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Monday, October 13, 2008

East Ocean, Haymarket - Sydney foodbloggers' yumcha

What do you call a gathering of foodbloggers?
A gluttony? A stampede? A paparazzi?

I'm undecided about the term, suffice to say twelve foodbloggers met at East Ocean for yum cha on Saturday. We had the corner table right up the back if you happened to be there. The one with ten cameras poised to take photos as each bamboo steamer touched down on the lazy susan airfield. You couldn't miss us!

It was Christie from Fig & Cherry who organised this long-overdue meet-up, a chance to catch up with (relative) long-time bloggers like Chocolatesuze, Jenius and Limes & Lycopene, as well as put faces to names of newer foodblogs EatShowandTell, Not Quite Nigella, Ooh, Look..., Spicy Icecream and Tummy Rumble.

Chicken feet with black bean and chilli

Like a Foodbloggers Anonymous support group, there was a moment of awkwardness when cameras were still in handbags and backpacks, and some seemed reluctant to bring them out. And yet we knew we were all foodbloggers and we knew we all take photos! It didn't take long for the shyness to subside; soon we are all zooming and clicking, as the lazy susan painfully made its way around to every camera.

Is this what it's like for others to have lunch with me? As our dim sum cooled and the photos continued, the torture became too much for some. "I'm going in! If you haven't taken a photo, too bad!" Don't mess with a starving foodblogger.

Because there's something quite liberating about meeting other foodbloggers. There's the commiseration about the insane who "just don't understand the importance of the photograph pre-meal!". There are the great stories about the converted partners "who are so sweet and always act as hand models for my food photos, but only at home and never at restaurants."

And of course there's the obvious passion for food which we all share. Conversation about food naturally dominates, and I'm safe in the knowledge that everyone really is tasting the food and appreciating it, and blogging about it later - of course!

Har gao prawn dumplings

Xiao long bao Shanghai pork soup dumplings

Ham soi gok combination pork dumplings

We talked about old media versus new media, about blogging immediacy and personality. We talked about avocado and condensed milk, Vegemite versus Promite, Bourke Street Bakery, McDonalds and "don't you love scraping the burnt bits off the bottom of the pan and eating them? - Omigod, me too!".

Conversation kept veering back to Nigella Lawson and her interview on Enough Rope recently, including eerily accurate impressions of her vocal appreciation of all things nibbleworthy and scrumptious.

Pan-fried rice noodles served with hoisin and peanut sauce

We swept through a tornado of assorted dim sum. It was a first attempt at chicken feet for some (it tastes like KFC, was one summation, although with further questioning it was more about the fried skin that evoked this first impression) and a first encounter with fried ham soi gok for others (surprisingly sweet, was the verdict, although the contrast between crunchy outside and tacky starchy interior was a winner).

Xiao long bao Shanghai pork dumplings were disappointingly light on the soup broth, and the pai gwut pork ribs could've done with more black bean, but there was no time to wallow as the dessert trolley trundled past laden with treats.

Custard polo buns

It was a shareable banquet of sago pearls in coconut milk, custard polo buns, mango pudding, mango pancakes and daan tart custard tarts for all.

Thousand layer cake

Then there was the triumphant ten-year reunion for Chocolatesuze and a thousand layer cake, a dessert she'd pined for over the past decade but never found. Til now.

The tension was palpable when the bamboo steamer finally arrived. It did the round of photo shoots of course, then it was graciously shared among all, a strange but tasty combination of steamed Chinese bun layered with lotus paste and salted duck yolk.

We ate, we talked, we laughed, we took photos. Then we went home and blogged it.

A gathering of food bloggers?

Let's just call it fun and delicious.

East Ocean
Entry either from
421-429 Sussex St or
86-88 Dixon St, Haymarket Chinatown, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9212 4198

Related GrabYourFork posts:
Sydney Foodblogger Meet-Ups
Oct06--Sydney Foodbloggers' Night Noodle Markets and Sugar Hit
Jun06--Sydney Foodbloggers' High Tea
Aug05--Sydney Foodbloggers' Yum Cha
Feb05--Sydney Foodbloggers' Yum Cha

East Ocean
East Ocean yum cha, August 2006

East Ocean yum cha, August 2005
East Ocean yum cha, October 2004

East Ocean dinner, April 2006
East Ocean dinner, Feburary 2005
27 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 10/13/2008 01:08:00 am


  • At 10/13/2008 7:54 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Lovely to see you again Helen - it's been a while. Judging from the weekend I think a paparazzi of food bloggers is just the right term.

