Salt and Chilli Oriental

Glasgow

THE curry hawker fish balls are peered at curiously by everyone for, say, a minute, then tasted by the bravest, then reported on and then: whoosh. Gone. Like that. Grab-mmm-gulp.

Light, puffy, deep-fried, then draped in a light curry sauce inside a tiny little cardboard tub, radish leaf plumped on top, we collected them 20-odd minutes ago. Along with another tub filled to the brim with glistening beef brisket curry, and yet another with a Macanese chicken curry and actually lots, lots more.

Frankly, I went a bit mad with the tick-tock, delivery slots running out fast, grab-it-before-it-sells-out internet ordering.

Anyway, Jimmy Lee’s been on Great British Menu, I announce, as the unpacking begins at home. This always has the same magical effect as The Claw has on those little green Aliens in Toy Story.

Ooh, everyone says, drawing closer in anticipation.

Delicate, pale and golden, duck spring rolls are a kiss-me-quick hit after a few crisp crunches because unlike most other spring rolls 1) they actually contain visible meat and 2) they are not even slightly greasy and 3) sit down for this one: they have lots of flavour.

Zing, zing ribs momentarily confuse, being indistinguishable, to the naked eye anyway, from any other Chinese restaurant ribs, but then meat slides cleanly from the bone and that sticky crimson sauce turns out to be so much more than sugar and food colouring.

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Yes, there was actually a palpable sense of occasion as this was all plated tonight. Whether it was because hot food brought in the door trumps cold food artfully waiting for an oven every single day of the week – no matter how expensive that cold food was – or whether I managed to transmit the buzzorama surrounding this new pop-up is hard to say.

Turns out anyway nobody here has ever actually seen Mr Jimmy Lee on the telly, but he’s an actual celebrity chef (who isn’t nowadays, says Mr Cynical) and his publicists promise a hip and happening, down with the dudes, beardy-hipster take on Chinese restaurant food on Glasgow’s Dumbarton Road. Goodness, whatever next?

Well, it’s Hong Kong street food to be precise. And what is more overripe for a shake-up than the sleepy Chinese restaurant scene.

HeraldScotland:

Takeaways that have been the cosy wallpaper of all our lives have somehow developed a uniformity that comes from nothing more exotic than those big tubs of sauces at the local Chinese cash and carry.

Right from the get-go then this is a step up. It may just be the complete absence of visible fryer oil, that very clean dry appearance, but these ubiquitous chilli and salt wings are also enjoyable.

By the time we’re comparing the hunky beef brisket curry with mooli (think posh Chinese restaurant curry with a deep, rich soul and carrots) and the Macanese curry (Portugese and Chinese with coconut and potato) and voting for those hunks of tender brisket every time, we’re converts.

Converts to what you may ask, which is a reasonable question considering this Hong Kong street food is at first glance not, er, even slightly different to most of the dishes available in most of the Chinese restaurants in Scotland right now.

Okay, there are curries and a chicken katsu bao too, but the General Tso chicken and sticky honey chilli chicken would never be picked out in a line up, also containing crispy chilli shredded chicken and standard honey chilli chicken.

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However, these are better. Not hugely better but prepared with the sort of care and attention to detail that means that when all this is finished nobody is lying on their back with their legs in the air groaning about how they regret sooo-much eating it.

So what am I saying? It’s Chinese food but not as we know it, Jim? No, it’s Chinese food and pretty much as we know it, Jim, but it is better.

 

Salt and Chilli Oriental

911 Dumbarton Road

Glasgow

0141 578 5717 or order on internet

Menu: Billed as Hong Kong street food by chef Jimmy Lee there are beef brisket curries, Macanese curries, chicken katsu baos, salt and pepper wings plus a few familiar dishes 4/5

Price: Nothing is cheap anymore in takeaway and home delivery, but wings at £5.50, spring rolls (3) £5, hawker fish balls a fiver and mains including beef brisket with mooli at £8 is not unreasonable. 3/5

Service: You get a time slot, they hand your food over, you take it home. Straightforward. 4/5

Atmosphere: Currently there’s a buzz around this pop-up, which always adds to the fun. 4/5

Food: A step up from usual Chinese take-away food. Hong Kong street food is the angle but not hugely different to what we’re all used to. Clear signs of careful preparation and that beef brisket curry was a hit. 8/10

23/30