REVIEW: Sum time to celebrate at stalwart Chinese

Zing Vaa Restaurant The Moor Sheffield'Pix : Dean Atkins /''COPYRIGHT PICTURE >> DEAN ATKINS>07546 936 188> 01226 719561>
Zing Vaa Restaurant The Moor Sheffield'Pix : Dean Atkins /''COPYRIGHT PICTURE >> DEAN ATKINS>07546 936 188> 01226 719561>

It’s sum achievement to keep a restaurant going - never mind flourishing - for half a century.

At Zing Vaa, which has been open on The Moor since 1958, the secret appears to be dumpling related.

On the menu the array of dim sum options is simply bamboozling.

There are dozens - from satay whelks to steamed spare ribs, roast pork to beef meatballs.

More exotic options included custard cream, pig maw - which is stomach - tripe and hen’s feet, although we chickened out of those.

Our waitress says the art of dim sum is dying, but Zing Vaa is trying to ‘keep the tradition alive.’

We are happy to help in the battle.

Seven sumptious dumplings ater - all delicate mouthfuls of oriental flavours wrapped neatly insuper-thin pastry - it is easy to see why dim sum Sundays are popular.

Another adventurous aspect of the restaurant is the accents, and one waitress has the best mixture we’ve ever heard at 90 per cent South Yorkshire, 10 per cent Chinese.

On paying she says we need to speak to the ‘gaffer’, and that eventually means head chef Alan Chung, who presses more dumplings on during the interview.

But the 57-year-old - who says he has been in the kitchen ‘too long to remember’ - has a different view on what keeps people coming back.

“A lot of people like Chinese food so if they want food that’s what they have ”, he said.

“Our pricing is very keen too, unlike some places where they charge a lot more.

“Before people would eat European style Chinese food - now they want the proper stuff.

“Sometimes they do want dishes like the chicken feet, a lot more diners have those now.

“People have travelled to China and further afield so when they go to restaurants they want traditional - sometimes they can’t eat the same food so they come here.

“They know what we do is authentic Chinese.

“Our most popular is dim sum.”

The restaurant has evolved from offering dishes like sweet and sour chicken to traditional Cantonese, then on to Schezuan to cater for the many Chinese students currently heading to study at the city’s two universities.

Now there are also many Thai dishes.

Alan said: “We do everything now - we cater to all the customers who come in.”

The venue is something of a hidden gem, tucked away between Gregg’s and BHS on the shopping street which itself has seen a lot of change in almost 60 years.

Now it isn’t very well known for dining, although several restaurants including the Gourmet Burger Kitchen are planned as part of its regeneration.

One thing that hasn’t is the entrance, as visitors enter through the tiny door and go down stairs to a subterranean eatery.

It’s a big place, half full last Friday night, but sure to be packed for Chinese New Year on February 19, when lion dancing entertainment will be laid on rather than the buffets of old.

This is to be the year of the goat - one of the few animals not spotted on the menu.

“It will be full - people love to celebrate Chinese New Year”, Alan adds.

We sit in a corner that’s a little chilly but great for people-watching, and beg the friendly waitress to help us decide.

Shanghai dumplings of minced pork and broth were done for the day so it has to be the most popular, steamed king prawn.

They are whopping specimens of meaty, thick seafood trapped in the most translucent of wrappers so the pink filling shows through.

They tasted fresh, healthy, slightly sweet - and I could have eaten a mountain.

Potsticker dumplings - fried and then steamed - are a favourite supper at our house but the Zing Vaa version (a bargain at £2.70) put those to absolute shame.

They were perfectly oval and golden, packed with a ball of minced pork and vegetables.

The meat was cooked just enough, with an aftertaste of sesame oil keeping things interesting.

My other half is a diner who knows what he likes then sticks to it: rigidly.

And he couldn’t be persuaded away from his usual starter of garlic, salt and pepper chicken.

Soon he was rhapsodising at the table, beckoning staff over to say it was the best ever.

The succulent chicken was encased in an incredibly crispy coating, created through the use of potato starch.

Its spice mix was just the right combination flavour combination.

Our only downside was prawn crackers which were a tad greasy for us.

For the next course he was forced to swerve away from chicken curry, and branched out with Cantonese duck on the bone.

There was fragrant sauce and egg fried rice on the side still, but the main event was something to behold, with a heaped pile of crispy skin and soft, just-fatty-enough meat.

House specials are described as ‘traditional as possible’, so I went for silky squares of tofu, roasted pork belly and fish fillets in a clay hotpot.

The star here was the fish - which despite a batter coat just melted on the tongue - and the sticky, tangy sauce with bursts of garlic.

It may not have been chicken feet but it was as authentic as it gets outside of Shanghai.

We paid £38.90 with wine.

Zing Vaa, 55 The Moor, Sheffield

0114 275 663