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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Yum cha at The Eight, Market City, Haymarket Chinatown

Siu mai pork dumplings at yum cha, The Eight, Chinatown

Today is Chinese New Year eve and for many families that means a Reunion Dinner tonight. Families will reunite over a feast of dishes that are chosen for their auspiciousness. We'll be celebrating with long life noodles, whole fish for abundance and New Year cake for continued new heights. Homes have been cleaned, debts have been repaid and everyone will be wearing red for good luck.

The Lunar Festival runs for 15 days, culminating in the Lantern Festival. Across Sydney, there's an entire program of events celebrating the Lunar New Year, but I reckon yum cha is the easiest way to get into the spirit of things. Endless dishes wheeled straight to your table on trolleys? How can you go wrong?

Yum cha trolley in the dining room at The Eight, Chinatown

In the city we often end up at The Eight at the top of Market City. It's the biggest restaurant in Chinatown, there's a broad mix of dishes and you should be able to eat here for about $20 per head. Occasionally there can be lulls in trolley traffic, so if you're in a hurry, try to score a table near the kitchen. Failing that, you can always flag down a supervising waiter to order your specific dishes - a trick worth deploying if you still haven't gotten hold of your favourite har gow prawn dumplings.

Har gow prawn dumplings at The Eight, Chinatown
Har gow prawn dumplings

According to every Chinese mother, the quality of the har gow prawn dumpling is a litmus test for the rest of the menu. Har gow is the cornerstone of every yum cha house... if they can't get this foundation right, then there's little hope for everything else. Here they pass the test with ease: thin translucent skins, packed with generous chunks of prawn, and steamed till tender but not soggy.

Braised eggplant with fish paste at The Eight, Chinatown
Braised eggplant with fish paste

Yum cha with workmates usually involves a deviation from our standard family favourites. It's hard enough to find someone to share a serve of pai gwut fatty pork ribs, let alone a steamer basket of fung jao chicken feet with black bean and chilli. But it does mean a bounty of fried dumplings and other rarely ordered dishes landing on our table, including thick slabs of soft and sticky eggplant sandwiched around fish paste that has us licking our lips for more.

Vegetable dumplings at The Eight, Chinatown
Vegetable dumplings

These vegetable dumplings were also new to me: a huddle of greens inside a glutinous rice dumpling that was stretchy and chewy, with a panfried crispy surface.

Rice noodles with oyster sauce at The Eight, Chinatown
Cheung fun rice noodles with oyster sauce

Rice noodles are always a favourite. We had them stir-fried with oyster sauce on one occasion.

Jin cheung fun fried rice noodles with hoisin and peanut sauce at The Eight, Chinatown
Jin cheung fun panfried rice noodles with hoisin and peanut sauce

But really you can't beat jin cheung fun, scrolls of rice noodles pan-fried until they brown to a satisfying crisp, then dredged across a saucer of sweet hoisin and a thick peanut paste.

Ja leung fried bread in rice noodles at The Eight, Chinatown
Ja leung fried bread sticks in steamed rice noodle sheets

Ja leung is always worth seeking. It's a masterful combination of a freshly fried bread stick (also known as you tiao or yau ja gwai) wrapped in a freshly steamed sheet of rice noodle. The unlikely pair are what make this dish so enticing, the crunch of the donut against the silky slippery noodle, annointed with a sweet soy sauce and a sprinkle of shallots.

Fried whitebait at The Eight, Chinatown
Fried whitebait

I don't think I've ever seen a kid resist fried whitebait, even though they may squeal in horror and/or delight at the visible eyes and tails. Actually I don't think I've ever seen an adult resist these either. They're way too crunchy to stop at one.

Fried prawn dumplings at The Eight, Chinatown
Fried prawn dumplings

Prawns always figure highly at yum cha. I had a friend with a prawn allergy who would always take a precautionary antihistamine just in case. The fried prawn dumplings hold a bounty of prawn inside the deep-fried purse, and prawn toasts are just as generous with the seafood, crusted with sesame seeds for nuttiness.

