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Saturday, February 08, 2014

Two Sticks - Yunnan China, Sydney

Crossing the bridge noodles at Two Sticks Yunnan China, Sydney

Crossing the bridge noodles. It's what everybody's slurping at Two Sticks, recently opened on George Street and serving up Yunnan cuisine to the masses. Where is Yunnan? You'll find it in the mountainous southwest region of China, bordering Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam. It's a long overdue introduction of this cuisine to Sydneysiders, and locals can't get enough of it.

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Two Sticks has taken up residence where EasyWay used to be, next door to Scruffy Murphy's and just across the road from World Square. It's a small and narrow dining space, made even more striking with gleaming brown tiles and an impressive archway of wooden beams overhead. The place can only seat a maximum of about 35 people - clustered in twos and threes - although mirrors along one wall make it seem bigger than it is.

Kitchen window at Two Sticks Yunnan China, Sydney
View into the kitchen at Two Sticks

Queues start early here. If you're looking for lunch, then get here before midday or be prepared to join the growing swarm on the street. The place is packed with Chinese students - always a promising sign of authenticity and a good cheap feed.

Crossing the bridge noodles at Two Sticks Yunnan China, Sydney
Yunnan signature rice noodle soup $11.80
Crossing the bridge noodles

Crossing the bridge noodles isn't listed as such on the menu, described only as "Yunnan signature rice noodle soup" but trust me, it's the first item on the menu. They do a roaring trade with this one, and service is super fast. Expect it to arrive within three minutes of ordering.

Frozen pork slices going into crossing the bridge noodles at Two Sticks Yunnan China, Sydney
Frozen pork slices

According to legend, crossing the bridge noodles was devised by a scholar's wife, who worked out that by delivering his hot noodle soup unmixed, she could make sure the meat wasn't overcooked and the noodles weren't soggy. She carried the boiling soup to him in an earthenware pot, covered with a layer of oil to trap in the heat. Only when she arrived, would she add the ingredients to the broth.

Others say that crossing the bridge refers to the way the ingredients are transferred from container to pot, like "crossing a bridge" in the picture above.

Cooked pork in crossing the bridge noodles at Two Sticks Yunnan China, Sydney
Cooked pork

At Two Sticks, waitstaff set down an earthenware pot of soup at your table, slip in a raw quail egg and then slide in trays of frozen meat slices (the menu says beef and chicken but we receive beef and pork).

We're then given firm instructions to wait for one minute for the meat to cook, before adding the bowl of noodles, bean curd strips and bean sprouts.

Rice noodles with shredded bean curd at Two Sticks Yunnan China, Sydney
Rice noodles with shredded bean curd, bean sprouts and vegetables

Crossing the bridge noodles at Two Sticks Yunnan China, Sydney
Crossing the bridge noodles

It's a bit like hotpot for one, especially as you have to fish around inside the cavernous bowl with your chopsticks. The chicken soup packs a lot of flavour - relax, there's no top layer of oil here - and there's enough cooked meat, slippery rice noodles, chewy bean curd strips and crunchy bean sprouts to keep you occupied all through lunch.

Yunnan pickled mustard greens at Two Sticks Yunnan China, Sydney
Yunnan pickled mustard greens with coriander and chilli

There's a side dish of pickled mustard greens, fresh coriander and chilli on the side too. Dump them into your soup, or keep them separate for sporadic nibbling if you prefer.

Diners at Two Sticks Yunnan China, Sydney
Diners inside Two Sticks - Yunnan China

The menu is mostly a mix of hot noodle soups and cold noodle salads. The mini pot noodles are all less than $10 but we can't wait for the grill section to become available, a list that includes grilled fish ($9.80), pork belly ($5.80) and eggs ($1.50). "Coming soon" says the sticker on our menu.

Crown daisy chrysanthemum leaf salad at Two Sticks Yunnan China, Sydney
Crown daisy salad with sesame oil $3.80

Appetisers are a treasure trove of cheap snackage, with nothing over $4.80. Veggie dishes are all $3.80. We skip past the cucumber, lettuce salad and bean curd and zero in on the crown daisy salad, also known as chrysanthemum leaves or tong ho at your local Asian grocer.

