Dingheen, down Hockley way, has been on my radar for quite a few weeks now. I have perused the menu in the window on several occasions, nose pressed up against the window trying not to drool. Although the menu is mostly is Chinese, that as a good sign of somewhere likely to be selling real authentic Chinese fare, and somewhere I want to be eating. To back that hope up whenever I have walked by it has been full of the local Chinese community crouched around tables laden with communal dishes of food.
I have been looking for a place like this in Nottingham for the last couple of years since my return to these fair shores. I have been in dire need of somewhere to supply me with Chinese Soup and Dumplings, regular readers of my other blogs at “The El Stop Food Hunt Project” and at “MyFoodHunt” may recognise my predilection for these two dishes. Most recently I was able to travel back over to China to Shenzhen and was satiated with both some Hot and Sour Soup and a dish of dumplings (Read about that trip here).
I had already spotted them both on the Dingheen menu and was hopeful that on this visit I was about to make my dumpling dreams come true.
So it was with a hopeful gait that I made this shorter trip over to Hockley.
So lets get down to it
Szechuan Hot and Sour Soup
First up was a bowl of the Szechuan Hot and Sour Soup which was featuring on the menu for just £3 (bargain). This is my ‘Go-to’ Chinese soup dish and I absolutely love it. It has assisted my recovery on many an occasion in places far and wide, from Wuhan to Beijing, over to Hong Kong and neighbouring Shenzhen, back to China Town in New York, and down South of the Loop at Cermak in Chicago. Particular faves have been at The Excellent Dumpling House in New York, yes that is it’s real name, or up in Flushing Queens, where you can get fantastic and authentic dumplings at the Golden Mall on Main Street
Here a Dingheen I was not to be disappointed, it was another excellent bowlful, hot in temperature and a little hot in taste, the perfect soup for a late Autumn day. It was thick and gloopy in a good way, filled with shredded carrot, dried mushrooms, juicy lumps of silken tofu floated in and amongst a sauce filled with plentiful slivers and thin slices of chicken and pork. Hints of the reason for the spice was not subtle, with bits of red and green chilli floating all around.
This was a great start to my visit, half way through my nose was starting to run a little as the spices did their work and as the steam rose from the bowl like a soup sauna and my glasses started to fog up a little. As I continued to slurp my way through the bowl I could half see into the kitchen where I could see and hear my dumpling being made. The clatter of those pans, all just for me, was a happy sound. As I made it halfway down the bowl my dumplings came out through the hatch and onto my table. So I paused briefly to sample a few.
Pan Fried Pork Dumplings
For just £4 I was treated to a plateful of eight fried pork dumplings. Each was filled with moist and crumbly pork mixed with Chinese leaves. The casing was light, silken, juicy and crispy where it had caught the pan. It was a joy to lift each morsel from the plate with my chopsticks. The dumpling paused for a brief moment to be bathed in the Chinese vinegar based Dipping Sauce enroute to their final resting place in my mouth. Dream time on the lips.
I was very happy to find somewhere unpretentious and casual in Nottingham to get my hands on a plate of simple dumplings. In recent times I have had to resort to cooking my own, which was an excellent thing to be fair (read more here) but you know although I love to cook, it does get in the way of MyFoodHunt trips out and about in this fair city of ours and beyond
One thing that has amused me is that on the menu they tell us that “At Ding Heen, there are no Sweet & Sour Pork Balls, Lemon Chicken, or Beef with Mushroom to name just three British Favourites“. Ok so I hear what they are trying to say, but they are not the British favourites, or are they? they continue….”However we do realise that you may want to play it safe and stick to the European-inspired Chinese dishes that are your firm favourites, and of course we’d be delighted to prepare them for you”… I hope that is true as I walked in one night late on and was mocked by a small group of Chinese suggesting that I was just there for some ‘Sweet and Sour Chicken’ or ‘Egg Fried Rice’. To be ‘unfair’ back though I would suggest that maybe they should hit the streets in their own country sometime. I was working at Wuhan University back in the late 1990’s and we often bought bowls of egg fried rice with pork at Lunchtime for 1 RMB (about 7p at the time), Sweet and Sour was not with Chicken but with Pork and was called “Tang Cu Li Ji” or ‘Sweet and sour pork’. I found it to be too sweet though as did my Chinese work colleagues, but even so it was way better though than the often ‘delicious in the mind’ ‘rubbish‘ that they serve up here in the west. To fair though China is a massive country and this particular dish is popular in Zhejiang, Sichuan and Shandong and maybe the guys who I bantered with were more used to the blander Cantonese efforts.
Apart from the soup and dumplings which I have now ‘ticked on the list’ there are a couple more dishes that I feel the need to try. One that brings back memories of old times in Wuhan is the sound of the ‘Ma-Poh Tofu with Pork’ for £7.50 and just because I kind of like it, I might try the ‘Kung Pao Chicken’ also for £7.50.
Dingheen is located at 7 Heathcoat Street just steps away from Hockley and about 5-10 minutes walk away from the Lace Market Tram Stop and the Old Market Square