Prawn toast at The Eight, Chinatown
Prawn toast

Ham soi gok combination dumplings at The Eight, Chinatown
Ham soi gok combination dumplings

Ham soi gok combination dumplings can be a bit hit-and-miss here. Occasionally they can be a droopy soggy mess but when they're fried at just the right temperature, these 'footballs' yield a crisp shell, a wondrously sticky and chewy that has a hint of sweetness, and a pocket of savoury pork mince with shrimp within.

Ham soi gok combination dumplings at The Eight, Chinatown
Inside the ham soi gok combination dumplings

Wu gok taro dumplings at The Eight, Chinatown
Wu gok taro dumplings

Wu gok taro dumplings aren't everybody's favourite but our family adore their feathery exterior. Inside is a core of seasoned pork mince wrapped with a dough made from taro and wheat starch. It's the presence of wheat starch that causes the pastry to puff, creating a delicate net that splinters into a cascade of crumbs with every bite.

Mango pancakes at The Eight, Chinatown
Mango pancakes

The dessert trolley may be loaded with squares of wobbly coconut jelly, baked sago pudding and cups of bright orange mango pudding, but my workmates go nuts for mango pancakes, fluoro yellow crepes wrapped around sponge cake, fresh mango slices and lashings of fresh cream. Ok I go a little nuts for them too.

Daan tart egg custard tarts at The Eight, Chinatown
Daan tart egg custard tarts

Tofu fah is probably one of the lightest desserts you can order, quivering scoops of fresh tofu ladled out from a chilled barrel and doused with a sweet ginger syrup. At the other end of the scale are daan tart, or egg custard tarts. The pastry is light and flaky, filled with an eggy custard that glistens under the lights. Vegetarians should be aware that the secret to the flakiness of the pastry is lard.

Yum cha chopsticks at The Eight, Chinatown

2014 will be the Year of the Horse. Wherever or however you may be celebrating this year, Happy Chinese New Year!

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The Eight Modern Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

The Eight
Level 3, Market City
9-13 Hay Street, Haymarket, Chinatown. Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9282 9988

Opening hours:
Monday to Friday 10am-3.30pm and 5.30pm-11pm
Saturday and Sunday 9am-4pm and 5.30pm-11pm

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Chinese New Year - Dinner at The Eight, Haymarket
Chinese New Year - Homemade dinner with suckling pig
Vietnamese New Year - Tet Festival, Fairfield Showground
28 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 1/30/2014 12:43:00 am


  • At 1/30/2014 6:45 am, Blogger Jarhead said…

    I love having Yum Cha at The Eight! Such a wide variety of dishes. But you're totally right about those annoying lulls in trolley traffic... some parts of that place are like a trolley twilight zone!

  • At 1/30/2014 6:45 am, Blogger Jarhead said…

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • At 1/30/2014 9:34 am, Anonymous Tina@foodboozeshoes said…

    Oooh, the cheung fun offerings look great. Good to see a few different items... yum cha is starting to get a little same-same.
    Happy CNY, Helen!

  • At 1/30/2014 9:36 am, Blogger Tina @ bitemeshowme said…

    awesome spread of yum cha food. I've had recommendations from friends to hit this place up for yum cha in the city! have still yet to go. Happy CNY, helen! :)

  • At 1/30/2014 10:37 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    I feel lucky just in reading your post! So many delicious treats, there's no doubt we could be yum cha buddies for life. All my favourites

  • At 1/30/2014 11:01 am, Blogger lizzie {Strayed Table} said…

    Man, I wish there was Yum Cha close to my house. Mind you I would probably never leave. So much good food I love the look of the Cheung fun rice noodles with oyster sauce and of course the dumplings. Hope you enjoy your Chinese New Year.

  • At 1/30/2014 11:16 am, Blogger Mel said…

    Drooling! Everything looks delish. This place has always been my go-to for Chinatown yum cha...in all of it's various incarnations. I've not seen the fried bread stick with rice paper before...maybe they zoom it past our table as they think we won't like it?

  • At 1/30/2014 12:01 pm, Blogger Von said…

    Yum cha with your workmates is probably like yum cha with my friends....I can never find anyone to share my favourite dishes with! I once tried to finish off a dish of mixed tripe myself because no once else would eat it with me haha :) I haven't been to the eight for quite a while- the last time I went, it wasn't that great because there wasn't much food (probably because we went towards the end of lunch time) !

