The weather has really been detrimental to the successful running of food festivals lately. Not only did gusting wind ruin the Liverpool Bites Food and Wine Festival, but last weekend pouring rain totally killed Ashfield's Chinese food festival, the Big Yum Cha. Held as part of the Crave Sydney International Food Festival on the 23rd of October, a day of feasting, dancing and general merriment was planned, but the miserable weather put paid to that, and there were only a few stalls present. Nonetheless, Sonia and I wanted to check it out, so we put up our little umbrellas and braved the rain.
The first stall we come upon is selling, among other things, drinking coconuts, and we quickly snatch two in an effort to evoke warmer weather. We failed, but the drinks were cool and refreshing, and also not too sweet.
Out of nowhere, we unexpectedly ran into a family friend of Sonia's! He was cooking marinated lamb skewers with chili flakes over coals, and although we had to pay full price (where are the mate's rates, eh?), the pieces of tender lamb's shoulder were delicious and we were greatly satisfied.
The last stall we found of interest was selling 5 dishes commonly found in yum cha restaurants, and at $1 per small portion, we thought the value for money would be good - until we tried our serves:
The dumplings and spring rolls were flavourless, cold, and a bit damp from the rain. We each took a bite, and promptly threw them out.
The fried rice was also flavourless and cold, and after the first taste we didn't eat any more, but the noodles were surprisingly delicious and we ate them all.
After the exciting 30 minutes that encompased our festival experience, we decided to try a restaurant along Liverpool Street for lunch. This street is known for its proffusion of Chinese restaurants that offer dumplings, and since I had never been to one, Sonia steered me to the nearest one.
Lining up in front of China Shanghai Night, I asked Sonia "Should we wait in line, or go somewhere else?". A man in front of me turned around and said "Stay, trust me, it's worth it". With that assurance, we waited for about 10 minutes until we were seated.
The interior was a bit spartan and very brightly lit, and it was hard to move in between all the tightly-crammed tables, but we made it to our table with minimum fuss, and proceeded to pour our jasmine tea.
Our waitress arrives, and can't speak English well, so Sonia orders in Mandarin. It's not a long wait before our first dish is served, Hand-made Shanghai Noodles.
The noodles were fantastic! Soft yet firm enough so as not to be unpleasant, with tender bits of beef and spinach, in a sweet, light sauce. And the noodles were so uniformly similar, it was hard to tell they were hand-made.
The combination wonton soup was nothing short of amazing. Filled with succulent prawns, flavoursome fish balls, marinated pork, and calimari, and in a bowl the size of my head, it was worth the paltry $10.50 we paid for it. Add the delicious pork wontons, and we felt like we were cheating the restaurant.
When you think of crepes, they don't automatically come to mind as a healthy option. So when you deep fry a crepe, you know you're in for a heart attack. Still, this dish was really delicious, with the shallotts lending a sharp freshness that complimented the pork and countered the crunchy, crispy exterior to perfection.
This was my first time having pan-fried dumplings, and I can't believe how sheltered an existence I lived up to that point. The tops of the dumplings were soft and moist, and the bottoms thick, crispy and crunchy. The insides were perfectly cooked as well.
The steamed dim sims were moist yet firm, with the minced pork filling juicy and tender. The boiled dumplings had a slightly tougher texture, but the filling was much more aromatic with the chives.
The food here is to die for, and they could easily charge twice what they do. The interior is a bit off-putting, and the lack of english speaking staff were sometimes problematic, but with 7 dishes coming in at $50.40, we left incredibly full (with leftovers!) and very satisfied.
China Shanghai Night
275 Liverpool St
Phone: 9798 8437