Saturday, March 5, 2011

NOW Streetfood: An addition to the snack and lunch scene

fish shumai

NOW is quite new as it opened about a year ago. I was really excited when it first opened as they were going to have rice porridge on their menu. I just love rice porridge and besides making it at home or having it as dim sum, you are pretty much stuck for choices that offer this in London.

Imagine my disappointment when they stopped offering it a few months ago. Every time I find myself in the vicinity, I’ll pop in and ask, but alas the reply was always “sorry, not available”. I had nearly given up hope until I recently heard that they are bringing it back and with new toppings.

Excitedly, I went to try their rice porridge amongst others. Along with the dim sum staples, there have been a number of new additions to the menu, including a Chinese Burger.

NOW differs from its sister Ping Pong and takes its inspiration from popular street snacks from Asia and adding a western twist to it; hence there will be some food items that are authentically familiar and others which are fusion.

Everything is packaged to create portable tiny bites and snacks that can be eaten on the go if you’re just feeling snack-ish, an alternative to boring sandwich lunches or something for your train journey from Liverpool street station next door.

We started with the dim sum.

NOW basket
Seafood basket (seafood dumpling, chives dumpling, fish shu mai) £3.99

My favourite was the Fish Shu Mai, this had prawns being used in the meat parcel topped with a piece of fish. It was juicy and tasty. Less successful were the seafood dumpling which had the skin being slightly too thick and doughy and the chives dumpling which could do with more chives in it to accent the taste buds.

seafood basket
NOW Basket (spicy chicken, fish shumai, chicken shumai, chive dumpling, sea bass dumpling, spinach & mushroom dumpling) £4.49

The spicy chicken had a slight kick to it which was enjoyed along with the spinach & mushroom dumpling. This is the more successful of the dumplings as the skin was thinner which allowed the flavours of the fillings to shine. The delicate purple dumpling is the sea bass dumpling which is new. The colour comes from all natural red cabbage colouring which turns purple when steamed. Unfortunately, the sea bass was dry.

I guess it is a lot harder to control the level of steaming to cook these tasty parcels in large quantities, especially when you incorporate some with thicker skins and some being thinner without hitting some quality issues.

Taking into consideration the prices of these dim sum baskets, they still make good snacks.

Duck Rolls & Hoi Sin sauce (shredded duck, spring onions and cucumber in a wheat flour pastry) £1.89
Vietnamese rolls (glass noodles, prawns, carrots and coriander wrapped in rice pastry, served with Thai fish sauce) £1.89

Both the duck rolls and the Vietnamese rolls are delicious.

chinese burger
Chinese Burger (pork hoi sin wrapped in steamed bun with pickled carrots and mooli, cucumber, spring onions and coriander) £4.29

When I saw Chinese Burger on the menu, it immediately got me thinking of the Gua Baos that I had recently in New York. The first difference that striked me was that NOW’s version is bigger and rectangular in shape. Thick chunks of meat with dashes of pickled carrots, mooli, cucumber, springs onions and coriander wrapped in a soft steamed bun. The pickled carrots and mooli provided a sharp contrast to the fattiness of the meat. I actually wished there were more vegetables as it was a whole lot of meat; the proportions were just a tad chunky. Maybe thinner slices of the pork would have been better. Or you can look at it from another way, you get bang for your buck for those generous proportions of pork hoi sin.

char siu bun
Char Siu Bun (steamed bun filled with pork barbecue) £0.99

My friend really liked the Char Siu Buns and she says that she can happily buy two of these in the mornings for breakfast and it costs less than £2!

chicken wonton
Chicken wonton soup £4.29

Every morning through the glass window, you will see a lady making the wonton. I was excited to know that these are made fresh daily and couldn’t wait to dig in. You can definitely tell the difference between a fresh and frozen wonton and this are fresh.

chicken wonton

The chicken meat was bland though as it was just a whole big chunk of chicken meat wrapped in wonton skin while the skin is soft and delicate. The chicken wonton soup was abundant in vegetables and I definitely prefer this to the soups from Itsu or Eat or Pret. You’ll need to add some soy sauce to the soup to make it tastier.

All that eating has made us thirsty and we had some teas.

