Every time I visit London, I set a lunch aside to visit the Jen Cafe in Chinatown. The restaurant is nothing special, cheap plastic chairs and shared tables. The waitresses speak very little English, which always makes me feel like I am back in China. The decorations are absent, and it is very much a hole-in-the-wall type place. However, I dare you to find a better handmade dumpling than the ones at the Jen Cafe.
If you have visited London’s Chinatown before you may have noticed the Jen Cafe on passing. An older Chinese woman sits in the window for passer-bys (tourists) to watch her make the real Chinese dumplings. She rolls out the dough and presses in the filling, occasionally bringing her jiao zi over to the kitchen as they pile up. Although it does bring in a few random curious types, most of the times I visit the cafe it is full of Chinese locals.
I have tried a few dishes but I always go back to the Beijing or vegetarian dumplings. (Both are excellent, Beijing contains pork.) They are simple, but that is their charm. Perfectly seasoned with a side of black vinegar and chilli oil for dipping. They are the only dumplings I have had since leaving China that transport me to specific memories of my time there.
I like to follow with a hot cup of Jasmine tea, or the papaya iced bubble tea on warm days. The place takes cash only, but honestly a portable card machine would just look out of place. A bowl of dumplings will only set you back £5, a definite steal for a dish that takes you across the world in a bite.
The Jen Cafe is located on Newport Court in Chinatown, near Leicester Square tube station.