Thursday, 1 November 2012

Loong Kee Kingsland Road - Vietnamese cheung fun?

Loong Kee Kingsland Road Vietnamese restaurant cheung fun bahn cuon

Address: 134G Kingsland Road, Hackney
London E2 8DY
Tel: 020 7729 8344
Nearest Overground station: Hoxton

Ratings (out of 5 *)
Price: below £15 pp
Service charge: 12.5%
Taste: ***
Service: *
Ambience: **
What got my attention was the mention of cheung fun, a steamed rice based wrap found on a Chinese dimsum menu, usually stuffed with the likes of charsiew or shrimps.

"The cheung fun at Loong Kee is really silky," another foodie pal of ours claimed over tea awhile back. The best one I have had in London is at Yauatcha but heading to Soho just for that seems too much of a hassle. Loong Kee, located between Geffrye Museum and Song Que, and a twenty minute brisk walk away, is a better bet.

The slightly sour smell of vineger, a key ingredient used in nuoc mam cham, the Vietnamese dipping sauce for the Vietnamese spring rolls, greeted us as we stepped in. The staff who perfected the art of staring at a distance just over your shoulder when talking to you (you know exactly what I'm talking about, don't you) quickly gestured us to an empty table. He promptly went back to surfing the internet on his iPad after that. Wonderful, that was beginning to feel like one of those joints which food is so darn good that they don't really give a hoot about their customers.

It took us some time to spot where the elusive cheung fun was - they were called "steam rolls" on the menu, which pages were barely held together by bits of food. I suspect they have a more elegant Vietnamese name (banh cuon from a quick search online).

The steam rolls, which come in either servings of twelve or sixteen can easily be a main on its own. For the sake of variety, we went for the "mixed rolls" (£6 for 16 rolls), a small pile of steam rolls stuffed with mushroom bits, minced pork and shrimps.

Perhaps "stuffed" is the wrong word as some rolls barely had any fillings hidden under the folds of rice wrap. The steamed rice wrap was definitely thinner and smoother than the cheung fun that I am used to though. Absent was the Chinese soy sauce but give me the slightly nuoc mam cham (dip) anytime.

Loong Kee Kingsland Road Vietnamese restaurant beef pho

With the blustery autumn winds and fine rain hitting intermittently on Loong Kee's windows, a pipping hot beef pho (£6.80) was almost mandatory. The pho at Loong Kee seemed to be the frozen variety. Being tougher, it had the consistency of an al dente spaghetti, albeit thinner. I might be wrong but I thought that Loong Kee's portion (the beef slices) was more generous than Cay Tre's.

I heard that Loong Kee is a different place altogether in the evenings with both its ground floor and basement packed. Could it be due to the spillover crowd from Song Que (there is a queue there on weekend evenings)? Maybe. Otherwise, it hard to see why.

Loong Kee Kingsland Road Vietnamese restaurant coffee
a cup of Vietnamese coffee sweetened with condensed milk to wash it all down

Surely, there couldn't be that many Banh Cuon fans in the area, could it? Even so, the lowly hung spinning fan blades at Loong Kee's basement will ensure the early demise of any six footer among them.

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