Almost everyone I know has a soft spot for Yum Cha – that is, unless you’re allergic to/have an unreasonable dislike for all forms of seafood. But there is such a novelty surrounding the whole experience: the taking of a numbered ticket and waiting for your number to be called like a raffle (and the numbers are NEVER in order, which keeps you absolutely on edge!!), seeing the maitre’d frantically speaking into her walkie-talkie to the ladies on the inside as though it were a SWAT operation, before being ushered inside and having women with trolleys converge on you all at once and shower you with an indistinguishable rain of Cantonese.
Having visited a number of Yum Cha restaurants around Sydney, Fook Yuen remains one of our favourites. When a special event calls for lunch out, it’s our most common destination, however there have been mid-mornings where my sister and I feel like a weekend brunch and go for a visit, silently eating while each reading our respective parts of the weekend paper (Life magazine for me, the news section for her).
However yesterday was a particularly special occasion as we had just picked up Dad from the airport, and he would be staying with us for a couple of months. As per tradition, we stopped by Chatswood for lunch en route home. Didn’t even need to discuss it between us all, really.
Getting your timing right in coming here is a bit of a gamble. In previous times we’ve thought we would be clever and beat the lunch crowd and arrive at 12 noon, only to have about 10 groups in front of us. Thinking that 1.30 would be terribly late, my sister dropped us off outside the restaurant (‘Quick, hurry!’) to grab a ticket while she went around the corner to find parking. Upon sprinting up the long staircase, I was dismayed to see that the restaurant was half-empty. This was new!
We were thus seated promptly in the middle of the room and our table was immediately swarmed with middle-aged ladies jabbering in Cantonese. Despite our inability to speak Cantonese, after years of doing Yum Cha we have picked up the basics.
We started off with a pot of hot Jasmine green tea, and then proceeded to mow our way through the trolleys.
The prawn har gow (or gow gee as most know them) have to be the most popular thing in Yum Cha ever. Everyone I know comes for these. The prawns in these were tender but not mushy, the skin silky without the slightest hint of a rubbery texture.
The pork shao mai, which you can also get in chicken but we prefer the pork as steamed chicken can become a little tasteless. Nuggets of flavoursome shiitake mushroom are buried inside, with a generous scatter of roe over the top that pops deliciously on your tongue.
Remember to have your veges too! These are the garlic chive dumplings, simply bursting in their deliciousness, as you can see. It’s mixed with little tender chunks of chopped prawn inside.
More veges?? Fortunately enough our two most favourite vege dumplings were on the same trolley and so we picked up the spinach dumplings as well; similar to the chive ones, just with spinach instead and in a round shape. Still just as delicious.
I always find it so hard to find these babies! Chicken, corn and prawn dumplings – being a mixture of chicken mince and prawn meat steamed inside, with little bright kernels of corn. And as you can see, generous fish roe on top.
As a family of true prawn addicts, despite the prawn dumplings, we will almost always get these as well. A plate of rice vermicelli noodle rolls, where sheets of the rice vermicelli noodles are wrapped around whole prawns and pieces of garlic chive before being steamed, and served with a generous amount of light soy sauce. Absolutely delish, although probably the most difficult thing to pick up with your chopsticks!
I waited around for ages and ages for my beloved egg tarts, however they did a no-show so I ended up ordering one fried item. Just one.
Taro croquettes! The most deliciously crunchy fried outside with soft, savoury innards filled with some pork mince and some other seafood-y tasty things that I can never put my finger on. Maybe it’s better if I don’t know?
Overall, the whole bill for us four people came up to $80, which was very good, although as you can see, we don’t go all out with the roast duck, chicken feet, mango pancakes and all that jazz. But it’s very affordable, service is speedy most of the time, and the quality of the dim sums are consistent and some of the best I’ve ever had.
Fook Yuen Seafood Restaurant
7 Help Street, Chatswood NSW 2067
(02) 9413 2688