Steamed Shanghai-style mini pork and crab bun $8.00
After a hard day's foodie shopping in Ashfield, the shoulders will droop, the legs will falter and the stomach will rumble with increasing urgency.
Nourishment can be found quickly, cheaply and in delicious air-conditioned comfort at Shanghai Night, one of the most celebrated cheap eats on Liverpool Road.
The decor is, well, non-existent. Vertical banners in flouro orange list the restaurant's specials-- some in English, but most in Chinese, the tables are littered with bottles of soy and vinegar and the chairs are made of sturdy black metal.
When we first arrive the restaurant is full, but a short 3-minute wait outside gives us time to check out the menu, the blurry photos of dishes, and examine the montage of newspaper clippings taped with pride to the window.
We are quickly waved in as a table exits, squeezing our way past couples, families and huddles of friends, all tucking in to plates of dumplings and noodles with a flurry of chopsticks.
A teapot descends onto our table along with a clatter of bowls and a dispensing of chopsticks. We are immediately distracted by the sight of the two men on dumpling duty directly behind our table. Using off-cuts of dowel, they miraculously roll out wads of dough into perfect round circles, add a dollop of pork mixture and then pinch the top to a twirl with breathtaking speed.
"Are you ready to order?" a waitress interrupts.
We ask for more time, about, ah, three times, before we finally place our order, and even then we are hemming and hawing as we debate over the menu.
Fried New Year cake with XO sauce $6.80
The fried New Year cake arrives first. The starchy discs of noodle almost feel like bubblegum, soft and chewy and seeming to last forever in the mouth. The XO sauce adds a sweet saltiness, and the cabbage, scallions and hint of chilli make this dish irresistably addictive for the starch-inclined.
The steamed Shanghai mini pork and crab buns arrive next (see picture at top). They are piping hot and filled with a potentially tongue-scalding burst of sweet pork broth. We dip them into a mixture of vinegar and soy, which sharpens the taste of the pork and soaks into the silky white skin of the bun.
Pan-fried pork bun with shallots $7.80
I have always been curious about pan-fried pork buns but never actually tried them. When we realise that none of the four of us have tried them, an order becomes mandatory.
The buns are oohed over when they finally emerge. They don't look particularly glamorous, and even their bottoms (upturned by moi for photographic evidence) don't look particularly crispy. But two bites in and... Oh! My! Such goodness!
The bun itself is quite a heavy thick dough, the inside is filled with a wad of pork meat, but it's the crisp golden deep-fried bottom which is almost tacky in texture that is reminiscent of that first bite into a yum cha ham soi gok that ... oh! my! It is eye-rollingly good.
Red bean pancake $4.80
There is little question about what to order for dessert. Red bean pancake has always been a staple favourite of mine at Shanghai Night. An earth-shattering crunchy pillow of deep-fried pastry holds a hot gooey paste of sweet red bean. It's a little like a McDonalds apple turnover, but Asian-style, and without that heavy feeling in your stomach afterwards.
We are cheerfully satiated for less than $8 a head. We emerge onto the street full of starch, oil and tea, and we couldn't be happier.
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275 Liverpool Road, Ashfield, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9798 8437
Open 7 days 10am-10pm
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3/12/2006 10:50:00 pm