Central China comes to Sydney’s Chinatown.
Dixon House food court’s newest stall is barely two months old. Noodlies, Sydney food blog takes a first look.
Dixon House is the grand dame of Chinatown food courts, established in 1982, offers a Chungking Mansion glimpse of Chinatown’s of old, wooden columns and mirrored ceilings were obviously the pinnacle of Hong Kong modernity and glamour back then. It’s seen better times, but this dark, underground eating icon still has lots to offer. Today, I’m here to try their newest stall.
Zhou Mum Cafe, just two months old, is the newest of 11 stalls in Dixon House food court. The food is from Hubei province, central China and the stall looks like it’s direct from home, with almost all Mandarin signage. It can be bewildering; seeing all that colour and smelling the aroma but not knowing how to order your food. I hesitantly front up and ask for help…
The middle aged woman behind the counter in the loose blue tshirt and brown apron looks at me blankly, her forehead furrows a little, etching even more creases on that broad face. She signals to a younger male staffer who helps me navigates their stall.
There’s a choice of around 20 dishes, savoury to the left and a few sweet options on the right. It’s $8 for a choice of three plus rice. Point and they’ll fill up your plate. I’m no expert on Hubei cuisine, but I do know food in this central region are not as spicy as north or north western China and it’s not as light as the food down south. The choices on offer are pretty colourful, deep and dark braised meats, brightly coloured fried vegetables and lightly fried glass noodles and tofu.
There’s a choice of around 20 dishes, savoury to the left and a few sweet options on the right. It’s $8 for a choice of three plus rice.
I pick the braised chicken and fried bok choy to balance. My hosts suggest the dark pork pieces. A bowl of plain (and I mean plain) clear soup is complimentary. The folks at Zhou Mum Cafe chuck in a free fried sweet dough pancake for dessert. A complete meal. The chicken was a delight, Sichuan pepper giving it a nice, punchy note. Sure the chook was boney forcing you to gnaw but that brings back memories of my childhood, it’s just perfect with rice. The fatty pork was decent, well cooked and tender.
The fried sweet pancake was the biggest surprise, simple but oh so more-ish. I guess fat, sugar and oil will do that. I was tempted to get another.
Zhou Mum Cafe show how much Chinatown food courts have changed but also how they’ve stayed the same. Sure, this is the classic food court offering of three dishes and rice for a fixed price. But sweet and sour pork and Mongolian lamb are no longer on the menu; Canto fare is replaced by regional Chinese. Of course, this reflects the change in Australia’s demographics, with China being the largest country of new migrants, and Mandarin, since the last Census, has become the most spoken language in Australia other than English.
Zhou Mum Cafe
B16, Dixon House
413-415 Sussex St, Sydney
Ph: 8283 1739
They also have a Kensington shop:
Shop 2, 255 Anzac Pde, Kensington
Ph: 8957 6876