Hands up who’s guilty of ordering the same thing from the Chinese time and time again?
Yep, we know it’s nice, but it’s a sad fact that the majority of Irish people don’t really know what real Chinese food tastes like.
If you’re suspicious that I’m talking about you, then listen up: there’s a foodie experience you can try that will broaden your tastebuds when it comes to Oriental flavours.
The Traditional Chinese Food Experience is hosted in Dublin and Naas, and is organised by Frank, a Tipp man who married a Chinese gal and fell in love with the food and culture to boot.
It started off as a Meet Up group, but Frank also does private events and corporate dinners (prices for those vary), so last week I roped my family into exploring something a bit different for dinner.
For €26 per person you head to M&L Chinese on Cathedral Street (opposite is their charming sister spot The Vintage Teapot), where Frank orders dishes off the “secret” Chinese menu and shares gas tales of life in China and the history of its food and culture.
I’m no stranger to M&L Chinese – it’s up there as one of the best spots in Dublin for authentic Asian grub
— Sarah Clayton-Lea (@SazzyClay) April 14, 2018
The food experience shows you what to actually order, and you’ll also hear about Chinese culture and craic
Frank usually does the evenings with 8-10 people, so the more people on the experience the more dishes you get to try.
M&L Chinese is known for having two menus – an English one and a Chinese one – so it can be hard to know which of the tasty dishes to choose.
Staff are super sound at recommending things that will take you out of your comfort zone, and Frank organises the evening in much the same way, picking dishes from the Chinese menu that you might not usually think to try.
We tried a steamed seabass with ginger and scallions, pork dumplings, fried green beans with pork and fresh chilli, stir fried tofu in a hot and spicy sauce and a spicy and finger-licking sticky beef dish.
If you only order one thing from M&L, it’s gotta be those crunchy and flavoursome beans. Believe me, you’ll have major FOMO if you make it down here and don’t try them.
As we sipped our three quid bottles of Tsing Tao, a light Chinese lager, Frank shared his knowledge of living in China and all the peculiar differences between the Irish and Chinese cultures; if you didn’t have wanderlust to visit Beijing already, you 100% will by the end of this experience.
The benefit of having the experience in one restaurant rather than doing a food tour is that you can really settle into the evening and just enjoy it
For larger groups Frank does the evenings in a private room upstairs, and can also arrange traditional Chinese musicians.
It’s very popular for work nights out, he tells me, and I can see why. Amazing food, cheap beer and live tunes? You can’t go wrong with that.
While it’s not exactly a foodie experience (you won’t be delving too deep into the ingredients and makeup of each dish) it’s a real feel-good evening where you leave feeling a bit more confident about what to order from the menu and with a better insight into Asian culture.
There’s vegetarian evenings and a special spice night in the works so chances are each time you join Frank and whatever merry crew of folk turn up that evening you’ll eat something completely new.
It was a night out with friends and family that was way different to anything we’d done in quite a while, so whether you’re joining in solo on the group evening or going with a bunch of mates you’re bound to enjoy it.
Chinese food is made for sharing, so step away from the prawn crackers and dig into some real cuisine.
You can see all the deets for the next Traditional Chinese Food Experience here.
On a side note, myself and Frank both happened to be on a quest to find soup dumplings in Dublin (Xiao Long Bao) so any fellow Chinese food obsessive reading this please let me know if anywhere makes these hot broth filled dumplings of joy.
Three cheers for delish Chinese food, eh? Or, as you’ll learn on the evening, ‘G?nb?i’!