  • At 1/30/2014 12:09 pm, Anonymous Isaac (@iFat23) said…

    You ordered all of my favourites! Happy CNY to you and your family!

  • At 1/30/2014 1:27 pm, Blogger irene said…

    Yum cha is always my favourite, regardless the time of the year! Happy CNY to you and your family, Helen!

  • At 1/30/2014 4:00 pm, Anonymous Amanda @ Gourmanda said…

    Happy Chinese New Year Helen! We're doing a large family dinner tonight at Lee Garden in Thornleigh - with plenty of long life noodles I'm sure!

  • At 1/30/2014 5:28 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Wow will have to come here one day. Looks like an above average yum cha place

  • At 1/30/2014 7:42 pm, Blogger Sherrie @ Crystal Noir said…

    Happy Chinese New Year, Helen! Hehe, I got a little mad for the mango pancakes too :P Despite the fact that my parents always tell me they're nooot traditionally Chinese. They are pretty amazing though!

  • At 1/30/2014 9:37 pm, Blogger missklicious said…

    Happy Chinese New Year, Helen! I quite like The Eight for yum cha, but I think I'm all yum cha-ed out from my HK holiday for the moment haha :)

  • At 1/30/2014 10:21 pm, Anonymous Trent @ Food Assault said…

    Wowser this looks good. I'm soooo excited to have another yum cha restaurant to add to the list to try.

    Everything looks so tasty! Happy New Year :)

  • At 1/31/2014 10:17 am, Blogger Milktea Eats said…

    before it was changed the eight this use to be the asians mothers with their kids in tow territory!

  • At 1/31/2014 8:26 pm, Anonymous Arwen (Hoglet K) said…

    Happy Chinese New Year! My workmates go nuts for mango pancakes too. The fried bread in steamed noodles sounds like quite a texture sensation.

  • At 2/01/2014 12:42 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    i always over order at yumcha mmm egg tarts galore! aaaand happy new year!

  • At 2/01/2014 9:05 am, Blogger Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said…

    Haven't been to yumcha in the city for aaages! (Come to think of it, just haven't been to the city in ages heheh.) Must rectify when mini-human is a little more travel friendly.

    Happy Chinese new year!

  • At 2/01/2014 11:42 am, Anonymous Priscilla @ foodpornnation.com said…

    arghhh this is exactly what i could go for right about now!!!

    I love how we both order the same things at yum cha!

  • At 2/01/2014 3:23 pm, Anonymous ChopinandMysaucepan said…

    Dear Helen,

    Gong Xi Fa Cai to you and your family! I've been here a few times and most of the dishes are quite good. My favourite is wu gok and beef tripe :)

  • At 2/01/2014 3:37 pm, Anonymous Chris @ MAB vs Food said…

    Happy Chinese new year Helen! Love har gow, yau ja gwai, ham soi gok and mango pancakes - all yum cha faves of mine!

  • At 2/02/2014 2:13 am, Anonymous sara | Belly Rumbles said…

    Happy CNY.

    Yum cha is my favourite Sunday breakfast food. Reading this at 2am on a Sunday, you can bet your boots where I'll be heading later in the day.

  • At 2/02/2014 10:54 am, Anonymous Cara @ Gourmet Chick said…

    Happy year of the horse! This post has given me a serious yum cha craving.

  • At 2/02/2014 11:36 am, Blogger Sarah said…

    Gong xi gong xi!!

    Wo Gok is DEFINITELY my favourite!! I'd share a plate with you! Man, the fried outside is so good!

    PS Totally know what you mean about ordering different yum cha things with family and with workmates or friends.

  • At 2/02/2014 5:47 pm, Anonymous Charlene @ aus2usa said…

    Happy Chinese New Year to you Helen! May your Year of the Horse be Prosperous and filled with good food!

    Group of 8 is good for their dinners too. I did quite enjoy their black pepper beef pieces when I had it ages ago...

    I had their yum cha once during a press conference for some singer that was here. Pretty decent. would go again.

  • At 2/02/2014 10:11 pm, Blogger Annie said…

    haven't tried the ja leung at any yum cha place before. must check out the eight for this dish!

  • At 2/03/2014 5:09 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Happy New Year Helen! :D

    I need a bit of everything in my belly!


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