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Sunday, March 12, 2006

Shanghai Night, Ashfield

Steamed mini pork and crab bun with soup
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.

Shanghai Night restaurant interior

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.

Shanghai Night specials

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.

Shanghai Night teapot

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.

Stir fried Chinese New Year cake
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 buns with shallots
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.

Pan-fried pork buns with crispy bottoms showing

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.

Fried red bean pancake
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.

Shanghai Night restaurant

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Shanghai Night
275 Liverpool Road, Ashfield, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9798 8437

Open 7 days 10am-10pm
Cash only

Related GrabYourFork posts:
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Shanghai Night (Jul 07)

Dumplings - China Noodle King
Dumplings - Chinese Noodle Rest'rant (Jun 07) and (Oct 04)
Dumplings - Daniang Dumpling
Dumplings - Din Tai Fung
Dumplings - East Ocean yumcha (Aug 06), (Aug 05) and (Oct 04)
Dumplings - Uighur Cuisine
Dumplings - Zilver (Jan 07) and (Feb 06)

Ashfield - Ashfield Hotel
Ashfield - Crocodile Farm Hotel
Ashfield - Polish Club
Ashfield - Shanghai Night (Jul08) and (Mar06)
8 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Anonymous on 3/12/2006 10:50:00 pm


  • At 3/12/2006 11:56 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Yums..!! envy..!

  • At 3/13/2006 1:53 pm, Blogger deborah said…

    Mmmm. Yum. I have been back a few times since... everything is so tasty. I love those crispy dumplings... and am on the look out for that dipping sauce. Have you come across it anywhere?

  • At 3/13/2006 3:39 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    YUm. I REALLY want some now. Wonder what time it closes tonight?
    If you see some saffron, buy me some.

  • At 3/14/2006 8:51 am, Blogger PiCkLeS said…

    yum...fried New Year cake, i haven't made that in ages! I think I'll do so this weekend.

  • At 3/14/2006 11:30 am, Blogger Julia said…

    Yum. I am so going there ASAP.

  • At 3/15/2006 6:18 am, Blogger Rose said…

    I love reading off the chinese "red banner" menus!!! It's a game to me--how much of it can I figure out by myself and what should I order then order :-)

  • At 3/15/2006 8:53 am, Blogger neil said…

    You can't even buy top quality steak for $8 a head. Good feed.

  • At 3/17/2006 2:25 am, Blogger Cat said…

    your description of the pan fried pork buns made me smile. theres such delicious food there :)


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