Yum Cha Rules 

About 20% of Sydney’s 4.5 million residents are Asian, contributing to the city’s vibrant Asian dining scene. With a multitude of options, Sydney siders can walk between Chinatown, Thai-town and Malay-town in making the difficult decision on where to eat

The gateway to Chinatown Sydney (though this could be any ‘Chinatown’ in the world)

On any Saturday and Sunday between 11-3pm you’ll find rolling trolleys of chicken feet, pork ribs, glutinous sticky buns, crispy duck and flaky egg tarts in dozens of restaurants across the Sydney….take your pick from vegan (Bhoudi restaurant), seafood (East Ocean restaurant) or established Yum Cha stalwarts like Marigold’s (apparently Noel Gallagher’s all time favourite Yum Cha restaurant in the world!)

Restaurant ‘Eight’ – hidden away on the top floor of Market City, Sydney – doesn’t have all the formality of tuxedoed waiters (Marigold) or female staff in traditional figure hugging ‘cheongsam’ (Crystal Palace) or over the top film set decor and indoor waterfalls (Dynasty Chinese Restaurant). To tell you the truth it was standard Yum Cha fare…and by 12.30pm throngs of crowds had appeared elbowing their way past the food trolleys (a good sign)

RULES FOR YUM CHA: there are a few golden rules to make your experience memorable…

Rule 1. Bring friends – bring as many people as possible with the aim of taste testing as many glutinous goodies as possible and prolonging the experience

Rule 2. Don’t eat breakfast – to truly enjoy the Yum Cha adventure, pace yourself, forget breakfast, it’s a waste of stomach space

Rule 3. Get there early (11am) – I know what you’re thinking, no breakfast until 11am!? Your mind needs to be stronger than your body, learn to be a Yum Cha Zen master, I guarantee it’s worth the wait

Rule 4. Don’t Yum Cha with picky eaters – dine with friends who have the same sized stomach as you, are adventurous and enjoy the ritual of ‘breaking bread’ together. Remove friends from your life that are pertetually on a diet, life’s too short for eating rabbit food

Rule 5. Eat your greens – its not like eating steamed broccoli, Asian greens are quickly blanched, fried in garlic and oil and packed full of flavour (and probably MSG which is why they taste so good)…fresh Asian greens will help cut through all the fried and glutinous dishes you’re going to eat

Choi Sum & spicy green beans 

Rule 6. Eat with loved ones – ‘Restaurant Eight’ was OK, the hustle and bustle of an inner city restaurant added extra excitement to the event but it was the joy of eating with loved ones (who you’d be willing to give up the last ‘Ha Gow’ for) catching up on lost time and sharing challenges and banality of everyday life that make the Yum Cha experience all the more delicious…

Yes the dumplings were warm, thin skinned, wrapped and packed with flavour and if we had to decide on a BEST DISH? the scallop, prawn & fish roe dumplings

…though I wouldn’t say no to the soft shell deep fried crab!

And once you’re done and ready to roll out the door, sides splitting from having ‘just one more’…stretch your stomach muscles and legs for a short walk to Thai-town to pick n pack coconut, pandan and sticky rice desserts…

Dena: 2.5 stars for ‘Restaurant 8’ & 5 stars for the company


Modern Australian Cuisine: China Doll

NB: ‘Modern Australian’, a term coined in the 80’s, describes the cuisine of immigrant settlers to Australia and the fusion of tastes that followed. Not to be confused with ‘Australian cuisine’ which refers to the unique hunter-gatherer – “bush tucker” diet indigenous Australians developed over 40,000–60,000 years, from regional Australian flora and fauna.
Now that’s clear, let’s begin…

China Doll does upmarket modern Australia cuisine – Asian style – with a twist. On the Woolloomooloo wharf on the fancy side of town, this is a place for people watching and where the rich and famous come to dine…

You know you’re in an upmarket restaurant when you go to the bathroom to find a gaggle of fresh faced 20 year olds snorting coke off the bathroom sink…but I diverge…back to the food

The produce was fresh…fresh as my bathroom companions…

Peking Duck pancakes: Duck breast in precisely cut and equal proportions arrive…. Unlike Peking duck in Chinatown, it wasn’t cut in front of us, there was no warm dripping duck fat (a good thing) and five spice infused crispy skin (also a good thing), and the duck bill, head, eyes and hanging carcasses are nowhere in sight (6 pancakes did cost the equivalent of 2 whole crispy ducks from the BBQ King)

