Sydney may already have a Chinatown close to the city but Ashfield is what I consider to be Little Shanghai or taste of shanghai. This is a suburb where, should you have a craving for dumplings that are a little different from your Cantonese Yum Cha variety, there is a stretch of road studded thickly with restaurants offering Shanghai cuisine and dumplings. This is where you can eat until you’re stuffed for under $20 a head (or even $15). Something of a minor miracle in Sydney.And if you’re a regular reader, you’ll probably have suspected my ulterior motives for going here. That is, to try more Xiao Long Bao, those famous Shanghai soup dumplings. We’re taking M and her sons S and In along for the ride as they’re all dumpling fans. This Saturday night we’re meeting early, at 6.30pm outside Ashfield Mall along with some unusual looking types, and what do you know but we’re greeted with a queue outside of ticket bearing patrons. It’s like being transported to a Yum Cha restaurant at 1pm.
The girl with the tickets lets us know that it will be a 15 minute wait and we stand outside pondering the other numerous Shanghai eateries along the road, many with only 1 or 2 customers inside them. If there’s one thing about Chinese restaurants, it’s that if there’s a queue, it’s usually a good sign.Within about 10 minutes, our table is free, and it’s a good thing as S is hungry (he is a growing boy after all). We order straight away as they’ve given us a copy of the menu to look at while waiting. We’ve chosen a selection of dumplings as well as one of their chef’s specials and a tofu dish.
Everything comes out quickly and our small table can barely fit it all so we do a lot of quick eating and juggling. The first thing we try is the Spring rolls, which In had ordered as they’re his favourite. They’re not bad, nice and fresh and very hot although Spring Rolls aren’t usually my item of choice.The next item is one that we warn the boys will need a bit of patience and restraint. If they thought the Spring Rolls were hot, they might get a shock when biting into the hot soupy Xiao Long Baos. We let them cool for a while and then instruct the boys on how to eat them. After telling them to “Put the entire thing in your mouth” In chomps down halfway on his sending an explosion of soup forth across the table and dribbling down in front of him, much to his utter delight as only an 8 year old can see it. The other tables around us chuckle at the sight and M clucks “What part of ‘put the entire thing in your mouth’ didn’t you get?” while mopping him up.