A refreshing spin on the traditional. 炸兩.

Ja-leung (炸兩) is a popular Cantonese dimsum derived from two great Chinese foods: the Chinese fried donut (油炸鬼), and the rice noodle roll (). Basically, Ja-leung is made by wrapping the fried donut stick with a layer of rice noodle roll. Once it arrives at your table, the server cuts the Ja-leung into bite-size pieces, and it is doused with soy sauce. In one bite, you get the best of both worlds – sweet rice roll on the outside, crispy and chewy fried donut in the inside. Whoever came up with this is pure genius! (Apparently it was created by a dim sum chef in a restaurant known as 嚼荷仙館 in Canton back in the 1940s.)

At most restaurants I have ever been to, upscale or dai pai dong (foodstall),  that is how Ja-leung is enjoyed. It is somewhat reminiscent of Japanese maki rolls but different in that it is not “customizable” – nothing else is added to the roll, and you cannot substitute the fried donut for something else. Nothing needs to be added or changed, really, because Ja-leung is great just the way it is. What makes awesome Ja-leung is the marriage of two contrasting textures – the softness of rice roll, and the crispiness of fried donut. A Ja-leung that is soggy inside, or is sagging with a thick, heavy rice roll, or is so giant you cannot fit it into your mouth, is a bad Ja-leung.

On the rare occasion, though, you will happen across a certain restaurant that puts their own little spin on a traditional dish. When it is done subtly and without the pretention of poshness, it can be very refreshing. Such is the case with this particular Ja-leung at Shi-Art Chinese Cuisine (食藝海鮮酒家, Richmond Centre). Rolled alongside the fried donut is shrimp – not so much that it overpowers the other essential components, not so much it becomes a shrimpy rice roll, but just enough to create a little surprise and a bit of a deviation from the traditional. Nice.

Although not a Chinese restaurant I particularly prefer for dimsum (their other stuff is not bad, but not that awesome), points to Shi-Art’s attention to detail in their Ja-leung.



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