Rhubarb & Coconut Daiquiri

havana club white rum, coconut, rhubarb, lime

It’s pink, very pink and tart if you like that kind of thing…and definitely NOT for the sweet tooth

BEST DISH – Eggplant & Tofu with Sichuan chilli bean paste:
Asian oriental eggplant with its bitter aftertaste is perfect with chilli and fried silken tofu

Crepe wrapped blood orange pudding with coconut rice bubbles…layers of crunchy sweet coconut/rice bubble brittle, homemade vanilla bean icecream and crepe wrapped tart orange pudding. The pomegranate jewels and lemon jelly cubes provide much needed relief from the heavy cream layers…don’t leave without tasting this one 

Cocktails anyone?

Walnut & Anejo Blaze

Warmed los azulejos anejo tequila infused with cinnamon, chocolate bitters, roasted walnut

Ode to garlic and friends

Disclaimer: No actual therapeutic effects whatsoever are implied from reading or acting out the contents in this post. 

Picture this: It is exactly 13 days since you have returned from random location #8375, and you are actually feeling fantastic.

All jetlag, no-sleep lag, hothered-and-itchy-lag, and shuddery memories of grimy bug-ridden “rustic” excuses for hotels are fading into a distant haze of feeling honoured and privileged and inspired and centred to have such an amazing travelling job.

Not really what travelling for work is like.


…. and then it hits…

Quickly and irresponsibly self-diagnosing via google scholar,  you realise with a sinking (gurgling) stomach that all the papers are still in your recent history list from last time. And that whilst an incubation time of 1 week is usual, this specific EVIL F#&%ER of a parasite can slow-cook for up to a good 35 days or so before striking…

Food therapy response #1: Rice, white plain, lots of it

photo 5
You still need to eat. Rice is something you can eat.

What? You don’t want to eat another day of rice? You have no choice. The alternative is to yet again dig into your crumpled stash of expired meds from the travel doctor and become personally responsible for creating tinidazole-resistant strains of superbug that will take over the world.

Eat rice and continue…

Food therapy response #2: Garlic

photo 3
Garlic is magic.

You may notice it’s harder to find real garlic these days (picture left), whilst the elephant stuff is widely available (picture right).

Elephant garlic has a sweet flavour and being large is easy to use, but it really lacks the true garlicky oomph of high quality Allium sativum. The kind of oomph that leaves your skin glistening with a thin sheen of garlicky sweat/glow, hmmm mmm.

So, for nuking purposes, source some of the real stuff [1].

Chop and stir raw through hot rice. Or, make some garlic bread – raw garlic and butter on toast.

Bowl sourced from potter selling to tourists at Salamanca Market, Hobart. Chopping board sourced from Byron Bay Chopping Board seller at Marrickville Markets, Sydney.

You won’t be doing much fat or dairy at the moment. But butter has next to no lactose. And the good bugs (as distinct from: evil bugs) in cultured butter will have smacked most of what little lactose there is into acid, so go for the absolute best.

This stuff is exceptionally good, and I recommend eating it by the slab:

photo 4 copy

Food therapy response #3: Miso

Why buy a $14 bottle of kraut that cost 43c of cabbage and vinegar to make? That’s a 3000% margin for the hipsters.

For fermented goodness, eat miso instead. Here is a version you might eat a bit further along your recovery journey.

photo 1

Food therapy response #4: Watermelon

The moral of the story is to contract parasitic gut infections during your local summer season, when watermelons are at their best. Which is not now.

Apparently the rind is meant to be where the good stuff is [2].

Admission: kraut

photo 2

OK, so I bought it, all $14 of it, and it was pretty good, in fact very good. I’ll have to go back and try the 75 other flavours each with a differently  fontaged and hued label.

Garlic rating (Ingelara garlic)

Jo: 5 stars

[1] doi:10.1016/j.pt.2005.08.004

[2] doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0045325

Wa Japanese Restaurant Cafe

Is it a restaurant? Is it a cafe? Or is ‘restaurant cafe’ a cultural translation issue? Who knows and who cares when Wa Japanese Restaurant Cafe cook soba noodle miso soup to perfection!

Wa’s a teeny little place in Bondi Junction with no more than 10 tables (most of which are reserved both weekend and week nights) and as of May 2016 is my favourite Japanese noodle place….

