up Chinatown are also numerous and alluring: Thai, Vietnamese and Japanese to name but a few. There’s teppanyaki, rotator belt sushi; a favourite of mine is the dessert room and where I’d recommend trying the durian snow ice. You would also find wonderful classic Vietnamese comfort food; the summer rolls are my all time favourite and can even beat the offerings on Kingsland Road in London.
I have sampled dim sum all over the world; from China to the Americas and it is a rarity that any betters that of my father’s. The Yang Sing, which has been in my family since its inception in November 1977, specialises in dim sum and traditional Cantonese cookery. In his youth my father Harry, and his father before him, were renowned in Chinatown for two things: their frightening tempers, but also their impressive dim sum. Now a sexagenarian my father’s temper shows some signs of abating but his dedication to his kitchen remains impressive. As a result I am proud to be able to say the reputation of the Yang Sing’s dim sum has spread far and wide. Each dumpling is expertly crafted by deft fingers, nimbly folded and filled with fresh fabulous ingredients.
Chinatown is a community that safeguards the traditions, the conviviality and the quirks that make it unique. It has nourished, added to and served the city for many years, its identity and continuing preservation is vital to the geography of Manchester. Nowhere in the city today will you share such intimate and personal experiences.
Yang Sing, 34 Princess Street, Manchester, M1 4JY.