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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Marigold Restaurant yum cha, Haymarket Chinatown, Sydney

You know you're getting old when queuing for food is no longer an option.

I realise this when Billy and I somehow hijack group yum cha plans and make a case for an earlier start.

"Eight people? At 1.00pm?" I repeat, horrified.

"Too late!" chides Billy.

"We'll have to queue for ages," I mourn.

We may as well throw in a head-shaking grandmotherly "ai-yah" in there as well.

And so we wangle an 11am start, arriving punctually. Escorted immediately to a table, we wait patiently with pots of tea whilst the rest of our our party drift in slowly.

Wu gok taro dumplings

Because whilst the chaos of yum cha is half the fun, the view of a packed dining room is better appreciated whilst seated. Marigold Restaurant, spread over levels 4 and 5 of the Citymark Building, is one of the Chinatown's more popular yum cha haunts, a clatter of chopsticks and porcelain bowls beneath red lanterns and the Chinese-restaurant luxury of natural light from the skylights above.

Gai lan Chinese broccoli trolley

Service at the Marigold sits halfway between the sing-song cajoling of China Grand and the subdued politeness of Palace. A wide variety of dishes is always on offer, with regular dim sum classics trundled alongside less traditional yum cha dishes. Mud crab, roast duck, pippies and barbecue pork rotate the room although these are mostly ignored by the Chinese families who prefer to keep their yum cha experience pure, particularly as these dishes are usually priced at a premium.

Gai lan Chinese broccoli

We start with wu gok taro dumplings, flaky pastries that crumble in the mouth to reveal a soft centre of mashed taro, enclosed around a spoonful of saucy pork mince. A dish of gai lan is always a welcome palate cleanser, the Chinese broccoli blanched for only the briefest of moments until the stalks and leaves turn a vivid green, then cut into lengths with scissors and drizzled with oyster sauce.

Pigs blood jelly

Pigs blood jelly is less intimidating that you would think. The cubes of pigs blood, steamed until it takes on a crimson-chocolatey colour, are firm to the touch but splinter easily. Rich in iron, pigs blood is inordinately good for you (because my mother told me so), and any slight metallic taste is tempered by the chilli soy it sits in, and the lengths of fragrant garlic chives piled on top.

Mixed tripe

Billy and I take advantage of each other's predilection for offal and also order the mixed tripe, a bowl of assorted intestines, liver and honeycomb tripe, braised slowly in garlic, ginger, chilli and soy until soft and fragrant. I cannot adequately describe my affection for this dish, a slippery chewy adventureland of textures that have soaked up so much flavour during the cooking process. The honeycomb tripe is always my favourite.

Char siu bbq pork baked buns

We continue with a bonanza of dishes. BBQ pork baked buns have a sticky glaze that match the huddle of chopped char siu inside.

Fun gor pork and peanut dumplings

Steamed dumplings form the backbone of any yum cha experience - the connoisseur will closely examine the dumpling skin to make sure it's not too thick, chewy or soggy. Fun gor are parcels of pork mince, dried shrimp and shiitake mushroom with surprise encounters of crunchy peanuts.

Hoi sin gao seafood dumplings

Gow choi gao garlic chive dumplings

Seafood dumplings are an elegant combination of prawn and scallop, but my chopsticks hover over the gow choi gao instead, garlic chive dumplings that are interspersed with chunks of prawn. It's only now that I realise we somehow missed out on har gao prawn dumplings, a serious oversight on our behalf.

Ham soi gok combination dumplings

In the interim, we have ham soi gok to contend with, another one of my sentimental favourites, these football-shaped combination dumplings filled with a morsels of saucy stir-fried pork mince and shrimp. These golden beauties are not admired for their filling but their pastry, ideally blistered on the surface and deep-fried enough so there's a thin veneer of crunch that gives way to a chewy starchy inner that's ever-so-slightly sweet.

Har cheong prawn rice noodles

We all coo over the snow pea garnishes on the har cheong prawn noodles, an unusual splash of colour on this traditionally noodle-and-prawn only dish. Variations like these are always noted. The fresh rice noodles, soft and slippery, are a silky tunnel around the whole prawns inside.

Fung jao "phoenix claws" chicken feet

We continue with fung jao, poetically translated as phoenix claws but chicken feet by any other name. I'm impressed by these, deep-fried until puffy and then cooked with enough black bean and chilli to give them a salty chilli kick. Is there anything more satisfying that slowly dismantling a chicken foot into separate bone and sucking them clean of skin, sauce and tendon? I say not.

