A Taste Of Shanghai - Eastwood, Sydney
The barramundi was transformed into a boat shaped delight, with tomato based sweet and sour gravy bathed over crispy and crunchy bites of tender and tasty fish. The cultural significance of upright fish tail and fish head is not to be under estimated in Chinese thought, especially during festive seasons, when sitting down together implies the circle of harmony, reunion and joy. The setting was a crowded eating house which has an outlet in the suburbs of Eastwood north-west of the Sydney Harbour Bridge (apart from those in the western Sydney area of Ashfield and World Square in Sydney CBD) Television screens above the kitchen were broadcasting the annual New Year's Eve concert from Beijing. A Taste of Shanghai suggests of dumplings, pastry and noodles - this place in Eastwood has all of them and more.
Above, the siew loong pau, or steamed meat, shrimp and soup dough buns in the Cantonese tongue, daintily sitting in a circle inside a bamboo steamer tray, with the central piece dotted with a bright coloured nose, like Rudolph the reindeer. This pau is a speciality of the Shanghai area, as distinct to this commercial bustling metropolis as its capitalistic urges, strong women and trading dominance. Often consisting of pork mince inside, the most important part of this snack is the quality of the dough. Also known in Mandarin as the xiao long bao, careful touches of ginger, onion juice, Xiaoshing wine, soy sauce and chicken stock add to the delicacy and refinement of the final taste. The soup itself is made separately and utilises chicken stock, slab bacon, scallions, salt, ginger and a tablespoon of crushed white peppercorns. This item is a favourite of Guangzhou styled restaurants in most Western cities and is included in the dian xin or "small touch of the heart" trolleys seen at lunchtime. I hear from Chinese friends that this is not considered as a dumpling within their country, although it is often referred to as such outside China itself. Dumplings are known as jiaozi in China, and they are different in outside appearance from the xiao long bao (the dough of which are only pinched once at the top).
My fav choice that Sunday evening - the first of the Lunar New Year of the Water Snake - was the irresistible and colourful pork belly presented over a bed of snow pea leaves and utterly relishing with flavour. Neither salty nor bland, the texture of the choice of belly cut and the right bean based paste did bring the palate to a higher appreciation and sensation. Recommended for consuming with steamed rice, this dish must never be too lean nor over cooked.
A savoury selection was best represented by the fillings accompanying the served mantou (or unfilled bun) in the picture shown above and below. The mantou is a baker's delight, using active dry yeast, cooking oil contents of an egg, lukewarm water, all purpose wheat flour and the usual pinches of salt and sugar.
The crispy deep fried turnip filled puff, below, is an excellent starter, to be dipped in mayonnaise, and is coated with a generous layer of sesame seeds. They can be downed accompanied by tea or beer. It was a rainy night when my group of nine left the restaurant. Next day was the second day of the Lunar Year, but in Australia, it was back to work unless you took annual leave.