CHINATOWN :: SYDNEY :: NEW SOUTH WALES :: AUSTRALIA :: CROWDED WORLD
IF YOU ARE ON A QUICK TRIP TO SYDNEY THERE IS NO FINER WAY TO SPEND AN AFTERNOON OR EVENING, THAN TO DROP IN AT THE CITY'S CHINATOWN AT HAYMARKET. If you are spending considerably longer than a week in Sydney, you might want to become a regular visitor to Chinatown, because it offers plenty of excitement. This is one of the more potent East Meets West interfaces of a country which in itself is becoming an East Meets West interface. (Bankstown and Cabramatta are two others.) For Asian Australians and Asian visitors and everybody else, regardless of their color, this is the place to come to find the finest yum cha, to search for bargains in the labyrinthe markets, or to simply chill out at the nearby Chinese Gardens. On my last jaunt through the place, on May 13 2011, I stopped for a late lunch at one of my favorite haunts -- the Eating World Food Court in Dixon St. I was amazed as usual by the array of delicious Asian dishes, representing China, Vietnam, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia.
I was on my way to a job interview in Ultimo, and my route took me past historic Paddy's Market, into the Dixon Street Mall. There was a long line of people waiting for Emperor Puffs, a fried vanilla puff concoction which was going for 30 cents a piece. From what I have heard, Sydney's Chinatown is the only place in the world you can find Emperor Puffs. I didn't have time to line up, so I scurried along, to Eating World.
WHERE IS CHINATOWN
CHINATOWN IS JUST A SHORT WALK FROM SYDNEY'S CENTRAL STATION AND IS ALSO QUITE CLOSE TO OTHER INFLUENTIAL AREAS SUCH AS DARLING HARBOR (WITH ALL ITS ITS HOTELS AND ITS ONE GLEAMING CASINO.) As a Japanese guide pointed out on its website: That's right, while officially Chinatown is restricted to Dixon St, in reality the whole of the surrounding suburb of Haymarket has been swamped under a surge of Chinese and Asian eateries, and there is something to suit every taste. This whole part of town could be considered Chinatown -- and there is even a strong Chinese presence felt at Darling Harbor, with its magnificent Chinese Gardens. But there is more to Chinatown than just food. Throw in the ubiqitious souvenir sellers, hawking precious black opals and stuffed koalas and laughing Kookaburras, and plenty of jewelery and Chinese junk stores, and you have the complete deal, unplugged. There is no Chinatown in the world quiet like it -- then again, every Chinatown is unique! In what other Chinatown in the world, would you find so many shops selling koala toys? This is the only one -- and there can be only one!
Here is a list of some of the places you can dine at in Chinatown:
BBQ King: 18-20 Goulburn St. Phone: 02/9267 2586.
Chinese Noodle Restaurant: 8 Quay St, Haymarket. Phone: 02/9281 9051.
East Ocean: 421 Sussex St,
Haymarket. Phone: 02/9212 4198.
Emperor's Garden BBQ & Noodles:
213-5 Thomas St. Phone: 02/9281 9899.
Golden Century Seafood Restaurant: 393-399 Sussex St, Haymarket. Phone: 02/9212 3901.
Hingara Chinese Restaurant: 82 Dixon St, Haymarket. Phone: 02/9212-2169
Kam Fook Shark Fin Restaurant: Level 3, Market City, 9 Hay St. Phone: 02/9211 8388.
Lam's Seafood Restaurant: 35-37 Goulburn St, Haymarket. Phone: 02/9281 2881/2.
Mamak: 15 Goulburn St, Haymarket. Phone: 02/9211 1668.
Marigold Citymark: Levels 4/5, 683-689 George St, Haymarket. Phone: 02/9281 3388.
Nine Dragons Restaurant: 39 Dixon St, Sydney.
Sea Bay Chinese Restaurant: Piit St.
Silver Spring: Level 1, 477 Pitt St, Haymarket. Phone: 02/9211 2232.
Tetsuya's: 529 Kent St, (behind George St cinemas near Chinatown.) Phone: 02/9267 2900.
Wagaya: 1/78 Harbour Street, Haymarket. Phone: 02/9212 6068.
Here are some of the fave food courts which can be found in Chinatown and around:
Dixon House Food Court: corner of Little Hay and Dixon Sts, Haymarket.
I first stumbled upon this little piece of Asia transplanted on to Australian soil back in 1996, when I was working at the nearby Daily Telegraph as a hack. The highlight of my three month stay there was glimpsing media mogul Rupert Murdoch on a surprise visit to the office (he was probably trying to shore up his ailing SUPER LEAGUE strategy, but that is another story.) While working at the newspaper I usually dined on Malaysian chicken laksa from a nearby takeout shop, but if I was feeling more adventurous and had enough time, I would head down to Chinatown. I usually ended up at Eating World which reminded me of some of the great food courts of Asia.
