This week I have been... ...a proper Sydneysider. Finally I have experienced the wonder that is yum cha on a Sunday morning.
I was first told about this strange ritual back in 2013 and had grave misgivings about the idea of eating Chinese food in the morning. However, in fair Sydney, where we lay our scene, this kind of bizarre gastronomic behaviour is in fact considered de rigueur (what happens in China I have not researched).
Obviously, I am melding seamlessly with the real Australians these days and only get called on my accent approximately once a day now. I figured doing the yum cha thing would only enhance my disguise as bona fide Aussie, so along we went.
Our destination was Marigold, famed for its yum cha experience. In the middle of Chinatown, you enter via the underground car park, get your car taken away and take the lift to the fourth or fifth floor of the Citymark building. Yes, on Sundays, yum cha is so popular that hungry peeps take over two whole floors of a building.
We had a party of nine, which included two adorable children. The one-year-old was more adept with the chopsticks than I was and happier to try the garishly-coloured sauces.
Yum cha is a delight! Staff come round with trolleys of food, you say yes or no and the food gets plonked on your lazy Susan in the middle of the table (sometimes saying yes or no is superfluous, at least at Marigold: be firm if you don’t want all the food in the world depositing on your table).
The lazy Susan spins round and you pluck food from the dishes and transfer them to your own little bowl. No need to be polite (at least not with the bunch of ruffians I was with): it’s not Wheel of Fortune and the thing doesn’t spin forever, so just grab it as it goes past if you want it. There’ll be another trolley along within seconds so no need for anyone to miss out on anything.
It is not Chinese food as I have previously thought of it. No salt and pepper spare ribs, no sweet and sour chicken, no special fried rice.
This is spectacular stuff.
I would love to tell you my favourite things but I can’t remember what they were called. Pork something (dim sum/dumplings?) is the best I can manage. I also loved the steamed buns, spring rolls, mango pancakes and mango custard thing. The calamari went down well with the rest of the table (I found it fine but not raveworthy) and they also loved the ‘noodles’, which looked, felt and tasted nothing like noodles. I did not try the chicken feet.
I can’t wait to go back: there were some coconut bun things that I did not try (too full) and I could eat the pork things every day (for a while). The spring rolls were so crispy and the mango pancakes were a revelation (note: nothing like pancakes. It’s really best to go with an open mind and take scant notice of any descriptions).
Marigold also gets bonus points for the all-you-can-drink green tea and cute little cups without handles. A super-fun way to drink tea.
Yum cha! Take lots of people so you can choose lots of stuff, don’t plan any activities for afterwards and prepare for the brunch of your life. I am so excited to do it all again and it was only yesterday. This morning’s muesli seemed lame and sad by comparison.
Hurrah for yum cha! This was going to be a post about lots of things I have done over the last week, but my yum cha love has run to more than 600 words and I think that is possibly enough for now.