Authentic Chinese fare, especially spicy mala xiang guo, is served up at New Beijing restaurant on East India Docks Road in Limehouse.
Located at the busy intersection where the A13 becomes East India Docks Road, the blaring traffic doesn’t suggest the New Beijing restaurant is a unique place in Limehouse for a meal out.
The ubiquitous lucky cat statue and a menu showing chow meins and stir frys also suggest a typical Chinese restaurant experience.
However, this is all deceptive, as a second menu offers up authentic Chinese food available to eat in or take-away.
New Beijing speciality is Mala Xiang Guo (Spicy stir fry pot). Customers pick from 60 ingredients, they are then stir-fried together with spices.
This spicy numbing dish is perfect for those wanting a kick. There are plenty of non-spicy options too.
But New Beijing doesn’t limit itself to this dish from Sichuan and Chongqing.
Rather than just settling for one of China’s many cuisines, New Beijing opts for authentic dishes from across the country. This reflects the various Chinese people who have made Tower Hamlets their home.
One table can be filled with plates as varied as da pan ji (literally big plate chicken) from China’s far western Muslim province Xinjiang to the humble tomato and eggs. A staple in homes across China.
Chinese teas and drinks finish off the authentic experience. A famous Tsingtao beer from China’s northeastern port of Qingdao will help with the spiciness of mala xiang guo.
The restaurant manager, Eric, explains that most of its customers are Chinese reflecting the restaurant’s reputation for authenticity. Many are regulars who come again and again.
While this is the case, Eric stresses how much he wants the restaurant to be a space for Chinese and non-Chinese locals alike.
‘If someone is willing to try something new, I would be very happy to introduce Chinese food to them. Anyone who can appreciate Chinese food is welcome.’
Originally from Beijing, Eric moved to the UK over 20 years ago. He has spent the past 10 years in London and moved to Poplar specifically to open this restaurant back in 2015 believing this was one of the few places in London where an authentic Chinese restaurant would work.
This is a reflection of our unique local history. Once home to London’s first Chinatown, Tower Hamlets still has one of the largest Chinese populations in the UK. Just across the road from New Beijing is the Chinese Association of Tower Hamlets.
Eric believes it’s important that authentic Chinese restaurants like New Beijing are still here.
‘This area was once Chinatown, but now that previous population has disappeared and there is now people from completely different backgrounds. However, our Chinese restaurant is still here.’
‘It shows to the local community that Chinatown hasn’t completely disappeared. There is still a place to try authentic food and celebrate Chinese culture.’
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