Monday, 28 January 2013

Zhonghua Traditional Snacks, Cambridge

I miss Cambridge.

I miss being a student. I miss the may ball chat, the not being allowed to walk on the grass, the tourists with the big cameras who wander around looking lost, and yes, even the supervisions (!).

I mean, where else will it be acceptable to cycle around wearing a gown and black tie??

So, last weekend I went back to Cambridge for a friends birthday, and we went to formal at Trinity College. Which was fun! Aside from the part where two of us got on the wrong train, ended up in Biggleswade, taking a 45 minute taxi to Cambridge whilst changing into black tie in the back of said taxi, and running into formal hall 15 minutes late.

At first I got angry. And then I got sad. And then I got hungry.

So the next day (after formal hall and a few bad headaches), a few of us wandered over to Zhonghua Traditional Snacks, a new(ish) cafe that opened sometime after I graduated in June. I've heard a lot about it from my Chinese friends in Cambridge, so here is the rundown!

(Please excuse the photo quality, I only brought my point and shoot to Cambridge.)

Zhonghua Traditional Snacks serves Chinese dim sum including jaozi (dumplings), bao zi (steamed buns), noodles and wontons.

The food is good, quite traditional in that I would expect this on the cafes in China. I don't think the food alone is enough to rant and rave about but I would definitely recommend purely because its such great value - one of the great points about this cafe is the price. You'll struggle to spend more than £10-£15 per head, with drinks.

Well, I mean, unless you're reeaaaalllllyyyy hungry.

The cafe is quite small, located near the Grafton Centre off Newmarket Road. We came at about 12pm and managed to get a table, although it got quite busy afterwards. The owners were really nice though and tried their best to fit everyone in. On the walls inside there are posters showing how to make dumplings, which was pretty cute.

We ordered dumplings off the main menu, with a another friends ordering noodles and me ordering wonton soup. There was only one typo on the menu, and since I generally keep to a mantra of 'the worse the English on a Chinese menu, the better the food', I can take this as a good sign. Well, it's not always a linear correlation, but I think the R-squared is pretty high...

Picked cucumber (~£2). This i cucumber marinated in soy sauce, sugar, a little bit of salt and a little bit of vinegar. It was pretty standard, as many Chinese families make this at home. Taste was good, but I couldn't taste the difference.

Prawn wonton soup (£6.50). Could have done with a teeny bit more salt (and some pepper), but otherwise yum! And the prawns were pretty good - I got big chunks of prawn and non of that teeny tiny chopped up shrimp stuff. I helped myself to the garlic and chilli sauce on this one :)

S ordered noodles in a 'egg and tomato sauce'. This looked a bit like pasta sauce to me, but she said that it was a bit sweet, although children might like it.

Next came all of the dumplings (£5.00-£6.50 for 12 depending on the filling). Seriously good value! We all went for steamed but I saw on another blog that someone had them fried (like a potsticker), so I'd ask about that next time.

R had the beef and celery, nice but not anything special although he did say that he was comparing these to some seriously good jaozi restaurants in Beijing! Unfortunately I think the Beijing chefs win in this case.

Another friend had the lamb and coriander and described as 'not too stodgy and seemed like good meat too'. I think this net net positive. 

O had the chive and tofu dumplings. These were a 'lovely texture and tasted delicious'. I've never had tofu in dumplings before but for vegetarians this is an excellent choice!

The home made siken tofu (£2.50) I'd definitely say is an acquired taste. We ordered the salty version with Chinese pickled cabbage (please correct me if I am wrong!). I can see why its called silken. The texture is pretty soft. All wobbly like you forgot to put gelatin in the jelly cake. I would have preferred a little firmer tofu, so I probably wouldn't order this again (saying that, I dish eat most of the dish...!), although I'm not really sure how 'silken' traditional 'silken' tofu is meant to be. I will investigate on my trip to China and get back to you.



Overall, I think the food is good, and does deserve the 'best cheap eats in Cambridge' award it has won. Choice of dim sum isn't huggeee but for this price, there isn't really a comparable in Cambridge. Service was pretty friendly and efficient too. Would I come back? For dumplings and wonton, yes! And I'd make sure to try the bao zi next time too.

My guess is that Cambridge Chinese students will descend upon here en mass. Worth the trek, plus you're close to Mill Lane! Double whammy!

Zhonghua Traditional Snacks
13 Norfolk Street 
CB1 2LD 
Tel: (01223) 354573


  1. The silken tofu looks pretty typical to me. I used to have it for breakfast with just sugar added - as close to curds and whey as I was going to get in central China.

    Mmm different flavours of jaozi, can't get anything other than grilled pork dumplings where I am, and they're pretty pricey. Pork and seaweed sounds lovely, I wonder if they would deliver a couple of hundred miles away...?

  2. I love to go to this kind of "cheap eat" place once in a while. Perfect for a quick bite or hangout place with friends! It's usually more hassle with the small kids tho. :) Glad to hear you had fun!


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