Usually a simmered hot pot staple, here the chrysanthemum leaves are served raw but tossed with a tangy sesame oil dressing. It's deliciously refreshing, even with the hit of crushed garlic and fresh chilli slices in the middle. Mental note: totally copying this idea for dinner at home.

Spicy pork ear at Two Sticks Yunnan China, Sydney
Spicy pork ear $4.20

We also pick our way through a side dish of spicy pork ear, a ripper of a dish that marries crunchy and gelatinous pigs ears with shredded carrot, coriander, peanuts, chilli and a mouth-numbing amount of Szechuan pepper.

Yunnan potato risotto crispy rice at Two Sticks Yunnan China, Sydney
Yunnan potato risotto $12.80

The Yunnan potato risotto takes about thirty minutes to come out - something they don't warn you about when you order - but it's worth it. It takes so long because they cook the rice to order, piled into a copper pot that hangs over a naked flame.

Risotto is a bit of a misnomer here. I bet if they called it crispy rice, they'd quadruple the number of orders.

Crispy rice layer at Two Sticks Yunnan China, Sydney
Crispy rice base

Dig down to the bottom and you'll hit the jackpot: a crusted layer of rice that's been cooked to a golden crunch. Okay so there's a fair amount of oil down here too, but oh god, who cares, it's like a deep-fried rice cracker.

The rice is sweet and salty, absorbing the meaty juices from seared Chinese lap cheong sausage and lap yuk cured streaky bacon. Deep fried potato cubes provide carb-on-carb action and the frozen vegetable medley adds a little colour. It's incredibly tasty although you may start to feel a little ill towards the end. Next time I'd try and soak up the quarter-cup-of-oil with a serviette first.

Dining room at Two Sticks Yunnan China, Sydney
Dining room inside Two Sticks Yunnan China

We're too full for dessert but I definitely have my eye on the rice balls with brown sugar sauce ($4.20) for next time.

Get here early but whatever you do, get here soon.

Two Sticks Yunnan China on George Street Sydney

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Two Sticks - Yunnan China on Urbanspoon

Two Sticks - Yunnan China
694 George Street, Haymarket, Chinatown, Sydney

Opening hours:
Monday to Sunday 11am til late

Cash only

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Chinese - Uighur Cuisine, Haymarket
24 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 2/08/2014 06:37:00 pm


  • At 2/08/2014 9:53 pm, Blogger Winston said…

    This is great. A lot of times I do feel that cuisines like Thai, Vietnamese and especially Chinese tend to get too generalised. I love it when restaurants focus on certain parts of the country and make their food more regional. This is exactly the kind of food I'd love to eat. YUM!

  • At 2/09/2014 3:10 am, Anonymous Ming said…

    This place looks cool!! Thanks for sharing! The soup looks perfect for winter :)

  • At 2/09/2014 8:30 am, Anonymous john | heneedsfood said…

    Lol at being told firmly to wait a minute for your noodles. Whilst the food looks pretty good, I struggle with being told how to cook what I'm about to eat!

  • At 2/09/2014 9:39 am, Anonymous pigflyin' said…

    I thought this is going to be one of those cookie cutter generalized over decorated Shanghai-like restaurant again - but when I tried it, it is not at all!

    As one of those IG celebrity son and mum pair conversation covers it - "How's was it" - "It is legit!"

    Now, the potato rice got me intrigued and the crispy rice base got me excited!

    the side dishes are fantastic too - you should try the badly named side called "beef jerky" - it is a light and crispy airy dried spicy beef strip, dark and flavorful.

    It seems with the roaring trade of long queues everyday, the restauranteur is being rewarded for the bravery and sincere "legit" cooking... unlike some of its worldsquare & Suxsex street new comers...aaaheeem.

  • At 2/09/2014 10:22 am, Blogger Annie said…

    was curious to see what Yunnan Chinese cuisine taste like. family and i are huge fans of crispy rice so this should be very interesting

  • At 2/09/2014 10:40 am, Anonymous Hannah said…

    Damn. I just clicked on the map and it told me it couldn't calculate the driving distance to Yunnan from Trinity Bellwoods. You're worthless, Google.

    PS I want that crispy rice I do.

