Kung hei fat choy

When I was a kid, Sunday nights were special. That was the night my parents would take my sister and I to the Lean Sun Lowrestaurant in Dixon Street in Sydney’s Chinatown.

Kung-Hay-Fat-Choietest1

Kung-Hay-Fat-Choietest1

They’d arrange to meet friends there and we kids would sit at a separate table, well away from the grown-ups, and have a ball.

  • Sweet and sour pork
  • Sweet and sour pork

According to Annette Shun Wah and Greg Aitkin in their fascinating book, Banquet – Ten Courses to Harmony,  Lean Sun Low was in fact the first Chinese restaurant to open in Dixon Street, operating from the 1920s on the site where the Eastern August Moon is now located.
These were among our first dining out experiences and I recall that the staff were very friendly. As Shun Wah points out, Westerners rarely ventured into Chinatown in those days and the Chinese community there was close-knit.
I’ve often wondered if it was my mother’s Chinese inheritance that unconsciously lured her there. Her grandfather, Ah Way, had come to Australia from Canton – or Guangzhou – in the 1860s to take part in the Queensland gold rush (Guangzhou is the birthplace of Cantonese cooking). She’d also take us shopping for fruit and vegies on Saturday mornings to Paddy’s Markets, right in the centre of Chinatwon.

Paddy's Market Haymarket Sydney

Paddy's Market Haymarket Sydney

The menu at the Lean Sun Low was typically Cantonese – in those days in Sydney, we didn’t know that other regional cuisines existed.  As we grew older and became more adventurous, we’d try different dishes such as the delicious won ton soup.
Years later, we’d often gather at the New Tai Yuen where I always ordered the combination omelette. The New Tai Yuen was a favourite Labor hangout and we’d often spot former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam or Tom Uren or Neville Wran.
Today, we are truly spoilt for choice.

For the Chinese, red is a lucky colour

For the Chinese, red is a lucky colour

You can find lip-smacking green onion or pork pancakes at Mother Chu’s Taiwanese (for $2.50 – $3 each); sweet boat noodle soup thickened with chicken blood at Chat Thai; garlicky Russian salad and Uygur-style BBQ lamb skewers at Kiroran; and deep-fried lamb cutlets topped with roasted garlic, chillies, black beans and shallots at East Ocean.  Here, the menu has been overhauled to include dishes from other regions of China including Shanghai, Sichuan and Beijing.  Fusion dishes such as the West Australian snow crab stir-fried with goose liver pate and served with a glass of pinot noir will make you re-think your assumptions of traditional Cantonese cuisine, as will the wasabi prawns, an inspired dish of plump, crispy deep-fried prawns, coated with vivid green wasabi mayonnaise flecked with black sesame seeds. 

 

Hand-made Chinese noodles

Hand-made Chinese noodles

You’ll find plenty of theatre in Chinatown too: you can watch hand-pulled noodles from Xinjiang being made at the Chinese Noodle Restaurant, sweet conical ‘roti tisu’ being shaped at Mamak and tiny warm cream puffs being moulded and filled at Emperor’s Garden Bakery (one of Sydney’s best bargains at 4 for $1).

Emperor's Puff

Emperor's Puff

Sydney’s Chinatwon today is a banquet with choices as far ranging and wide as Asia itself, stretching from Turkey in the west to Japan in the far east.

 

Print Friendly

One Response to Kung hei fat choy

  1. Ken Lai

    Reading your short article about your dinner treat in Chinatown in the Lean Sun Low restaurant, brings back memories of my student days in the 1950s. Being an overeas student from Malaysia (Malaya those days)I would go to Lean Sun Low with some fellow overseas student for a meal may be once in a fortnight when we could afford it. I still remember seeing the occasional Aussie venturing in there for a meal and the common order wold have been egg ommelette, fried rice or short soup and when the food arrived at their table, they would pour copious amount of soy sauce into the food before proceeding to eat them with spoon and fork. On one occasion someone ordered for steak and egg — no chips and three veg.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>