London’s Chinatown is a huge melting pot of incredible food – but with so many options, how do you choose? Simple; let us be your gastro guide. Read on for not only where to eat in Chinatown, but tips on what to eat (and even how to eat it).

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Steamed Buns

When you call your restaurant Bun House, you’d better make sure your buns are pretty amazing. Happily, these are. Your OG order is at least one Pig (BBQ pork belly, yam and lardo) and one Custard (salted egg yolk, coconut and carrot juice), pretty good value at £3.80 each. You will probably have seen the custard buns on your socials; it’s the pristine white bun with the red stamp, mostly getting pulled open and erupting custard everywhere.

Cheapo Top Tip: How to eat a steamed custard bun
If you’d rather eat your bun than wear it, here’s how. Turn the bun upside-down and gently peel off the paper base. Then turn it so the stamp is facing to the side, and tear off a small section of bun from the uppermost part to reveal the custard inside. Dip this piece of bun into the custard, like toast into a soft-boiled egg, turn slightly and repeat. Yum.

Soufflé pancake at Héfaure | Photo by Amanda David

Cakes & Desserts

You’d struggle to find more Instagram-worthy sweet treats anywhere else in London. Our current favourites are Bun House’s custard buns, Héfaure for fluffy, Japanese-style soufflé pancakes with Taiwanese bubble tea, Bake for Japanese taiyaki-inspired fish-shaped waffle cones with matcha ice cream and Chinatown Bakery for seasonal goodies (moon cakes on this visit), giant fluffy wedges of pandan sponge cake and red bean paste buns.

Chinese Bakery - Chinatown
Chinese Bakery – Chinatown | Photo by Nic Crilly-Hargrave

Dim Sum and Dumplings

There are literally hundreds of dim sum dishes to choose from but, if you’ve new to the concept, here is our go-to order:

  • Prawn dumplings (har gau)
  • Pork & prawn steamed dumplings (siu mai)
  • Rice noodle rolls with a range of fillings (cheung fun)
  • Steamed BBQ pork buns (char siu buns)
  • Turnip cake (lo bak go)
  • Glutinous rice with shrimp, mushroom and Chinese sausage wrapped in a lotus leaf (lo mai gai)
  • Egg custard tarts (dan tat)
  • Dim sum is traditionally a late morning/early afternoon meal – especially popular on Sundays – and accompanied by tea, which is good for both the digestion and the wallet. Check with the restaurant if they do all-day dim sum as many finish serving around 4pm.

    Cheapo Top Tip: Getting Tea Refills
    Take the lid off the teapot and put it back on either at an angle or upside down, and the server will refill your teapot with fresh hot water. Traditionally the youngest person at the table (in practice usually the person nearest the teapot!) serves tea to everyone else before themselves – thank them by tapping on the table with your index and middle finger together.

    Dim sum at Orient London | Photo by Amanda David

    Unsurprisingly, Chinatown is not short of dim sum restaurants. Leong’s Legend is a favourite, along with Tao Tao Ju, Orient London and the legendary Wong Kei – see below.

    (You may be wondering why much-loved Joy King Lau hasn’t made the list for dim sum. Sadly, last year it closed and the whole team left – some after thirty years of service. It’s open under new management with the same name but we haven’t eaten there since, so can’t personally vouch for the current version.)

    Dumplings’ Legend is also a good shout for dim sum, especially their xiao long bao – aka soup dumplings. If you want a side of theatre, you can watch these being made by the chefs in their glass-walled open plan kitchen (and at xiao long bao specialists Din Tai Fung in nearby Covent Garden, with the requisite eighteen perfect folds).

    Cheapo Top Tip: How to eat xiao long bau
    Using chopsticks (or your fingers, if chopsticks are a challenge), pick the dumpling up by the top and dip it into the gingered vinegar dipping sauce, then place it onto your spoon. Poke a small hole in the bottom of the dumpling with a chopstick so that some of the broth empties into the spoon, then drink the broth (check the temperature first – these are usually scalding hot when they arrive at the table!). Add more vinegar and some of the ginger on to your dumpling and then eat.

    For those who insist that you should eat the dumpling whole and let all the action happen in your mouth, may we gently suggest that you try this method with your first dumpling – at least you then know how hot they are, and can avoid a nasty burn! Or you could bite the top off and wait for the insides to cool before eating it whole, but then you are increasing the chance of ‘dinner medals’ – i.e. spillage straight down the front of your new t-shirt. Ultimately though, we think the correct way to eat Xiao long bau is however you most enjoy eating them, so please march to the beat of your own Cheapo dim sum drum.

    Beef brisket and wonton soups, Wong Kei, Chinatown | Photo by Amanda David


    Confession time; the only reason we have soups as a section here is because you can’t go to Chinatown without trying these from Wong Kei. This huge, multi-level Cantonese restaurant used to have famously rude service (toned down somewhat since a management change) but has some of the most delicious and best-loved dishes in the area, including the beef brisket & rice vermicelli in soup, and the wonton soup with chilli oil. Go hungry, the portions are absolutely huge – and great value.

    Pan-Asian options

    Chinatown doesn’t have to mean Chinese food; here’s our pick of the alternatives.

    Try C&R Café for Malaysian laksa and char kway teow noodles (aka CKT), or Rasa Sayang for dishes inspired by the street food of Malaysia and Singapore such as Hainanese chicken rice, nasi lemak and beef rendang. The Speedboat Bar serves up spicy Thai street food based on Bangkok’s Chinatown, you can have Korean BBQ at Olle or there’s Viet Food, an elegant, modern take on Vietnamese food from Jeff Tan (previously at Michelin-starred Hakkasan).

    Speaking of which, if you’re after the best spots in town for Malaysian food, check out our favourites here.

    Written by:
    BIO: Freelance writer, flâneuse and former blogger at London Girl About Town, Amanda is dedicated to sharing the latest on London's restaurants, bars, hidden quirks and general wonderfulness.
    Filed under: Eating & Drinking

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