Perhaps it wasn't the wisest move going to the Sydney Fish Markets the week before Christmas. I think I was lulled into a state of denial by hunger and eager opportunism and the compulsive urge to try somewhere new. I was taking my "team" that is my lovely hair stylist and makeup artist Elly and Joel from Stevie English salon to lunch. And before you think "Who on earth has a team?" it was a temporary dream team for me, we were doing a shoot (I can't wait to tell you all about it!) and whilst I wish they were my permanent team, alas I awoke a few days later and did my own hair and makeup-badly I might add :P
Chosen because all love yum cha, we decided on a new venue that was set apart from the Chinatown crowd, for no reason apart from wanting a nice view. Of course the uncooperative partner for this plan was the weather and we had buckets of rain which made the stalking experience in the car park all the more unpleasant.
We arrive at 1pm on time for our booking but you don't really need to book here. It's a large room on the first floor of the Sydney Fish Markets building, quite busy and yum cha is in full swing. Large Chinese families dispense with the yum cha and order celebratory king crabs, whole fish and lobster. This is Elly and Joel's second time at yum cha and I'm just going to broach the topic of chicken's feet with them here ;)
Out of nowhere a woman appears with three plates of roast duck on pancakes and we nod eagerly. The first few moments of yum cha always seem to be filled with an overwhelming urge to order everything. Elly, Joel and I are hungry, particularly Joel whose eyes are bobbing up and down with excitement, pupils dilated at the trays of food swimming past us. We grab a bit of everything from the steamed dumpling tray and sit back and sample our choices.
Duck pancake $5.50
The roast duck pancake is actually rather good with the crisp duck skin and dark meat, baton of refreshing cucumber and sweet, moreish sauce. Also of course there is the obligatory sauce drip down your hand as you lift it to your mouth.
Now the prices for each of these are a bit all over the place as they just stamp and I never check but medium dishes are $5.20, large dishes are $6.50, specials are $7.80 and BBQ'd items are $14.80. The scallop dumplings weren't bad, they weren't the ones with peanuts in them which I don't like much at all but they were full with scallops.
Vegetable and scallop dumplings
The vegetable and scallop dumplings were quite good with one burst open but quite honestly I was on the hunt for my favourite prawn dumplings and these were really biding my time until the trolley lady came around. And the trolley ladys are quite good here making sure that you get what you want even if they aren't quite as frequent as you would like with about three covering the floor during service.
The dim sims are quite good, I'm not a huge dim sim eater but I do like the fact that there's a fat prawn at the bottom of each dim sim to give it extra flavour and texture.
Char Siu $14.80
The char has nice thin pieces, a good sauce and a mixture of not too lean pieces for I am Jack Sprat's wife and can eat no lean when it comes to char siu.
Eggplant dish $7.80
The trolleys were slowing down at this point but we were still quite hungry so we ordered these. There are three pieces per plate, two with eggplant where the eggplant is nice and soft and there's some seafood mince on top. The third is tofu with a seafood mince on top and it sits in the same thick, slightly sweet garlicky ginger sauce.
I always feel unsettled until I get a steamer of these and these were the highlight. Packed full of delicious, large prawns, they're so satisfying each bite providing that lovely texture that you get from perfectly cooked prawns.
The trolley lady opened up one steamer to reveal...chicken's feet. Now I don't really see the big deal as I grew up eating these (only the ones with sauce though, the steamed ones are not my cup of tea). But I know that Mr NQN refuses to eat them as does everyone but my mother and I. So I assumed that Elly and Joel wouldn't be interested in them. The trolley lady smiles and says "they're very nice". Joel and Elly look at each other and they both say that they'll give them a go. I explain that they will be bony and just to discard the bones discreetly. They give them a go and whilst they like the sauce, perhaps we will need to play footsies with more chicken feet to get them used to the idea! ;)
Dessert time is very important and Elly chooses the mango pancakes. They're paper thin crepes wrapped around mango and whipped cream and disappear in a matter of a few light bites. I think you could easily scoff a plate of these and feel none the heavier.
The mango pudding was Joel's choice and had quite a bit of real mango throughout it. It was covered in evaporated milk and it disappeared quickly although out of the two, I really preferred the pancakes.
I ordered the sweet tofu so that they could try it. It's Mr NQN's favourite (he once ate three bowls at yum cha) and it is a lightly sweetened silken tofu. I prefer it sweeter than this one although it is a large serve.
It was a fun lunch with my dream team. The selection isn't anything unusual and it lacks some wow dishes but the dumplings are well made and freshly steamed. If you're looking for more unusual yum cha offerings, you would be best to go to Chinatown.
So tell me Dear Reader, which is your favourite item at yum cha and why?
Fisherman's Wharf Seafood Restaurant
Sydney Fish Markets
1 Bank St Pyrmont NSW 2009
Tel: +61 (02) 9660 9888