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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - The culinary capital of quintessential British dishes like fish and chips, pie and mash and... chicken tikka masala is a go-to destination for anyone who enjoys pub grub served with a frothing pint of real ale.
But for overseas visitors from East Asia whose tastes may bend toward piping hot Thai white rice, throat-scorching curries and roasted meats, here are five in-the-know spots to find a taste of home:
Tuck into this Chinese-Malaysian eatery close to the City financial district during your lunch break for a quick and affordable meal. Managed by a family from Penang, Malaysia, Sedap serves up homely favorites such as beef rendang, Hainanese chicken rice and nasi lemak.
On the dessert menu try nonya kueh, a traditional Peranakan (Straits Chinese) baked sweet that often contains ingredients such as pandan flavoring and coconut milk. For those working overtime in the office, or who prefer a lazy night in the hotel room, Sedap offers free deliveries for orders over 10 pounds within a one-mile radius. (102 Old Street, www.sedap.co.uk )
Nestled in the middle of Chinatown, Rasa Sayang is well placed for a night out in nearby Soho. Don't be put off by the sparse furnishings; find full-flavored, spice-infused Malaysian cooking at decent prices.
One of few venues in London that has hawker dishes like oyster omelets and grilled satay on the menu, Rasa Sayang also serves the well-loved spicy laksa curry alongside fishball meepok noodle soup, Straits curry chicken and Singapore-style mee siam. Those who pine for coffee and tea Singapore/Malaysian style should also not miss Rasa Sayang's 'Milo dinosaur' or 'teh tarik'. (5 Macclesfield Street, rasasayangfood.com )
A favorite for both client meals and lazy Sunday brunches, Hakkasan is a one-Michelin starred modern Chinese restaurant in the West End. Founded by Hong Kong-born restaurateur Alan Yau, who also opened the Wagamama chain of restaurants, this dimly lit and stylishly decorated venue offers traditional dim sum and Chinese dishes with a twist.
Sample treats such as black truffle roast duck or stir-fry lobster in black bean sauce, or eat Chinese tapas-style by ordering foie gras crab balls, scallop siew mai dumplings and Wagyu beef cheong fun. Be sure to save some space for their fusion-inspired desserts. (17 Bruton Street, w3.hakkasan.com/mayfair )
Soup dumplings, or xiao long bao as they are known in Mandarin Chinese, are one of those dishes that once tried are hard to get enough of. Delicate and notoriously labor-intensive to make, they usually contain either pork or crab and a rich soup broth. One of the best places in London to get a taste of these sumptuous bites is Taiwanese eatery Leong's Legend in Chinatown.
Designed to look like a traditional Chinese cafe with its wooden stools and tables pushed close together, Leong's also serves up traditional dim sum favorites such as har gao and siew mai, as well as comfort Taiwanese dishes like spicy beef noodle soup and pork belly rice. (26-27 Lisle Street, 020 7734 3380)
Known far beyond British shores for its delectable roast duck, Four Seasons' name gets passed on among overseas relatives as a must-try when visiting London.
Though similar in concept to many Chinese restaurants with its big round tables and noisy, chattering atmosphere, the tender, fatty roasted duck served here in black sauce is the restaurant's USP. The delicacy is best eaten with rice, along with house special tofu and steam pak choi, and is great washed down with an ice-cold beer or Chinese black tea. Booking in advance requires a minimum spend of 15 pounds per person, or expect long queues (especially over the weekend). (Wardour Street, Gerrard Street or Bayswater,)
Editing by Peter Myers and Paul Casciato