20 Feb 2010

Yummy Yum-Cha!

Posted by PastryPrincess at 14:04
Today I conceived a food baby of the best kind. I've always thought that I must be the only person in the world who gets "food pregnant", meaning that you've eaten so much that your rounded tummy sticks out and you look pregnant. Or almost. Sometimes quite scarily similar. I was wrong. Food babies seem to be very common among my Aussie friends and apparently even guys can have them! Who would have known... Up until now I was only used to my boyfriend looking very freaked out whenever I held my stomach like a pregnant lady and said "I think I'm having steak twins!". I believed I was a weirdo. But it's the boyfriends who are the oddballs - there's no reason to be scared boys, you can have one too! Like the guys I went to lunch with today, all of them were happy food daddies. We even took our babies to the sunny beach afterwards where we passed out into a blissful food coma. I couldn't think of a better day!
Around noon we made our way to Marigold on George Street to go for Yum-Cha, my first ever. "Yum-cha" means "to drink tea" in Cantonese but it describes the getting together of families and friends for dim-sum at lunch time. Dim-sum can be best described as the Chinese equivalent to Spanish tapas, small and bite-sized dishes that are shared at the table. When we get to the 5th floor and the elevator doors open we are greeted by the loud noise of many, many people chatting and eating in a big open plan restaurant and a massive queue. This is obviously a very busy place and we're grateful to have reserved a big table so we don't have to wait around like so many others. Our table is in the process of getting cleaned and I'm a little taken aback by the general feeling of mass processing but once we sit down I start to unwind and want to get started.
The food looks appetizing and I'm intrigued by this whole experience. Finally we get our pots of tea, all friends have arrived and we start eyeing the presented food being pushed by on carts. And off we go.
In action
Whenever you like the food on offer you tell the waiter how many portions you want, then the plates and baskets are placed on a big wheel in the middle of the table and your little order card gets stamped accordingly. The wheel is turned around and everybody takes whatever they like, usually one piece at a time, then you dip it in whatever sauce you like and munch away.
Usually there's always around 3 pieces on a serving plate and depending on the size of the party you order several plates of the same food. Not really being able to work my chopsticks I make quite a mess of my place right at the beginning but at least I wasn't the only one... The carts come around quite frequently and whenever you feel like you can't wait for a dish to pass you by any longer you can order it and it's brought straight to your table.
3 different dumplings, clockwise: pork & prawn (one of my favs), vegetarian with chives, prawn

We all tuck in with great joy and although we always debate on what to order so everybody gets what they want, it's our "man on the inside", Darran, a Chinese Sydneysider, who makes a lot the decisions simply because he knows what's good and worth a try. I think he does a great job and only disagree once when it comes to dessert.
I find the joghurt-like tofu with sweet syrup is not worth trying at all because it doesn't really taste of anything and is quite watery...
Well, I probably wasn't the biggest fan of the custard tarts either but only because they were too eggy. Apperently one whole egg is used per small tart which is way too much if you ask me. The dough had a lovely flaky texture though.
Flaky, crispy dough folded around prawsn and vegetables, very good!
There's all kinds of different dumplings, meats, buns, spring rolls and other dishes and I'm so busy taking pictures of everything that I don't even realize what's in front of me... 
Chicken feet! My long-awaited chicken feet! I know it might sound a bit weird that I was looking forward to them but when I had found out that they were on the menu the day before I had immediately said that I would want to try them. I'm up for almost anything when it comes to food after all. 
So there they are, steamed and fried and nothing like I expected the texture to be. Instead of being crunchy and crispy, well apart from the bones you have to spit out that is, they are kind of gooey and wobbly and have a strangely familiar taste. Darran tells me that what I'm tasting is star anise and cloves. Aaaahhhhh!
It's really hard to say which dish was my favourite because simply everything was delicious. The choice is too big as there's not one single dish we ordered that I didn't try... 
 Soft rice-dough filled with prawns and vegetables
I did like some dishes slightly better and probably ate more of them than others I guess but it's a close call.
fluffy pork dumplings, hmmm....

I definitely did love the mango pancakes though that were for dessert. I had particularly asked for them because I had heard they were supposed to be good and they delivered.
 Yum! The thin, golden pancake is filled with deliciously ripe, sweet, yellow mango and ice-cream which makes for a surprising cold effect when you grab one.
 Albeit being full I ate two, that's how good they were!
Apart from the food and the great fun it was to try so many different dishes without knowing what to expect and pushing around the wheel on the table it was the social aspect that I especially enjoyed about Yum-Cha.
8 happy diners
 All food is shared so that people around the big round table are constantly interacting, discussing what to eat or order next, filling up tea cups and passing around food. Everybody tries to get their share when certain dishes are limited and it's fun to split dumplings, drip sauce all over the place and simply enjoy great food and great company.
 BBQ Pork buns and fried pork dumplings
I had the best time and loved every minute of it! Hopefully I get to go again soon - you just can't beat the fun you get for 25 Aus$, what a bargain!

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