Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Asians abroad - Eating with my uncle (Sydney part 1)

Scenic Sydney

As you may have noticed, I haven't been too productive on the blog front recently. Unfortunately, quitting my job and escaping to the other side of the world for three weeks has taken precedence, although I am now blessed with a wealth of new experiences from down under that I will be sharing with you over the next few blog posts.

So, after my brief stopover in Bangkok where all sorts of crazy things happened that could only possibly happen in Bangkok, I made my way to Sydney where I prepared myself to over indulge and catch up with friends and family. I thought long and hard how to do this, but I think a suitable barrage of mini posts will be appropriate.

One of the benefits of being Malaysian is that *controversial statement alert* not many Malaysians seem to want to stay in Malaysia. I have family spread far and wide, including a cousin in New York, auntie in Seattle, cousins in Melbourne and Singapore, and last but not least, my uncle in Sydney. I remember my last trip in 2001 where he was still a bachelor and zooming around in his convertible Z3. Ten years on, he is now married with two young kids, and I can honestly say that this trip was no less enjoyable, meeting my two young cousins for the first time. Gone has the bachelor pad in Pyrmont, now replaced by a rather beautiful residence in the hills of Kellyville, deep in the suburbs.

Dim Sum at Hilltop Pheonix, Castle Towers
Dim Sum at Hilltop Pheonix, Castle Towers

Being located so close to Asia, Australia seems to have a high percentage of Chinese migrants and this is reflected in the quality of Chinese food available on the streets. Instead of the small Chinatowns you find in many of the larger cities across the world, you find whole Chinese neighbourhoods where most of the shop signs are in Chinese and the wealth of South East Asian food available is quite overwhelming. Hilltop Pheonix in Castle Towers is a perfect example. A small suburb, a fair distance away from downtown Sydney, and you can find a high quality dim sum restaurant located on the top floor of a shopping center. A strange location for a restaurant, but it is buzzing and the turnover of tables is something to behold.

Dim Sum at Hilltop Pheonix, Castle Towers
Dim Sum at Hilltop Pheonix, Castle Towers

Within 4 hours of landing, I was feasting on seaweed and roast pork. The seaweed was so green that I suspected some chemical trickery was involved but the roast pork (siu yoke) had a great crunch and an (un)healthy band of tasty fat.

Dim Sum at Hilltop Pheonix, Castle Towers

Most dishes are of a decent standard, and the trolleys are a welcome novelty. Trolleys seem to have slowly been phased out in London but makes ordering far easier and I for one, am quite sad to see their demise. Having said that, although I enjoyed the food here, I can't help thinking that there is something lacking. I enjoyed the dumpling selection, with roasted meats and veggies freely available, but there was no prawn cheung fun (a staple dim sum dish) and the yam croquettes (normally my favourite dish) were cold and bland. A nice place, and mostly good but not great.


In my short stay with my uncle, we also managed to visit one of these Chinese neighbourhoods. I forget which one but I do remember that nearly every single shop had Chinese on their hoardings, with pictures as visual aids for those not able to understand Mandarin or Cantonese. There were a variety of Asian delights on offer (of the gastronomic variety), but I was there for one thing and one thing only. Roasted meat. The Chinese really know how to cook the pig and with hunks of char siu (bbq) and siu yoke (crispy belly) hanging in the windows, how could I resist? As you can see in my rather reflective picture, there are a multitude of other roasted meats, ranging from duck to chicken and even squid, although the Chinese were pioneers of the "nose to tail" eating philosophy, with no part of the animal discarded. Intestines, liver, kidneys are all on offer.

So there starts my Sydney adventure. Stay tuned for more shortly...

Hilltop Pheonix - Shop U7, Castle Towers, Castle Hill NSW 2154

Hilltop on Urbanspoon


Mr Noodles said...

Seeing all this great Cantonese food is making me feel hungry. You also raise a good point on how Chinese food seems to part of the fabric of life in Sydney in a way it doesn't seem to be in London.

PS: Isn't that cheung fun on the top tray of the trolley in the photo?

Hollow Legs said...

No cheung fun? Whassat on the top tier of the trolley...?

tehbus said...

@Mr Noodles and Lizzie - Sorry, I should have stated no har cheung fun. Those ones on the trolley were filled with veg. We had to order them separately and they never turned up.

Greedy Diva said...

Why did I look at this when I am still 2 hours away from dinner? [tummy rumble]...

Unknown said...

I love the trolleys - so fun - wish they had them in London!

sunfug said...

New World on Gerrard Street still has trolley service. In HK they phased them out in many dim sum restaurants because of a spate of gas bottle explosions.

Anonymous said...

Hear you on the lots of Asians downunder thing, in NZ too, (me being one of 'em ^^)and god, I miss the awesome array of authentic restaurants, especially Sunday dimsum and proper sushi.
I'm in small town Austria now and it's dire, really. Like that weird pan-Asian thing with green curry, sushi and vague stir-fryish thing on one menu is what passes for Asian food. I'm like, WTF is Asian food? I mean, you don't see a resto with "European" food, innit?

Natalie Eriksen said...

It had been my dream to travel to Australia and I'm glad that there are a lot of blogs out there to spill some info about the place. It's wonderful there, isn't it?