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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Three Lanes and Seven Alleys, Haymarket Chinatown

Stinky tofu at Three Lanes and Seven Alleys, Chinatown

Stinky tofu. Its infamy might precede itself but the version at the newly opened Three Lanes and Seven Alleys isn't half as scary as you'd think. Cubes of tofu have been deep-fried so they develop a golden shell. We can't detect much fermentation in the tofu cubes themselves, but the sauce on the side packs a heftier punch. It has all the hallmarks of stinky tofu, like someone left a wedge of blue cheese in a pair of old gym socks and let them sweat in the sun. It's pungent almost to the point of dizzying but somehow it's crazy addictive- you'll easily find yourself dunking those deep-fried tofu squares in the sauce to soak up every last bit of goodness.

Don't throw out those old trousers - turn them into a chair covering!

Three Lanes and Seven Alleys is named after the famous area of the same name in the capital city of Fuzhou, Fujian. There really are three lanes and seven alleys, and it remains a popular tourist attraction because of its ancient architecture dating back to the Tang dynasty (618-907AD).

Fujian fish puree soup at Three Lanes and Seven Alleys, Chinatown
Fujian fish puree soup $7

The dining room is filled with students both times I visit. Dark timbers abound and there's been some thought put into the decor, with stark white sketches of Fuzhou architecture on the black walls, and an elaborate construction of wooden beams overhead.

You'll feel like you've stumbled through a portal into China, especially when the waitstaff struggle to speak English. On our second visit, our waiter had to helplessly flag down an English-speaking colleague to take our order.

Fuzhou is particularly famous for its soups, and much of the menu is devoted to variations on soups with noodles and soups without. We were toying with the Fujian fishball soup ($7) but ended up ordering the Fujian fish puree soup instead. Actually it's not a puree at all, but small pieces of a very soft fish that possess a myriad of fine bones, some of which are dangerously forked. It's all a good laugh until a bone gets stuck in your throat. Take your time with this one. We also find the soup way too salty to drink.

Sweet potato vermicelli with pork intestines at Three Lanes and Seven Alleys, Chinatown
Sweet potato vermicelli with pork intestines $9.80

The soup with the sweet potato vermicelli packs a chilli kick. It's a fishy, sweet and sour soup punctuated with glossy strands of starchy sweet potato noodles and a mix of pickled and fresh green vegetables. We order ours with pork intestines, well cleaned and satisfying chewy.

Fish head with chilli sauce in rice noodles at Three Lanes and Seven Alleys, Chinatown
Fish head with chilli sauce in rice noodles $15.80

The signature rice noodles in a hot pot is what everyone's slurping. Heads are buried over these cauldron-like bowls, filled with soup and assorted fixings. The rice noodles are served on the side so you can slide them in as you please.

Fish head with chilli sauce in rice noodles at Three Lanes and Seven Alleys, Chinatown
Fish head 

We go with the salmon fish head with chilli sauce. There's plenty of fatty salmon meat to be had if you're patient. The rice noodles are cooked to a firm al dente, and if you're still feeling hungry, you can get a follow-up serve of rice noodles for free. Now I know why all the students are into these!

Marinated beef tongue and marinated duck gizzards at Three Lanes and Seven Alleys, Chinatown
Marinated beef tongue and marinated duck gizzards $9.50 for two side dishes 

There's still so much to try that I return a couple of days later with a colleague for lunch. There's a massive selection of offal cuts on offer, including beef tendons, beef tripe and pigs ear. They're all less than seven dollars but you can order a combination of two or three for cheaper.

The marinated beef tongue has been sliced thinly. It's already tender but a dunk in the accompanying black vinegar with chilli makes it sing. I pick the duck gizzards, cooked to an expert pink. They're equally good, but the vinegar really does make it so much better.

Fujian pork wonton at Three Lanes and Seven Alleys, Chinatown
Fujian pork wontons $5 

Fujian pork wontons are a whisper of silky dough wrapped around a petite mouthful of seasoned pork mince. We find the slick of oil on top of the soup a little heavy going though.

Fujian dry noodles with peanut sauce at Three Lanes and Seven Alleys, Chinatown
Fujian dry noodles with peanut sauce $5 

We have to dig to the bottom of the bowl to find the peanut sauce hidden underneath a pile of Fujian dry noodles. Mix it all up with chopsticks so everything's coated evenly and relish the sauce tastes like a runny peanut butter.

Fried milk bread at Three Lanes and Seven Alleys, Chinatown
Fried milk bread $6

There are steamed milk breads on the menu but they'll also deep fry them if you ask. That means golden pillows of sweet fluffiness with condensed milk on the side. The skin crisps like there's a toffee lacquer on the surface and the stark white bun on the inside is so soft you may even shed a tear. It makes for a perfect dessert, even if you do end up warring over the last bit of condensed milk - there's never enough.