On first discovering Wa I rode my bike there one to two times a week for a month for the vegetarian (with fish stock) miso soup and Matcha tea soba noodles.

The flavours are subtle with saffron threads, roasted (black and white) sesame, ground chilli, finely shredded shallots and Dashi (who knows why the chef thought raw onion chunks were a good idea to throw into the mix today – actually that’s minus 1 star for lack of appreciation of delicate flavours)

You can ‘mix n match’: choose miso or soya bean base; spicy or mild; soba or udon; beef, chicken or vegetarian. I’ve only had vegetarian and while I don’t have an aversion to any particular vegetable, I’ve never understood why people eat baby carrots when the core is so hard and stringy. It’s probably the ‘cuteness’ factor that  fits well with Japanese aesthetics and cultural sensibility.  With plenty of baby carrots and cabbage (red & white) this is a sweet miso soup

Only 10 minutes walk from Centennial Park it’s a convenient place to pick up picnic food for lunch in the park (if you don’t mind plastic containers left in the aftermath…it’s an ethical trade off).

NOTE: If you like your savouries sweet, try the Deepfried Eggplant, not my favourite but from a reputable, sweet-toothed source, it’s the bomb

Dena: 4 stars (minus 1 star for the raw onions)

The Bennelong: Cured and Cultured

The Bennelong restaurant at the iconic Sydney Opera House is a perfect place for an upmarket birthday surprise…

There are a number of potential seating arrangements, including at the bar, ‘the circle’ (scanning the dress circle brings to mind upmarket thoroughbreds at an equestrian event) or casual bar stools with a birds eye view of chefs preparing ‘raw, cured and cultured produce’ for counter service.

The harbour views were magnificent but more interesting was the view of the chefs preparing our meals…

Carrots on carrots on carrots (otherwise known as salad of organic carrots, sherry caramel, almonds and sheep’s milk 

if emotions were palatable this dish would taste like the happiness you feel at the beginning of spring in high definition colour

For non vegos the red claw yabbies with lemon jam, cultured cream and buckwheat pancakes (particularly light and unbuckwheat-like!) is a must…

A delightfully surprising drink for this non-alcoholic punter was the honey thyme kombucha (made especially for Bennelong) unexpectedly floral with more highs than lows..served in cut crystal with a slice of dehydrated lime made me feel like a real (alcohol drinking) grown up

‘Chocolate cake from across the water’ (yes that is the name of the dessert…) was 7  layers of textured chocolate. This was an Australian Masterchef challenge some time ago…(along with Gilmore’s signature ‘snow egg’)

It looks inconspicuous but don’t even think of trying this one on your own…

WARNING: A little something to note: try and sit upwind of the hot plate and you won’t be subjected to burnt butter smoke in your eyes


Jo (in absentia): 3 stars (based on photos only. Open to revising rating with future actual tasting).

Din Tai Fung (World Square, Sydney)

Din Tai Fung Review 

Shanghai Drunken Chicken & Vegetarian Delight: All the elements you need for a perfectly balanced cold starter  – seaweed & tofu & rice wine & poultry.


Number of dishes required = 3 * p

p = number of people: p  = 2

number of dishes required = 3 * 2 = 6

BEST DISH: Spicy Pork and Vegetarian dumplings

NB: when dining with reformed engineers be ready to include equations in blogposts

Added value is you get up and close to the craft of dumpling making…and the precision of perfectly weighed, wrapped and presented dumplings

More steam than the Hilton gym sauna: please give us free membership…

Jo: I’ve got something to say about dessert…If you think high-carbohydrate root vegetables are boring, think again. This is tasty mauve magic (taro-based), I actually think this is the best dish.

Dena: I’ve got something else to say about that…for gluten free, dairy free, vegans with food intolerances this is a nightmare dish (she says blowing her nose…)

Jo: I wondered where all the serviettes went…


Din Tai Fung are a chain that started in Taiwan. While they weren’t the first dumpling place in Sydney, they were novel and ahead of their time. There are other great dumpling places in Sydney. Chinese Noodle House (Fake Grapes) in China town have been around for over 2 decades, have a shorter menu of rustic dumplings (Jo: excellent lamb and cumin pot stickers), but few vegetarian dishes – though you have to try the Sichuan eggplant dish.

Jo: 4 stars

Dena: 3.5 stars