  • At 10/13/2008 10:08 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Fantastic write up Helen! I knew I could rely on you to remember all the juicy details :)

    Mmmm, avocado and condensed milk - I'm off to make a shake!

  • At 10/13/2008 10:48 am, Blogger Simon Leong said…

    HEHE it would be quite a sight seeing so many food photographers at the one time. although i think it would have perhaps taken away from the joys of eating and talking calmly and socially because everyone would have had a camera in their face for most of the time and there'd be a long wait before anyone could eat anything because everyone would have to take their photos first. very non-yum cha i'd think. i look forward to seeing and comparing all the photos and reviews from all the food bloggers. i hope the yum cha and tea didn't go too cold.
    best wishes
    simon :-)

  • At 10/13/2008 11:30 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    That must have been a fun gathering...(but too bad for the starving)!

  • At 10/13/2008 11:43 am, Blogger An said…

    I'd say gluttony. It's all about food yeh..?

    *gasp* Surely they had the beancurd dessert and the glutinous rice lotus-leaf roll? [But that's just me].

    *drooling at the pan-fried rice noodles...*

    Can't wait to do yum cha soon...

  • At 10/13/2008 12:37 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It was loads of fun meeting everyone. I must hurry up and finish writing my story-almost done! Hope we can do it again sometime!

  • At 10/13/2008 1:01 pm, Blogger OohLookBel said…

    Love your photos, Helen, and you even got the descriptions - you are a 'proper' foodblogger! Lovely to have finally met you; really enjoyed the lunch and conversation.

  • At 10/13/2008 1:27 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    heh great to see ya again dude! after yumcha i ate a steak...

  • At 10/13/2008 2:29 pm, Blogger Simon Leong said…

    i forgot to mention i think the collective for food bloggers would be an "Appetite of Food Bloggers"
    s :-)

  • At 10/13/2008 3:01 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It was so cool to finally meet you! Thanks so much for being the inspiration behind many of our blogs and getting the detail we missed! I never know what I'm eating at yum cha!

  • At 10/13/2008 10:37 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Ditto with what Reemski said! Was great to finally meet you, as well as everyone else. Btw 50mm prime lens rocks :)

  • At 10/13/2008 11:18 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Kathryn - It did feel like a paparazzi at times! So many cameras, but so much fun :)

    Hi Christie - There were so many conversation threads, most involving food of course! Hope you enjoyed your avo shake. Just remember, it's a meal in itself!

    Hi Simon - There were no cameras in faces, just hovering over steamer baskets :) There were a few delays but it was all taken in good humour. I think it was the perfect revenge for all our long-suffering friends and family!

    Hi Jen - It was lots of fun. Noone starved - in face most of us ate far too much I suspect!

    Hi ~an* - Actually we didn't have any sticky rice nor any tofu dessert (I don't think I even spotted the latter?). The pan-fried noodles are a highlight, although they never seem to make them as crunchy as I would personally like!

    Hi Lorraine - It was great to finally meet the blogger behind the fingernails :) We should definitely arrange another meet-up soon!

    Hi Belle - It was great to meet you too. I don't think there's any such thing as a "proper" foodblogger. As long as there is joyful enthusiasm I think you're halfway there!

    Hi chocolatesuze - I soooo wish I had your metabolism. How do you do it? I might start calling you Sonya Thomas :)

    Hi Simon (again!) - I like it :) Although I think gluttony does convey the voraciousness of appetite we all possess - I mean gluttony in a good way... dedication in the name of duty!

    Hi reemski - It's great to see so many more Sydney foodbloggers! I remember when we were few and far between, so the more the merrier. And it was great to meet you too!

  • At 10/13/2008 11:39 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Howard - It was great to meet you too. The 50mm is great but I'm secretly lusting after the D90 :)

  • At 10/14/2008 6:25 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hey Helen, it was lovely to eat with you again! I love your pics... I might give my 50mm a go in restaurants again... the 24-70mm is a tad too big and heavy!
    Hope there's another food bloggers meet-up soon :-)

  • At 10/14/2008 6:28 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Oh, and i forgot to say, i'm honoured my thumb and lens is featured in your top pic... hehehehe...

  • At 10/14/2008 11:53 pm, Blogger Rachel said…

    Sounds like a great fun event I have never even heard of thousand layer cake.

