One of my most loved lunch outings has got to be a trip to my favourite yum cha restaurant. This very popular Chinese tradition has been lovingly embraced by western society to become a true crowd pleaser.
For those of you who have never tried a yum cha lunch (it came as a shock to me too but I have actually come across quite a few people who have never had the pleasure), then yum cha is a Chinese style lunch where you eat various small but delicious dim sum dishes and drink Chinese tea.
Sitting at a yum cha restaurant I just love looking at the food trolleys piled high with miniature bamboo steamers full of delicious little dim sum dishes. The extremely efficient waiters bring the food right up to your table lifting the lids to reveal the delicacies beneath. There is just something so pleasurable and comforting about the whole experience that you simply must indulge in a traditional yum cha lunch every so often.
My personal favourite yum cha dishes are the steamed dumplings which include such staples as prawn, garlic chives, snow pea and scallop. At most yum cha places you will also find other crowd favourites like salt and pepper squid, prawn and beef rice noodles, sticky rice and BBQ pork buns. Be warned if you're a novice, you might want to pass on the tripe and chicken feet for the time being, unless of course you happen to love those!
Most yum cha restaurants start serving yum cha around 10.30am and finish around 3pm. My advice is to have a very light breakfast and get to yum cha as early as you can. Not only will you beat the crowds, you will also have a bigger and fresher variety of dim sum to choose from.
So on to the question of the day and where can we actually find Sydney's best yum cha? Since I consider myself an avid fan of the practice, I will share with you some of my favourite yum cha establishments and dishes and hope that you will do the same after reading.
Phoenix Yum Cha: For the most silky and translucent steamed dim sum pastry you just can't go past the Phoenix Restaurants. I have it on good authority from a Chinese friend of course that Phoenix actually employs "the best pastry makers". Having tried my fair share of yum cha I must say I have to agree. My favourite dish here has got to be the steamed prawn dumplings and trust me you won't be able to stop at just one serving. Phoenix operates 5 restaurants across Sydney of which I have tried 3 - Sydney City, Castle Hill and Rhodes and all have been equally as delicious. The other two establishments are at Manly and Parramatta.
Palace Yum Cha: If you don't mind the lunch time city crowd then at Palace Chinese in the city you will be pleased by the huge variety of dim sum on offer. It's also the only one I've tried that has the very delicious steamed duck meat dumplings. And as with most yum cha restaurants if you can't find what you're after just ask one of the trolley waiters who are more than happy to put an order in and bring out for you.
Dynasty Yum Cha at Canterbury Leagues Club: Positioned in the unassuming suburb of Belmore, the Dynasty restaurant serves up its fair share of delicious yum cha. The vegetarian dumplings and dim sims are quite delicious. On weekdays they tend to use the paper order method rather than the roaming food trolleys which I'm not a huge fan of (mostly because I don't know what some of the dishes are called on paper and that sends me into a panic!) but on weekends the good old food trolleys make their appearance again. Just beware if visiting on a Sunday to arrive early or you risk facing a rather long queue.
If you have recommendation - please share it with us by leaving a comment below.
My personal favourite is Iron Chef at Cabramatta. It seats over 600 and is always full on weekends, with queues of people waiting for a table. Even for weekday lunches, you can easily see 300 people enjoying their delicacies. Yum. I makes me hungry just thinking about it.
'Castle Terrace' in Terminus St Castle Hill serve a GREAT 'Yum Cha" !! It is cheap & yummy. I've been to numerous in city & suburbs, but Castle Terrace is comes FIRST & they make the best Chicken Feet & Prawn Dumplings.