Pai gwut pork ribs with black bean and chilli

Pai gwut pork ribs are another winner, these fat-ribboned lengths of pork soft and tender with a background of garlic and soy. The bits with bone are always the best.

Char siu bao barbecue pork steamed buns

Char siu bao are a favourite with kids and adults alike. Having made poor versions of these at home, I am always in awe of the pure whiteness of these buns, and how gloriously fluffy they are with their perfect laughing mouths that crack to reveal glimpses of the sweet barbecue pork filling inside.

Lor mai gai sticky rice in lotus leaves

In our family, lor mai gai is always ordered towards the end, a final carbohydrate filler for anyone still unsatiated by the table offerings so far.

Lor mai gai sticky rice in lotus leaves

Unwrapping these tiny parcels is much like opening a present at Christmas. Inside you will find a small amount of sticky rice, hot and comforting, and flavoured by its steaming dalliance with chicken, mushrooms, bits of Chinese sausage and often a globule or two of luscious melted pork fat.

Gai lan Chinese broccoli trolley

Dan tart egg custard tarts

Do dan tarts make everybody smile? Their sunny yellow centres, glistening under the lights, are like edible tarts of sunshine. The custard is supremely eggy and its base of pastry should be visibly multi-layered and so flaky that crumbs should rightfully get into the corners of your mouth, across your lips and down the front of the shirt in order to be considered a success.

Pouring syrup onto our tofu fah

Tofu fah silken tofu with syrup

In contrast to the rich excesses of dan tart, tofu fah is a more austere although no less sensual affair. Carefully transferred by hand from the rustic-looking wooden barrel in which it has been cooked, the shimmering silken tofu is collected into a bowl and then bathed with syrup.

This is a dessert that demands to be slurped, albeit softly. The smooth and fragile tofu glides effortlessly down the throat, bland but for the sticky syrup that's faintly scented with ginger.

We exit at 1.30pm, past the hoardes of hungry people waiting patiently in the queue. We're full and tired - a nanna nap is the next stop on our old folk agenda.

Yum cha trolley laden with dimsum bamboo baskets

View Larger Map
Marigold Citymark on Urbanspoon

Marigold Restaurant
Level 5, 683 George St, Haymarket, Sydney
(the Citymark building)
Tel: +61 (02) 9281 3388

Open 7 days
Yum cha 10am - 3pm
Dinner 5pm - midnight

Yum cha prices as at March 2010:
Small $2.80
Medium $4.20
Large $5.00
Extra large $5.80
Special $6.50
Poached seasonal greens $8.50
Chinese tea per person $2
Chrysanthemum tea per person $2.50
Public holiday surcharge $2 per person

Related GrabYourFork posts:
Yum Cha - China Grand, Haymarket
Yum Cha - Dynasty, Belmore
Yum Cha - East Ocean, Haymarket (Oct 08), (Aug 06), (Aug 05) and (Oct 04)
Yum Cha - Hung Cheung, Marrickville
Yum Cha - Palace Chinese, Sydney CBD
Yum Cha - Regal Restaurant, Sydney CBD
Yum Cha - Zilver, Haymarket (Jan 07) and (Feb 06)
23 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 3/25/2010 02:55:00 am


  • At 3/25/2010 5:18 am, Anonymous Hannah said…

    After this fortnight in Paris, I never, ever, want to queue again. 3.5 hours in the freezing cold to spend five mintues at the top of the Eiffel Tower... never again! Not even for food, and I'm 22! :P

    I haven't had yum cha in ages, but I don't remember ever seeing taro dumplings or blood jelly as options in Canberra!

    Also, I had a bit of a heart attack when I read "puppies" instead of "pippies"...

  • At 3/25/2010 5:24 am, Anonymous grace said…

    mmm hehe all the classics!!
    love marigold <3

  • At 3/25/2010 8:11 am, Blogger Betty @ The Hungry Girl said…

    Omg, looking at all these photos, I really feel like yum cha now!! Haha I remember that we had to wait ages and ages before we finally spotted some dumplings! Mm and I'm totally with you on the chicken's feet - it's not a complete yum cha experience without it!

