"If you can answer this question correctly, you are the smartest person in Australia" Mr NQN said looking at me over the top of the iPad. As a child of Chinese parents that was subjected to flash cards before I could talk it is pretty much a given and an imperative that I will jump when asked a question (and cringe when asked to do a physical challenge-true).
He cleared his throat. "OK so in Australia on the census, most people ticked that they are of "no religion". Can you tell me what the next two religions are?"
I thought about it for a moment and answered, "Catholic and Anglican" and he shook his head. Apparently the next two most popular religions in the last census before this year's was Catholic and then Buddhist! Who knew? I mean I knew plenty of Buddhists although neither of us are but I didn't think my motley sample pool of friends represented a portion of Australia as a whole. But this little tidbit reminded me of a Buddhist temple that we had driven past many times.
The Nan Tien Buddhist temple is an enormous sky high temple and never fails to catch our eye and a friend had mentioned that they do a yum cha or tea of sorts in their tea room or the "Dew Drop Inn" (pun perhaps intended). Well yum cha in the fact that they serve dumplings but there aren't the trolleys whizzing past or a huge choice of items like a typical yum cha. Nevertheless we were intrigued to stop there and not just to see what the temple looked up close. Call it a temple version of checking out someone's house!
We arrive through the enormous grand arch way and flapping in the wind are flags that signify us to "Do good things, Speak good words, Think good thoughts" and we immediately try and banish thoughts of swearing about how cold it is and how we just hope we get a parking spot really close to the tea room.
There's a pagoda in a separate building but the main building houses the tea room. Some brave souls are sitting outside but as it is a freezing cold Winter's day where the sun fails to ignite any sort of bodily warmth due to the wind chill we take shelter inside. We grab a wooden table, they are mostly all taken but there are all sorts of nooks and crannies here, and I go to the counter to order. I take one of the large laminated A3 sized menus and peruse it. On one side is a list of drinks from regular coffees to pots of tea. On the other side are a dozen or so dumpling and noodle dishes to choose from. All of the dishes are vegetarian and there is a good range of exotic teas. The prices aren't as cheap as yum cha but the funds go back into the temple and it's quite a nice setting to eat in.
My first choice of "cam quat" aka cumquat tea is not available so I choose a lotus tea instead. It's lovely and warming and helps warm us up from the inside.
If you order noodles, you are given a small card with the name of the order on it and you go around the corner to swap the card for a bowl of the noodles. Here they have several lots of noodles on the go and different broths and they quickly assemble my bowl of curry noodles or laksa as they call it. It's not really like a laksa that you may find at a Malaysian place, indeed the sauce is more like curry noodles than laksa. There are pieces of cabbage, green beans, carrot, potato and bean sprouts on top of the soup. Although it looks smaller than the large ramen bowls you can get it is very filling and warming.
By the time I got back to the table with the laksa bowl the spring rolls and five spice roll had arrived. The fried items are more at the ready and they're still warm while the steamed items seemed to take a bit longer. The spring rolls aren't too bad at all, in fact they're quite nice. Served with a sweet chilli sauce rather than the usual yum cha sweet and sour sauce they're crunchy and satisfying even without meat.
These were my favourite. I think they were probably made out of tofu and that mock meat gluten but they're actually very tasty and quite meat like. The five spice lends it a good flavour and helps it resemble the non vegetarian version quite nicely.
The six steamed dumplings weren't quite as successful tasting like they were just filled with cabbage.
The siu mai were my other favourite along with the five spice roll. Again they had managed to duplicate regular siu mais down to the faux red roe on top and these tasted like pork siu mai once it was dipped in the slightly sweet soy sauce (similar to the sauce that you get with the steamed prawn rice rolls at yum cha).
There were a few desserts on offer-mostly cakes and Western style goodies but by that stage we were actually really quite full so we pulled on our coats and scarves and looked around the temple. Determined to get back to the car without getting too cold we did up all of our coat buttons and thought good thoughts all the way to the car.
So tell me Dear Reader, are you a religious or spiritual person? And do you often do surveys?
Dew Drop Inn Tea Room at Nan Tien Temple
180 Berkeley Road, Berkeley, NSW
Tel: +61 (02) 4272 0600
Tuesday - Sunday
9am - 4.30pm Tea, Coffee, Light Snacks
11.30am - 4pm Lunch Menu