Three Lanes and Seven Alleys, Chinatown

Three Lanes and Seven Alleys on Urbanspoon

Three Lanes and Seven Alleys
50 Dixon Street, Haymarket, Chinatown, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9281 7770

Opening hours:
Sunday to Wednesday 12pm - 9.30pm
Thursday to Saturday 12pm - 10pm

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Hunan cuisine - Chairman Mao, Kensington
Sichuan cuisine - Red Chilli Sichuan, Chatswood
Yunnan cuisine - Two Sticks, Sydney
22 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 9/27/2014 06:00:00 am


  • At 9/27/2014 6:12 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    definitely delicious and comforting meals!!!
    i guess my fave must be the hot chili salmon head soup...

  • At 9/27/2014 9:04 am, Anonymous Francesca said…

    I does indeed look fairly authentic, having just returned recently from China.

  • At 9/27/2014 7:14 pm, Anonymous The Food Sage said…

    Oh wow … I don't know what dish to comment on first. They all sound great (except the stinky tofu) … must factor in a lunch here soon. Excellent tip. Thanks for sharing Helen.

  • At 9/27/2014 7:20 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    Wow- stinky tofu sounds amazing! Must try it!

  • At 9/28/2014 9:31 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    Milk buns & condensed milk, are my kryptonite! Definitely the best way to finish off a meal. :)

  • At 9/28/2014 11:30 am, Blogger Choc Chip Uru @ Go Bake Yourself said…

    Milky buns and stinky tofu? My vegetarian soul is singing kind of :D

    Choc Chip Uru

  • At 9/28/2014 2:17 pm, Blogger Sarah said…

    Wow, that place looks really cool! Shame about the overly salty soup, but all the other dishes look so exotic (for me) and fascinating! :)

    Also, there is never enough condensed milk. ;)

  • At 9/28/2014 8:18 pm, Anonymous Cara @ Gourmet Chick said…

    Hmmm I would avoid the stinky tofu but otherwise looks like another good find Helen.

  • At 9/28/2014 9:08 pm, Anonymous missklicious said…

    some interesting dishes here! not sure about the stinky tofu, but do like the look of the fried buns.

  • At 9/28/2014 9:29 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    oh wow, really brave of them to introduce stinky tofu in sydney! been meaning to try that each time i go overseas to asia. maybe it is a sign

  • At 9/28/2014 9:39 pm, Blogger irene said…

    I have always been curious about the stinky tofu. Keen to try!

  • At 9/28/2014 10:28 pm, Anonymous ChopinandMysaucepan said…

    Dear Helen,

    Your description makes me want to lose my stinky tofu virginity.

    Hey, there's a fish head in your soup!

  • At 9/29/2014 12:54 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Love this post! I think I need a soup fix, I've been feeling under the weather and the Fujian fish spup seems just right for me.

  • At 9/29/2014 1:36 pm, Anonymous Gourmet Getaways said…

    You pretty much ordered all interesting dish, Helen! Tofu does have a funny smell ;). The fried milk bread looks so plump and heavenly!

    Gourmet Getaways

  • At 9/29/2014 1:53 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    Some veryyyy interesting dishes! The word 'stinky' is an instant off-put but I do love tofu.

  • At 9/29/2014 2:46 pm, Anonymous Amanda @ Gourmanda said…

    I'm one of those crazy people who love stinky tofu! I know it's not to everyone's taste, but I just love it...

  • At 9/30/2014 9:08 am, Blogger MAB vs Food said…

    I love stinky tofu! Takes me back to my trip to Taiwan at the night markets :)

  • At 9/30/2014 12:38 pm, Anonymous Jo @ You Chews said…

    I had my first experience of crispy, fried tofu over the weekend and I can't believe I haven't discovered it before! The stinky version sounds like it should be the next adventure!

  • At 9/30/2014 4:12 pm, Blogger Ramen Raff said…

    Ooooh Sweet potato vermicelli with pork intestines sounds awesome! I wanna try that. Aight, I'm not throwing away old trousers and will make em to a ummmm bed lol

  • At 9/30/2014 8:45 pm, Anonymous Angus Pryor said…

    Love the photos. The trouser chair is probably a favourite for me. I would never have thought to do that.

  • At 10/01/2014 9:10 am, Blogger Cassie | Journey From Within said…

    I do wonder if I would like stinky tofu now that i do love tofu ... but I'm not sure if i could get passed the smell ><

  • At 10/02/2014 10:39 am, Blogger Milktea Eats said…

    mmm love fish head noodle soup! and im still not brave enough to try stinky tofu!


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