  • At 2/09/2014 11:47 am, Anonymous Priscilla @ foodpornnation.com said…

    great post. I haven't heard much about Yunnan cuisine. I like the sound of the crossing the bridge noodles esp the story behind them. So Asian! hehe

    Pig ears hmmm? Sounds tasty though oh and I love the potato risotto. I am always on the hunt for a crunchy rice base.

    Thank god there is someone like you eating anything and everything for us! AMEN!

  • At 2/09/2014 1:35 pm, Anonymous Eha said…

    Hope 'they' and 'you' did not mind a repost ~ this is simply of too much value food- and moneywise to leave . . .not that it seems to be a secret by now :) !

  • At 2/09/2014 9:06 pm, Anonymous angela@mykikicake said…

    Oh yumm crispy rice base. That has to be one of my favourite things to eat.

  • At 2/09/2014 9:45 pm, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    ooh crispy rice hells yeah!

  • At 2/09/2014 10:41 pm, Anonymous Cindy ( a foodie's joy) said…

    I like the idea of a one person hot pot! And that crispy rice!!!

  • At 2/10/2014 6:20 am, Blogger Ramen Raff said…

    Hot damn that crispy rice base looks so damn good.

  • At 2/10/2014 7:39 am, Blogger Sarah said…

    Totally want to try!! Every time I go to Sydney I stay near there so that's gonna be super convenient, yay! Love trying regional Chinese food, and that crispy rice sounds awesome, despite the oiliness. :)

  • At 2/10/2014 4:46 pm, Blogger Jacq said…

    ooh nice find! Love it when there's a nice crispy rice base hidden at the bottom and those noodles look good too!

  • At 2/10/2014 8:16 pm, Anonymous Alex said…

    It's interesting how what people percieve to be 'Chinese' food varies. Where my parents live, near Penrith, going out for Chinese generally means honey chicken, Mongolian lamb, sweet and sour pork, fried rice etc. They even complained at one Sichuan hotpot place I took them to because of the lack of these dishes. However for those living close to the city or close to a Chinese cultural hub such as Hurstville, Burwood, Chatswood, Eastwood or Auburn, going out for Chinese can mean a variety of different cuisines and cooking styles, including Sichuan hotpot, Dongbei, Xi'anese, Uighur, Shanghainese and now Yunnanese. Great post as usual Helen :)

  • At 2/10/2014 10:27 pm, Blogger Sherrie @ Crystal Noir said…

    Oh man, nothing beats a crispy rice bottom!

  • At 2/11/2014 10:53 am, Blogger Felicia @ Next Stop: Food said…

    I was looking at the name of this and wondered, I swear I've seen this before... where?! then obviously reading into the post do I get hit with "DUUUHH!" HAHA
    the crossing the bridge noodles look so good! im so ready for this in Winter! AND the risotto ... it's like the chinese "bo jai farn" crispy rice, im so there!! :D :D :D

    - Cassie

  • At 2/11/2014 3:12 pm, Anonymous Baligyana said…

    these foods are so delicious. i could eat them all in just a day. LOL!

  • At 2/12/2014 11:41 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    I love yun nan noodles and this is exactly as I remember eating them in China, right down to the quail egg and the meats placed into the broth. I remember at one of the shanghai places they put bees in at the last minute too.

    So going to check the crispy rice too.

  • At 2/12/2014 11:18 pm, Anonymous Chris @ MAB vs Food said…

    Yes I do love to scrape the bottom of the bowl for all the crispy rice bits!

  • At 2/14/2014 8:15 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    Several years ago, I went to The Brothers Jiang in Yunnan and subsequently had the best meal of my life (no hyperbole) with Crossing the Bridge Rice Noodles.

    It's really unfortunate that those guys are in some dire straits, but I'm now intrigued to see whether this place will come close!

    There is another place that also sells this in Hurstville, close to the Taste of Shanghai there :)

  • At 2/22/2014 12:21 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Snap, I reviewed it the day before. But WAAAAHHH now I want to go back and eat all the dishes you ate but I didn't!

  • At 2/23/2014 8:57 pm, Anonymous Amanda @ Gourmanda said…

    I love the look of the DIY noodle pot - it's great to see such authenticity with history behind the dish as well.

  • At 2/25/2014 12:58 pm, Anonymous sara | Belly Rumbles said…

    Crossing bridge noodles look so comforting. Love the story behind them too. Could not visit without ordering that crispy rice, OMG!


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