Eating World is a favourite with students, large families, groups of teenagers and lone eaters. Expect no glamour (then again, you wouldn't expect glamour at any of the great food courts of Asia.) You choose, you wait, they ring the bell, you pick up your food from the stall, your utensils from one of the stations scattered around the hall, go to a table and eat. Lingering is not encouraged. There is a bar in the place and I used to love sucking down those Hahn Ice's and Carlton Colds, especially if I was eating something spicy at the time.
If you love Asian food, it's all here, from Peking duck to Vietnamese pork rolls. It was in fact Vietnamese pork rolls that I ate on my last visit, in October 2005. And true to tradition I washed it down with -- a beer from the house of Hahn...
Another regular and enthusiastic diner, John Newton, claims some of the better Eating World dishes include the beef and bitter melon hot pot from Chinatown Gourmet ("tender beef, dried shiitake mushrooms, ginger and enough melon to satisfy my bitter cravings"), beef rendang from the Bundo Raya halal stall and the chilli octopus at the Korean/Japanese hawker's stall. The Yummi House Taiwanese pancakes are also strongly recommended!
Eating World was named the best food court in Sydney by one prominent youth hostel group. Its fame has spread beyond the yellow sand shores of Australia, into Asia -- showing that Sydney can mash it up on the Asian dining scene. On one Bahasa Indonesian website I found a tribute to Eating World. On the forum a poster, h4nh4n, had asked his Indo brethren: "Hello Guys, daripada bete and ga ada yang aktif di regional Sydney... mendingan gue nanya deh. Tempat makan favorite lu di Sydney tuh dimana?"
Sorry to all the Indo folk out there -- my Bahasa Indonesian skills are pretty basic! I will hazard a wild guess and make an on-the-fly translation of this tempat (question) -- "where are your favourite eating places in Sydney?" A worthy tempat indeed, worthy of a worthy answer. h4nh4n himself mentions Star City's all-you-can-eat buffet as a good place for makan (food). Ming Hai on George St gets a jersey -- "gw recomend tomato rice crispy chickennya." h4nh4n later adds: "Kalo yang ada nasi padang tuh eating world tuh... kalo dixon jalan sussex deh kayaknya, ada di basement gitu deh."
For lovers of Indonesian food, go to Pondok Selera in Eating World (opposite the bar). Ever since I started my job at Alternative Media, I have made it my aim to eat there once a month or so. Pretty much everything on their menu is good. There is Indonesian offal soup ($9.50), Loh Mee braised beef noodles in black vinegar sauce ($9.50), udang belado prawns and rice ($11.80), and so on. The time before last I ordered a noodle soup containing some kind of greenish-yellow offal, pork balls and yellow noodles. I noticed there was a lunch special going (any three choices of curry like beef rendang and rice for $7.80).
Harbour Plaza Food Court: corner of Dixon and Goulburn Sts, Haymarket.
Market City Shopping Centre: Level 3, 2-13 Quay St, Sydney. Phone: 02/9212 1388.
Sussex Centre: 401 Sussex St, Sydney.
PYRMONT IS AN UNDERAPPRECIATED PART OF SYDNEY, POPULAR WITH STUDENTS. It is also a good place for cheap eats. The chicken laksa at Kopitiam (592 Harris Street; phone: (02) 9282 9883) is well known and delicious.
CHINATOWN OCCUPIES THE HEART OF SYDNEY CITY AND, IN A WAY, ALSO OCCUPIES A CENTRAL ROLE IN AUSTRALIAN HISTORY. As The Sydney Morning Herald wrote: "While early Chinese arrivals in Australia set up stores at The Rocks, the introduction of "coolie" labour in the 1840s and the increase in migration after the discovery of gold the following decade saw them established at the other end of town. By 1900, according to one history, 86 per cent of Chinese regarded the Haymarket area, today's Chinatown, as their place of residence, and in the 1920s the Chinese merchants there had a working relationship with the City Council, which owned most of the area, including the markets.
"Nevertheless, it's an odd juxtaposition, given the White Australia policy of most of the 20th century, that two such Australian symbols as Paddy's Market and Trades Hall lie within Chinatown.
"Trades Hall is a wonderful building of four storeys, light sandstone pillars with red bricks in between, on the corner of Dixon and Goulburn Streets. It has a magnificent multi-sided tower with little balconies and a turret topped with tarnished green copper. Its foundation stone was laid by His Excellency, the Right Honourable Henry Carrington, GCMG, on January 28, 1888.
"Here, narrow Dixon Street has been "pedestrianised", and buskers sell CDs not just of Great Oriental Classics and Chinese Violin Masterpieces but also Romantic Melodies (including such well-known numbers as Unchained Melody and Don't Cry for Me, Argentina). These are played on the Chinese harp, a bowed stringed instrument popular during the Song Dynasty, around AD 960-1279, and the erhu, the Chinese violin.