Out of Sydney’s cultural melting pot, the Chinese community is one of the most prominent. To get a real sense of Chinese celebrations and festivities, you have to take a visit to Chinatown Sydney on Dixon Street. Head south past the business district’s high rises and the sweet aroma of barbecuing pork will make your mouth water as soon as you stroll into the bustling pedestrian strip of Chinatown.
The night market is well worth a visit and is open every Friday night of the year. As the sun begins to set, the glowing Chinese lanterns light up an array of stalls selling Chinese trinkets, bargain clothing and jewellery. The pedestrian area fills up with the excited chatter of office workers at the end of their work week, standing shoulder to shoulder with wide-eyed tourists and Chinatown locals. The air is dense with the spice of Chinese barbecue as you peek into the steamed-up food vans, trying to decide between the mouthwatering options. The succulent pork belly buns melt in your mouth and the fried spring rolls and prawns are crispy and fresh. If those morsels haven’t filled you up, restaurant hawkers will happily offer deals to tempt your tummy, and you’re guaranteed a memorable meal no matter where you choose.
If you’re in Chinatown Sydney on a weekend morning, you must try the yum cha. Also known as dim sum, this southern Chinese-style morning tea has become a much-loved Sydney tradition. Although the words ‘yum cha’ mean ‘drink tea’ in Cantonese, the focus of the meal is more about the delicious steamed and fried morsels that can be selected from carts wheeled around the restaurant.
Since it’s all about sharing, it’s traditional to enjoy yum cha with a big group (although it’s perfectly acceptable to ask for a table for two as well). On Saturday and Sunday mornings, the white-tableclothed round tables at restaurants such as Golden Harbour are brimming with groups of all races breaking bread (or in this case, pork buns) together. The restaurant is filled with the noisy babble of waiters offering their wares—”You want steamed scallop dumplings?”—and hungry customers debating how many plates to get—”One or two? Let’s go with two.” The waiters are efficient, friendly, and aim to get you the dishes you want, so if you don’t find them on one of the carts don’t hesitate to ask.
You must try the rice noodles roles with crunchy, fresh prawns, as well as the cha siu bao (sweet barbecued pork encased in a doughy white bun) and any type of steamed dumpling. Wash it down with the traditional Chinese tea, or even a refreshing Tsingtao beer. At the end of your meal, if your pristine white tablecloth isn’t stained a murky brown from tea, soy sauce, and various dumplings that haven’t quite made it from the middle of the table to your bowl with absolute accuracy, then you’re not doing it right!