Nanjing Dumpling in Haymarket serves up regional Chinese food from Nanjing which is not easy to find in Sydney. There's the famous Nanjing Salted Duck to a range of plump and pleasing dumplings and wonderful noodle dishes. If you're looking for cheap and cheerful, this is the place.
It was the night that almost didn't happen. Monica had been battling a crushing migraine for a week and I expected her to cancel any minute. When I asked how she was feeling she answered, "I'm eating that muthaf^*&in duck tonight," she responded. A couple of weeks prior Monica had visited Nanjing Dumpling and loved it so much that she was taking me there.
So let's do a quick dive into Nanjing cuisine. Nanjing is located in the Jiangsu Province in Eastern China near the Yangtze River. Duck is Nanjing's signature dish (it's often called "the city of duck") whether it be salted duck, vermicelli soup with duck blood or duck oil pancakes. Nanjing duck is so popular that in Nanjing people can buy vacuum packed salted ducks to take home with them. Nanjing is also known for dumplings, particularly long rectangular shaped pan fried beef dumplings. With its location near the Yangtze River and Qinhuai River fish is also a common ingredient.
Nanjing Dumpling on Little Hay Street in Haymarket has been open for one and a half years. The staff are friendly and rather bemused about the spread of food that Monica and I have ordered which is clearly enough for 4 (leftovers will be taken home).
The menu is one page long and features specialties from Nanjing with some marked "Must try!" to help ordering easier. You order and pay at the front counter.
We grab a couple of drinks from the fridge-Monica chooses a sweet cucumber soda which tastes like sweet Asian cucumber pickles in a refreshing drink. I get a coconut milk-not a coconut water but a lightly sweetened coconut milk that goes well with the food. We grab tissues and spoons and the chopsticks are located in the drawers at the table.
Duck is the main thing on show here. The cold Nanjing style salted duck is splendid, there's no other word for it really. It's first wet brined and then simmered so that it is like Hainanese chicken but bolder in flavour. The salting permeates the meat of the duck to season it beautifully and also makes it juicy and utterly moreish.
We also snack on the duck tongues. These sweet soy sauce cooked tongues are delicious little snacks, with just enough meat on them to make the little effort prising it off worthwhile. A wonderful beer snack indeed.
We ordered the rice cakes and these have a minimum order of two. They come out deep fried which we weren't expecting-the painting on the wall says steamed rice cakes. They don't have much of a flavour to them, more a crunch from the deep frying. One of the young guys behind the counter says that he enjoys them with sweetened condensed milk.
The dry noodles come with a wonderful sweet soy garlic type of sauce and tiny pieces of bone-in pork ribs. Forget any notions of sweet and sour pork as you know it from Australian Chinese restaurants, there is no pineapple and the sweet and sourness is less pronounced. The pork like the duck is very moreish.
I chew contentedly on these pieces of pork alternating with slurping those long, tangled noodles.
Monica's favourite noodles are the deeply comforting soup noodles with cubes of duck blood jelly, duck heart and duck meat and all you need to do is add some chilli oil to finish it off. There's a generous amount of vermicelli and we can't finish them so they generously offer us a bowl of the broth to take with us.
Dumpling-wise there are a few on offer. One of my favourites are the pan fried beef dumplings, decreed one of Nanjing's "8 traditional Qinhuai (river) treasures." They're long golden skinned dumplings filled with a juicy beef filling. They're crisp but not too dry and the juiciness from the filling make them sturdy and moreish. The pastry chef is busy eating her dinner near us and we give her a thumbs up and she chats with us.
Tang Bao are similar to Xiao Long Baos, those delicious soup filled pork dumplings (tang means soup). These Tang Bao have a slightly thicker skin and the filling is plump and filled with plenty of soup. To eat, place the tangbao on a soup spoon, take a bite from the side to release the steam, suck out the soup and then dip the rest of the dumpling in the vinegar.
The guy taking our order asked if we wanted some prawn dumplings that were a daily special and we figured "why not". These are potsticker style dumplings with a filling of whole prawn and pork mince. The dumplings are all delicious because of the soupy filling.
As we are getting up to leave, my thong breaks (foot thong, not underwear thong, that would be odd if that broke LOL). Which renders one unable to walk especially if they have a repulsion to walking barefoot as I do. I ask Monica to buy me a new pair of anything and she runs out to nearby Dixon Street to find me a new pair of shoes.
So what do I have to do in the meantime but peer at the display of sesame cakes while waiting for Monica to come back. "What are these?" I ask pointing to them. They explain that the one with the red dot is sweet and other one is savoury so I buy one of each.
Both sesame biscuits have a very flakey pastry and the sweet cakes have black sesame inside them but I adore the savoury one with the pork mince, spring onions and coriander inside the thick coating of sesame. They're also delicious warm from the heater.
Monica returns with a pair of slides. "I saw all these fluffy long bed socks that I thought was the only option. Then I saw crocs but I had mercy on you and bought you these," she says handing me a pair of on trend black and white slippers which I slip onto my grateful feet. With that we leave with all of our boxes of takeaway.
So tell me Dear Reader, have you ever tried Nanjing food? Do you like duck? And do you have an aversion to walking barefoot?
This meal was independently paid for.
6 Little Hay St, Haymarket NSW 2000
Open 7 days 7:30am–9:30pm
Phone: 0499 333 808