    My hubby suggested more collective nouns for foodbloggers : a chow, a gorge, a savour.

    BTW found the best place for XLBs ever!!! its right across the road from shanghai night in ashfield. IMHO beats shanghai night in all aspects which I found a tad oily. ITs between the crocodile farm hotel and the asian supermarket right next to ashfield mall. Shanghai Tian Tong Xiao Can is what is in mandarin (forgot the English name) it has an amazing double layer red bean and red seasame mochi as well as preserved veg and pork belly with corn buns and shanghainese cold sesama noodles with wine chicken. yumm!

  • At 10/15/2008 12:01 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Jen - The 50mm is a great lens, although I'd love to get a 24-70mm too (if money grew on trees!). And yes, it was quite fun trying to photograph everyone else taking photogrpahs, but maybe I'm just showing my foodblog geekiness :)

    Hi Rachel - I had never heard of thousand layer cake either. And nice work on the collectives!

    I have seen that dumpling house but yet to head inside. Thanks for the tip. I'll have to investigate a little closer next time!

  • At 10/15/2008 1:45 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Interesting to see pictures of food AND people taking pictures of people taking pictures of...

    Agree with An, the rice noodles look best: can't beat simplicity

  • At 10/15/2008 1:55 pm, Blogger thanh7580 said…

    That photo of the other bloggers photographing the food is great Helen. I took a similar photo when I met up with other Melbourne food bloggers once we got past the awkwardness and all whipped out our cameras. The other diners must have hated the constant flashes that went off each time one dish was photographed 10 times.

    I think the collective noun should be a "click" (clique) of bloggers as it sums up our common interest as well as our fondness for taking photos of food.

  • At 10/15/2008 6:18 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Can i say ive had a bad experience at East ocean, bad in terms of the price!! My friends paid $50 each, and they charge my table tea money for 6 though there was only 4 of us, how bad is that, SydneyguyRojoe

  • At 10/15/2008 11:49 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Michael - lol. It wasn't just yum cha. It was a foodbloggers' yum cha :)

    The rice noodles are good. I keep thinking I should try frying them at home.

    Hi thanh7580 - Oh I usually try to avoid flash. It brings you so much unwanted attention! lol

    A clique is cute but it also denotes a sense of exclusivity? And foodbloggers are always welcoming of others :)

    Hi Anon - Were you friends overcharged or did they order dishes that totalled $50 each? Incorrect charges for tea can happen, but one of the most telling indications of an establishment's level of customer service is how they react when you point out their error.

  • At 2/03/2009 4:13 pm, Blogger Epicfailblog said…

    Hello i absolutely love Yum Cha and ive already been to MARIGOLD on George St...so i was wondering whether East Ocean had a menu or if its just grab-off-trolley kinda thing..

    When i went to Marigold i had a chinese freind with me so it was easy as she translated for us..
    My question is does the staff at east ocean speak good english? the last thing i was to do is eat a pork-filled something by accident :)

  • At 2/03/2009 5:04 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Mizz_Amal - Like most yum cha houses, East Ocean does have its dishes on trolleys, although you could probably request a menu too. We've found that most staff do speak English. Just ask and if in doubt, perhaps best to pass!

  • At 1/17/2010 1:50 pm, Blogger hazchem said…

    a big THUMBS DOWN to East Ocean for doing away with the trolleys. BOOOO!!!

  • At 1/17/2010 9:10 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi hazchem - I'd heard about the swapping of trolleys for the pictorial menu. Oh the sadness. I wonder how long it will last? Half the fun is the trolley action!

  • At 5/17/2011 5:45 pm, Anonymous votedwithourforks said…

    Hi Helen
    have you eaten at East ocean recently? We dropped by having last eaten there some years ago with you(2004) and were quite disappointed. Food no where near as good as we remembered and no trolleys! Thankfully the egg custard tarts were still great. What was worse we got up to leave, went and stood next to the register to pay our bill and were rudely told to return to our seats so our bill could be added up. Rather embarrasing as we had visitors with us.
    We won't be returning anytime soon.

  • At 5/17/2011 9:19 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi votedwithourforks - Thanks for your feedback. I am aware the East Ocean has changed to a yum cha menu system, but haven't been here since the change. I have had some friends mention they find the quality is better as everything is cooked to order, but I agree I do like the hubbub of the yum cha trolleys. A shame about the bill request!


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