Manchester – Chinatown

Every now and then I get a bit of work in central Manchester. I always head for Chinatown for lunch as there are so many good places to eat there.

My current favourite is…

Siam Smiles (Elementary A), 48A George St, www.facebook.com/siamsmilescafe

I have Marina O’Loughlin to thank for this one as she gave them a rave review in the Guardian.

It’s a no-frills place with plastic chairs and condiments in Tupperware boxes, located in a cellar which doubles as a Thai supermarket.

It’s quite easy to miss as there’s no sign but when you’re on the street just keep an eye out for a downward flight of stairs. It’s just about opposite to the Hunan restaurant below.

As I only ever have lunch, a bowl of Kuay Tiew soup noodles is all I can manage. Pictured is the Chicken Kuay Tiew with flat rice noodles in a Nam Sai (clear) broth. Simple, clean and delicious (A). And very good value as well.

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Haven’t had the chance to go for an evening meal yet but it needs to be done, soon.

Hunan Restaurant (Intermediate B+), 1st Floor, 19-21 George St (opposite Siam Smiles), www.hunanrestaurant.co.uk

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I like my Chinese food spicy so I usually go for Sichuan food. It’s quite unusual to find a restaurant that specialises in Hunan cuisine.

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Both provinces are neighbours and both like to put a lot of chilli in their food. However the Hunanese tend to use fresh chilli more whereas the Sichauanese dishes prefer dried chillies.

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Also, Hunan cuisine is described as being dry hot (干辣), as opposed to Sichuan cuisine, which is hot and numbing (mala) due to the inclusion of Sichuan peppercorns.

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In reality you can get dishes from both these regions in this restaurant (eg the Sichuan classic Kung Pao chicken) but suffice to say whatever you order will be packing heat!

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I last came here for a birthday treat so I didn’t take any notes, but it’s all top tackle!

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Wong Wong Bakery (Elementary B+), 28 Princess St, www.wongwongbakery.com

If I’m in a rush for my lunch I tend to just get a Char Siu Bau (steamed barbecue pork bun) to eat on the hoof. This small Chinese bakery does a very good one (B+).

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