Food & Drink

I ate chicken feet and thousand-year-old eggs in Manchester’s Chinatown – and I loved it

The Manc's Food and Drink Editor took a deep dive into Chinese delicacies at Mei Dim, and fell in love with its baskets of chicken feet, thousand year old egg congee and beef tripe.

Georgina Pellant Georgina Pellant - 20th January 2023

Chicken feet, tripe, and thousand-year-old eggs might not be the first things you think to order when visiting a restaurant in Manchester’s Chinatown, but if you’re paying a visit to Mei Dim then you really need to give it a go. If not, you’re seriously missing out.

A non-descript basement canteen tucked underground on Faulkner Street, from the outside its laminated pictoral menus give very little clue as to the delights within. But they’re very much there for the taking, if you’re daring enough to step out of your comfort zone.

Visiting on a chilly Monday lunchtime, this is exactly what I’ve vowed to do – with a little help from a friend who not only speaks fluent Cantonese, but also lived in Hong Kong as a child and has a chef for a dad.

Armed with knowledge, he’s the best dining partner I could ask for: patiently explaining the menu to me and then delighting when I announce, at the end of our meal, that I’ve fallen in love with chicken feet. ‘At last’, he says, he’s found a white person who will eat ‘the weird stuff’ with him. It’s the start of a beautiful new chapter for us.

After some back and forth, followed by some wrangling with the staff in Cantonese, he manages to convince them to give us a sheet of paper to ‘tick off’ our dim sum choices. This, I’m told, is how it’s meant to be done – with the staff taking one half, and leaving the other on your table to count off the dishes as they arrive.


At this point I realise it’s a good thing I’m not alone, because I really have no idea what I’m doing. Although there is an English menu provided, there’s also a second specials menu that has absolutely no translation.

The service is also perfunctory at best, or at least it is before they warm up to us. Left to my own devices, my awkward self would’ve probably already upped and left, only to miss out on one of the best meals of my life.


We reel off our order: steamed chicken feet and beef tripe, a steaming bowl of congee (made with a thousand year old egg), steamed custard and egg yolk buns, roasted pork cheung fun, and Shanghai-style soup dumplings.

‘Have we gone too weird?’ we wonder out loud, before deciding no, not at all. At this point, I’m very much in for a penny, in for a pound.

Meaty congee with thousand year old egg at Mei Dim. / Image: The Manc Eats
Steamed beef tripe with ginger and spring onion at Mei Dim, pictured above egg yolk custard buns. / Image: The Manc Eats

It doesn’t take long before our first dish arrives, a plate of slippery-looking cheung fun – a thin, gelatinous and slightly chewy rice noodle roll filled with pork then drizzled in soy sauce.


It’s followed, swiftly, by a tower of bamboo baskets, filled with chicken feet, steamed beef tripe with ginger and spring onion, plump steamed custard buns and our steamed soup dumplings – all dumped, rather unceremoniously might I add, on our table.

Once the curtain of steam between us evaporates, we survey the spoils. My nerves about eating feet dispelled, I take some quick instruction on how to remove the skin from the bones with my tongue then get stuck in.

Quickly realising these feet are 99% skin (in my opinion, one of the best parts of the bird) it dawns on me: I’ve finally found a dish where it’s acceptable to only eat chicken skin, without ingesting any actual meat. No wonder so many people rave about this as a comfort food.

Egg yolk custard buns at Mei DIm. / Image: The Manc Eats
Cheung fun with pork at Mei Dim. / Image: The Manc Eats

And as for that thousand-year-old egg? If anything, it’s a misnomer. A couple of weeks, or months old at best, sitting in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, quicklime and rice hulls makes it rich in flavour and adds a hefty dose of umami to a meaty bowl of congee.

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Beyond that, the greatest delights of the day have to be the egg yolk custard buns, satisfactorily oozing their hot golden goo at the slightest pressure. When Giggs grins and tells me that he hasn’t had any this good since leaving Hong Kong, I know we’re on to a winner here.

Although Mei Dim has a distinct lack of social media presence, the fact that most of its clientele are Chinese speaks volumes as to the quality. It also has a great word-of-mouth reputation, which is how I stumbled across it in the first place.

That said, it’s not going to be for everyone and there are plenty of keyboard warriors who’ve taken the time to slag this place off. Quite a few scathing TripAdvisor reviews bemoan its old school decor and lack of ‘friendly’ service, but I rather like it. If anything, it makes it feel more authentic.

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This is how I remember Chinatown always used to be when growing up, and I think there’s something to be said for a restaurant more interested in what’s coming out of its kitchen than the tables it’s being served on.


Simply put: if you want to be fawned over, you’re probably best off going elsewhere. But if you want great dim sum, Mei Dim is an absolute must.

Feature image – The Manc Eats