Some of these glimpses come at the oddest moments. While meandering through a seaside Sydney suburb recently, boy and I found ourselves whisked to Hong Kong thanks to a smell wafting over the fence of a property nearby. We couldn't quite put our finger on what the smell was, but likened it to a stagnant alleyway creek near our apartment complex in Hong Kong, before settling on stinky tofu as the smell most like what we were experiencing. As we walked, we did notice, but didn't pay much attention to a nearby local, and it wasn't until our return meander that we realised the local, whose house we likened to one of the stinkiest smells we know, and who probably heard our entire conversation, was none other than Matt Moran!
Slightly more expected is to be transported back to HK by a trip to Cabramatta. The destination of my annual Australia Day pilgrimage this year was Iron Chef.
My experience with Iron Chef began when I booked a table through Dimmi. Never in my life have I booked for yum cha, and I was interested to see how bookings are handled. The cynic in me expected that a booking meant nothing, or at the very best, being able to jump some of the queue, but never did I expect to mention the booking, walk straight in, and have them quickly set up a table for us. I'm not sure how bookings are handled in other yum cha venues, or even what would have happened if we booked for a later, busier, timeslot (we arrived at 11am), but our experience had me won over before we'd even seen a morsel of food.
The fabulous beginning flowed into a happy feast once our favourite dishes started trickling to the table. Strangely, our 'old favourites' were not the most plentiful options circulating the floor, so there was a bit of a wait between dishes, but there were plenty of choices outside the norm that were worth the glimpse that Sydney yum cha venues rarely offer. Congee was a regular visitor, as were peking duck pancakes, and black sesame buns.
For me, yum cha is all about the char siu bao (steamed pork buns - above), the prawn har gow (the transparent prawn dumplings - right), and the cheung fun (rice noodle rolls - below). Of these three, the highlight for me was the char siu bao. The BBQ pork mixture was fabulous! Sweet, porky, and plentiful, I loved every mouthful, and was so glad we had ordered both the steamed bun, and the flakey pastry version (top), to revel in the BBQ pork goodness.
The har gow were enjoyable and well-crafted, but lacked the super-juicy prawns that can be found at Kam Fook, and similar can be said of the prawns in the cheung fun.
The rice noodles themselves were some of the thinnest I've come across, and I really appreciated the texture of having many thin layers sliding across my tongue. Sadly, the cheung fun, as with some other dishes, didn't come to the table as hot as I would like, which was a shame as their quality was good.
Probably my favourite dish of the meal were these scallop and prawn fried dumplings. Don't ask me what they're called, as I don't think I've ever had them before, but they were divine crispy morsels of juicy seafood. I'd love someone to let me know their name!
Our last dish involved cracking out my limited Chinese, which is always a little dangerous. After several attempts, the waitress finally understood that I was after some lau sa bao, or salted egg custard buns, however, when these yellow buns arrived at the table, I was somewhat confused! I expected to find a gorgeous yellow colour in the filling, not in the bread-y bun! However, on opening our surprise parcels, we did find the gooey salty custard filling that we were hoping for. Perhaps without the touch of sweetness that we know and love from our experiences in Hong Kong, these still hit the spot.
Iron Chef is a winner in my book. Any yum cha experience that doesn't start with a 30 minute wait is ahead of the game, and the quality of the food is high. With 16 dishes and a couple of soft drinks shared between 6 greedy people, the cost came out at about $20 a head.
Iron Chef Chinese Seafood Restaurant
84 Broomfield Street
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