  • At 3/25/2010 8:15 am, Blogger Stephcookie said…

    Haha I'm definitely glad you hijacked the yum cha plans, you were totally right! Mmm it's a pity many people would be scared of the pigs blood because it's so tasty. And woahh we ate a lot...but it was so cheap :)

  • At 3/25/2010 9:44 am, Anonymous billy@ATFT said…

    aiyah..... always go yum cha before 11.30am!

    I would pay just to watch Karen eats chicken feet again! hahahaha

  • At 3/25/2010 10:04 am, Blogger Gastronomy Gal said…

    looks fabulous! I think my favourite in Sydney are a toss up between Marigold and East Ocean. I usually judge a place on my benchmark - the garlic chive dumpling. yum. I know what you mean. 1:00p.m. for 8 people- is far too late!

  • At 3/25/2010 10:32 am, Blogger OohLookBel said…

    I don't know about you, but I think yum cha in Sydney is generally horrible at the moment. Too salty and gluggy and dirty. The one place I don't mind queueing for, though, is Rhodes Phoenix.
    That said, Marigold is the only place that has pig's blood, so that's a win!

  • At 3/25/2010 1:06 pm, Anonymous Leona said…

    DAMNITT i missed out on all that good FOOD :(

    So sad i couldn't make yum cha that day..Initially i could but then yum cha time time changed to 11am (Damn tennis match).

    Ive been craving yum cha ever since! Had yum cha @ cabramatta last week but that didn't do justice. :(

    OMG you guys ate pig blood? ive never eaten that before.. cos im chicken and afraid.

  • At 3/25/2010 3:35 pm, Blogger hazchem said…

    the only thing more satisfying than walking out of Marigold at 1:30ish after an early start and not much of a wait is the satisfaction of yum cha itself. East Ocean can keep its new "system", Marigold FTW!

  • At 3/25/2010 3:53 pm, Blogger Karen | Citrus and Candy said…

    So sorry to change the time on everyone! But it was good in the end because I had to be home a little earlier (sorry Leona!).

    I'm still traumatised by that pigs blood. And the chicken feet. (Haha dream on Billy). I love Marigold and I'm still on the hunt for the elusive black glutinous rice dessert. I only ever had it once there and they never served it since :(

  • At 3/25/2010 6:43 pm, Anonymous Jacq said…

    I'm glad you guys changed the time because I don't like waiting either =P I really feel like yum cha now... especially ham sui gok and egg tarts!

  • At 3/25/2010 8:07 pm, Anonymous Fiona said…

    I LOVE BBQ pork steamed buns. nomnomnom.

    I only eat steamed foods at yum cha. oh and coconut jelly haven't been to Marigold for a few years now!

  • At 3/25/2010 8:30 pm, Anonymous Trissa said…

    Oooohh I don't know if I could eat pigs blood jelly - in fact, this is the first time I've heard of it despite having eaten in loads of places. But well, if your Mum says it's good for you - I'll try it at least once!

    And yes, I've been known to go to restaurants at 11 am in order not to queue for lunch now! Getting oldddd.....

  • At 3/25/2010 10:05 pm, Blogger Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook)! said…

    Two things the mister and I always hunt for when we go yum cha, taro dumplings and mango pudding. I havn't had chickens feet in a while, he refuses to touch chickens feet and I don't really want to have one steamer full of feet all to myself.

  • At 3/25/2010 10:49 pm, Anonymous Amy said…

    I love yum cha, i hate lining up for more than 10 minutes. Tofu Fah and mango pudding are my fave items.

  • At 3/25/2010 11:56 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hee hee wise choice in time change but u guys ain't that old :P

    Though tbh palace is better imo cos they have some awesome desserts hee hee

  • At 3/26/2010 2:22 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Hannah - Oh dear, that does sound like a trial. But the Effel Tower - you couldn't leave Paris without visiting that!

    I do love my Sydney yum cha - you'll have to head up here for a fix when you get back. And rofl! That is a bit of a mis-read!

    Hi Grace - Can't believe we missed out on har gao though! Argh!

    Hi Betty - Murphy's Law dictates that you will see hundreds of trolley when you're waiting for everyone to arrive, but by the time you're ready to start eating they all disappear. lol. Chicken feet is always good - I love it when I score two servings :)

    Hi Stephcookie - lol. I felt bad for over-riding the original plans but yes, yum cha at 11am is always the way to go. I don't think we ate that much but then that's the beauty of large groups - the chance to try some of everything!

