The welcome is very warm, like going home to your mother’s kitchen, and she ushers us to a large table – and says with a glint in her eye; “you’ll need the space for all the plates of food.” We laugh and then I realise I have seen her before. The F Word with Gordon Ramsay on Channel Four. “I know you,” I tell her and Jian Wang, owner and chef of the renowned Edinburgh eaterie Chop Chop, smiles. But I somehow feel I have met her before – and soon we are talking like old friends who have just been reunited. (See left, me and Laura Davidson, Yummymummybeauty’s Columnist with Jian in Glasgow).
She doesn’t normally come to the door to welcome guests, top chef Jian’s normally ensconced in the kitchen with her chefs, we just got lucky. And as we chat, Jian recommends what we should try on her menu. It’s not your average Chinese restaurant either. The dishes are different – you won’t get chicken fried rice or black bean sauce here…and there’s not a hint of MSG in sight.
And so our voyage of discovery of real Chinese food begins. We start with Jian’s signature dish – her dumplings. Gordon Ramsay, (pictured right with Jian) says he reckoned she makes the best dumplings he has ever tasted and was desperate to uncover the magic of her cooking… and not until you have tried them, can you fully appreciate their splendour.
You can have fried or boiled, veggie or pork dumplings, it doesn’t matter – all are delicious. They are little cases of sheer bliss filled with unspeakably yummy contents that simply melt on your tongue. While they are savoury and packed with taste, they are as light little clouds that melt gloriously in your mouth.
“You must try my aubergines and green beans; I guarantee you will enjoy,” Jian suggests. At this point, she has no idea we are both journalists working in the national press. We are just customers – and she is enjoying feeding us. Again the feeling of home is all around – food for her is about family, warmth and comfort.
So it’s no surprise when she tells us that she been cooking for her family since she was 12; learning all the different dishes from the age of nine. “I learned from my mother and grandmother, who were great cooks,” she tells us. “I have always loved cooking and trying the dishes they made. So I used to cook for the whole family. I even got up early if my oldest brother was on an early shift. I like looking after people.”
Next we try delights like crispy squid and a sweet and sour chicken dish – that is nothing like the usual sweet and sour; it’s crispy, light and lip ‘smackingly more-ish’… and in China, they say it’s a ‘Lady Dish’. Then there’s the ribs and the fluffy rice and – oh I could go on, but it’s hard to do her dishes justice on paper. The treat is in the eating…
Jian, has brought her food from home to Scotland. She arrived here 18 years ago from Northern China with her son, to improve his education. She knew no one. But within weeks, Jian realised there wasn’t much authentic Chinese cooking around and so she started to make her own… she set up her factory and started to supply her own dishes. Then came her restaurant in Haymarket, Edinburgh, then another. And now Glasgow.
“I have a connection with Glasgow,” Jian later tells me. “I remember taking a load of dumplings in a cool box on the train as I was catering an event when I was just starting out. Glasgow has a warmth to it. The people are very friendly.”
You’ll love the restaurant as well as the food. It looks like a little oasis of serenity and pink light, with blossom trees in the middle. Tables are full and jostling; there are lots of delicious looking plates of food. People are happy – but Jian is happiest.
“I love when people enjoy my food. I love to feed people,” she says. You can tell.
And there it is. The recipe for a successful Chinese dinner out… Chop Chop, you won’ find better. I guarantee.
248 Morrison Street, Edinburgh, EH3 8DT
0131 221 1155
- Glasgow Mitchell St
43 Mitchell Street, Glasgow, G1 3LN
0141 221 9799