Spicy Iced Tea (black tea infused with black peppercorn and raspberry puree)
Black tea and soya bubble tea (lapsang black tea, soya milk and tapioca pearls)

Think flavoured tea like those infused fruit teas in a tea bag and the spicy iced tea is similar. I quite like it.

tapioca pearls

This bubble tea I did not like. The tapioca pearls have no where the consistency of a chewy and bouncy QQ texture of a good pearl.

sticky rice
Traditional sticky rice £1.69

Prawns were used in the filling for this sticky rice which gave it added flavour, the sticky rice wasn’t oily, a worthy consideration.

garlic and seaweed crackers
Seaweed and Garlic crackers £0.99 each

I generally don’t eat a lot of crackers as most of the ones you get from Chinese take-aways tend to be soggy or no longer crunchy but these were NOT! These are really good. Crunchy and crispy, it is everything you want from crackers.

rice porridge

Onto the rice porridges in three different toppings.

The first one we tried was rice porridge with grapefruit, raspberry puree and palm sugar. This was my favourite out of the three. As both the grapefruit and raspberry are on the sour side, it provided a sharp and refreshing sensation to this rice porridge with tiny bits of palm sugar adding sudden burst of sweetness.

Next was the rice porridge with mango, lime & coconut toppings. There wasn’t much taste to this at all compared to the inviting smell that wafts over to you when you first open the lid.

Saving the sweetest for the last, it was onto the pineapple, sesame & maple syrup toppings. Somehow the combination doesn’t harmonise and there is a sense of something lacking to round out the balance of the flavours. I actually think the previous version I had with bananas instead of pineapples was much better.

I can see where NOW is trying to change things by using ingredients hardly used for rice porridge and aesthetically, it all looks wonderful with bright colours of reds, yellows and whites. I think it’s just too different.

They do have a traditional version of pork congee but I say bring out more along the same lines such as century egg with a bit of chives? Or even just plain with some Chinese doughnuts. Or if we go with a bit of western fusion, ingredients like a cinnamon and raisin combo is well embraced.

dessert pots

For desserts, we had three different pots.

Citrus Lychee Jelly £1.99

This is jelly with lychee and orange, topped with a fruit puree. Raspberry is the dominant ingredient in the fruit puree. As a combination, the sharp tartness of the raspberry and sweetness of the lychee clashed with each other. The balance was too heavy with the amount of raspberry puree given.

Mango Pudding £2.29

There are a lot of mango lovers and this should be a mango lover’s delight. This is mango pudding topped with a layer of whipped cream and soy milk. There was a strange and slightly weird aftertaste after eating a bit or two of this. I think it comes from the combined whipped cream and soy milk. The two do not blend well and just using either soy milk or whipped cream would have been better. The mango pudding itself was not smooth and silky, it was too grainy.

chocolate chilli mousse
Chocolate Chilli Mousse £1.99

This is a winner! A creamy mousse with a slightly airy yet slightly grainy texture at the same time. The chocolate shines through with a chilli bite that hits you at the end. Occasionally, you will eat a tiny flake of the chilli which provides a sudden surprise heat hit!

NOW also have a range of titbits for munching.

My favourites were the spicy honey peanuts which had a nice toasted fragrance and being sweet and spicy at the same time. The risotto chilli crackers also went down well as did the wasabi natural peas & seaweed peanut mix.
Less successful were the chocolate wasabi peas, the chocolate drowned out any wasabi that was the wasabi peas. The Goji berry snaps were great but the same couldn’t be said of its counterpart, the white sesame ginger. Where I could smell and taste the sweet toasted black sesame, I could not taste any sesame nor ginger in the white version.

I think there are some definite hits and misses in NOW. It’s great to see that they are constantly trying out new creations and products and that should be encouraged. The staffs were really lovely and it was a joy chatting with them. I like that things are made fresh with good quality ingredients used. With some tweaks to their menu, they are a worthy addition to have besides the usual dominance of same old salads, soups and cold sandwiches options available.

I say check them out when you’re in the area; you are likely to find something that you like. For me, some might argue that it’s not traditional but I really like the chocolate pau and at £0.99, I don’t need to think twice.

Chopstix2Steaknives was a guest of NOW Streetfood.

NOW Street Food, 22/23 Liverpool Street, London, EC2M 7

Now Dim Sum on Urbanspoon


  1. Drooling all over the delicious looking food photos...I love this kind of street food too although they were served with at fancy restaurants here too!

  2. Wow, this sure looks great for a snack! Am struck by the fact that Ping Pong is its sister company. A bit dubious about that though as I've never heard good things about Ping Pong.

    Might check this out when I'm at Liverpool Street the next time round.

  3. Jeannie - wish there were more of these in non-fancy restaurants. =)

    London Chow - I know, Ping Pong is not authentic but you can't fault their quality, the same goes for NOW as well. But quality and taste are two separate factors.


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