    Hi Billy - Too right! And lol, you're terrible, although we were pretty good at goading her on!

    Hi Gastronomy Gal - I usually favour East Ocean and China Grand but I hear that East Ocean has moved to a la carte which defeats the whole purpose of yum cha trolleys :( Garlic chive dumplings are one of my favourites - I tried making them at home once but they weren't the same!

    Hi Belle - Oh really? I think Sydney does pretty good yum cha and I'm wanting more salt, actually more black beans. lol. Have yet to get to Rhodes Phoenix for yum cha but keep hearing good things and pigs blood is awesome. They also have it at Hung Cheung in Marrickville.

    Hi Leona - A shame you couldn't make it, and sorry for changing the time on you. That's the third time I've heard about yum cha in Cabramatta - will have to check it out sometime. And pigs blood is delicious. You must try it!

    Hi hazchem - lol. I'm not game to visit East Ocean now that it's gone to a la carte. Such a sad change. I wonder if business has been affected and whether they'll bring the trolleys back?

    Hi Karen - Pigs blood is good for you. And chicken feet. Oh one day we will get you on board :) I've never seen black glutinous rice at yum cha - I wonder if they have it at Palace?

    Hi Jacq - lol. Glad we're not the only ones. And ham sui gok are my favourite thing at yum cha. Oh so tasty and gooood :)

    Hi Fiona - Oh I admire your self control. I have a weakness for anything deep-fried, especially ham soi gok. I love coconut jelly too but it has to be the super fluffy version!

    Hi Trissa - lol. Always listen to your mother :) I'm sure you will learn to, er, love pigs blood. Definitely recommend you try it at least once.

    Hi Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook) - Ooh I don't mind a bit of mango pudding action either. lol. Eating in larger groups is always fun - I could quite happily eat 2-3 chicken feet but yes, a whole steamer of them could be a bit of a task!

    Hi Amy - I sense a sweet tooth :) Tofu fah is always a treat - I love how delicate and fragile it is.

    Hi FFichiban - Oh everything is relative. lol. Palace does have a great range of desserts but it's all about the classics - ha, another sign I'm getting old!

  • At 3/26/2010 2:12 pm, Anonymous Mark @ Cafe Campana said…

    I have never seen the tofu and syrup before. These dishes all looks so good it must have been a good meal. I am a little scared of the offal but friends tell me its great. I'm not sure if they are winding me up.

  • At 3/26/2010 2:24 pm, Blogger Rachelle said…

    I just wanted to let you know that your blog writing is a huge inspiration to me, I love it. For that reason I have nominated you for the kreativ blogger award on my blog:


  • At 3/26/2010 3:20 pm, Anonymous ladyironchef - Singapore Food Blog said…

    egg tarts always make me smile! nothing like a good meal of dim sum to keep me satisfied! :)

  • At 3/26/2010 3:44 pm, Blogger Anna (Morsels and Musings) said…

    too funny. i had the exact conversation with my yum cha group last sunday and started at 11:30am. 5 minutes later the hoards arrived.

    i refuse to see it as an old lady tactic but the sign of a wise and intelligent foodie :)

  • At 3/26/2010 6:31 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    I love that you sacraficed yourself for the good of your group getting there early - sounds like it was worth it especially for that offal and those delicious looking pork buns.

  • At 3/29/2010 1:15 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Mark - Oh you must try tofu fah if you see it. It tends to be only available at the larger yum cha restaurants as it must be made in-house and fresh, but the delicate texture is quite amazing.

    There's nothing awful about offal I say - I find they're a great sponge for soaking up flavour and as long as you eat with an open mind and an appreciation of textures, you will love it too :)

    Hi Rachelle - Thank you so much for the award - all the way from Canada! So glad to hear that you're enjoying the site - and some truly touching words too :)

    Hi laydironchef - There must be some kind of subsconscious relationship between the sunniness of egg tarts and the way they make everyone smile :)

    Hi Anna - It's always satisfying when you just beat the crowds isn't it? And lol, I like your theory!

    Hi Gourmet Chick - Ha, we were all meant to arrive at 11am but some of us trailed in rather late (not naming names! lol). The offal is always my secret pleasure at yum cha because I'm not game to make it at home and pork buns are aways good. I can never get them so fluffy!


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