In the run-up to Chinese New Year, Manchester restaurant owners were asked about their favourite Chinese food in the city. One name stood out above the rest: Yang Sing. This family-run restaurant dates back to 1977, shifting venue before finding its current home on Princess Street at the edge of Chinatown. It’s an elegant building with low ceilings, minimalist design and notably lacking in the bright flashy decor of nearby venues.
While no one would recommend a Chinese banquet on a regular basis, there’s nothing wrong with the occasional splurge, particularly for special occasions such as Chinese New Year. And indeed, this banquet menu is the one we’re trying. The word ‘banquet’ doesn’t get across quite how vast this fixed menu is. There are well over a dozen courses, ranging from authentic traditional food to unique concoctions you won’t find anywhere else. Let’s dive in.
The first dish is the intriguingly-titled ‘double dish prosperity toss’, also known as Yu Sheng, (which translates as “an increase in abundance”). The plate holds a mixture of slender strips of raw vegetables such as carrots and onions, pickled fruit and crunchy potato snacks, all of which circle thick slabs of fresh salmon. While Western culture has new year traditions such as a gifts lump of coal, people with South-east Asian roots have this rather more appetising dish. The aim is to toss it in the air – the higher it goes, the more luck you’ll have over the coming year. Did I take part in this tradition? No. Luck be damned, the salmon was too delicious to risk losing to the floor. Although considering the amount of food yet to come, my stomach would prefer I had.
These near-weightless bundles resemble what can only be described as miniature deep-fried sea urchins, containing a blob of minced crab with a refreshing citrus tang
Next up, a pair of soft, sticky venison pastries, made with soy and filo pastry. Hot and gooey with a rich meaty centre, the coating is shiny and sweet, combining to create a delightful, if somewhat disorientating mix of flavours. More dim sum soon arrives, including a perfect prawn and pork sui mai dumping, topped with bright orange crab roe. These sit alongside a duo of steamed xiao long bau pork dumplings, each with a neat mound of black truffle spooned on top, created specifically for new year celebrations. Both are pitch perfect, but are outshone by the crab and lemon croquette. These near-weightless bundles resemble what can only be described as miniature deep-fried sea urchins, containing a blob of minced crab with a refreshing citrus tang. The batter works wonders with a splash of soy, partially dissolving into a mouth-watering crunchy mush. This dish alone is among the finest dim sum you’ll find in Manchester.
The middle courses match up well. First, steamed scallops, served in their shells along with with wispy green bean vermicelli and a full-bodied garlic and soy sauce. The scallop is fat, fresh and contrasts well with the rich, dark gravy. Duck and pancakes are next, shredded at the table to make an unruly pile of crispy skin and soft velvety meat. The plum sauce is exquisite, a purple gooey blend of sweet and sour.
Incredibly, we haven’t even reached the main courses yet. The staff give us time to catch our breath before bringing over a fiercely hot plate of sliced beef mingled with thick chunks of ginger and tender spring onion. Sauce is poured over the lot, leaving the plate sizzling away and softening the meat. This goes well with the egg fried rice – fluffy and white, mixed up with a fair amount of Tianjin winter vegetables.
Our waiter smiles as he admits, “The aim is to roll you out of the door.”
The Cantonese trio of meats are another high point. Thick slices of belly roast pork, char sui and roasted duck, all resting on a lip-smacking sweet, sticky sauce. The final main course is quite a mouthful. Stir fried cuttlefish thins and deep fried prawns next to a pile of pea pods and other seasonal greens, covered with a spicy XO sauce. The prawns are on a par with the crab croquettes. They’re wrapped in vermicelli and cooked by being gently lowered into boiling oil so they retain their shape, turning the thin noodles into crispy tendrils. These alone are worth a return visit.
By now, we’re full to bursting. The only thing left is to pick at the platter of fruit which includes lychees, sharon fruit and cubed mango. This array of light fresh produce is a much-needed final flourish to such a mammoth meal. Our waiter smiles as he admits, “The aim is to roll you out of the door.” He’s certainly managed that. If you’re looking for a banquet that both captivates the eye and fills your belly, look no further than Yang Sing.