After spending a wonderful afternoon in the city catching up with ‘Wifey’, one of my closest friends, followed by the comedic interruption of Lil’ Bro who came to join in on our ‘chit chat’, it was time to meet Mumma and Pappa for dinner. Lil’ Bro was abandoning us for dinner to meet up with some friends in the city, so as the remaining three; we went on the hunt for a simple yet tantalising meal.
Sydney’s food scene has really begun to grace the stomachs of its dwellers with an eclectic range of cultural delights. With the ever growing hype surrounding ‘higher end’ dining and the café scene, it is comforting to know that there are still ‘foodie havens’ which can more than satisfy our cravings for comfort food while providing a myriad of authentic cultural choice
After following one of my favourite blog’s “Street Food”, I began to patronise ‘Sussex Street Food Centre’, which is definitely a melting pot for all things Asian. All credit goes to this blog for pointing me in the direction of cheap and cheerful meals that are rather successful in picking me up from my ‘I miss hawker food’ and ‘uni stress’ moments. From Thai Boat Noodles to Vietnamese Pho, this South-East Asian food map is almost reminiscent of the typical food centre in Singapore or Malaysia.
It had been on my agenda to try ‘Yummy Thai’s’ Fried Fish, so I quickly directed all my attention to the wafting smells of lemon-grass and ginger as Mumma and Pappa began to survey the premises. The number of Thai patrons ordering from this stall had me a little excited at the prospect of its authenticity.
There are four variations of the ‘Fried Fish Set’ , each with a different and delicious sounding sauce – ‘Thai Chilli Basil’, ‘Sweet and Sour’, ‘Ginger and Lemon Grass with Chilli’. After a quick tactical discussion with Mumma, the winning option was ‘Lemon Grass with Chilli’. For $10, I received a perfectly fried fish bathed in a zingy, acidic, spicy sauce with a large plate of rice. Considering one can pay up to around $30 for the stand alone whole fried fish in a Thai restaurant, this was undoubtedly a steal for size, cost and quality!
The fish was fried until crisp, rendering away any fats but retaining the soft meaty flesh, which was easily pulled off the bone. Coupled with the fresh and appetising seasoning, topped off with fresh cut chillis I could feel the unique South-East Asian hawker environment lingering. Ok you caught me…I did pull apart the entire fish and consume each crisp morsel, perfecting the art of devouring ‘fish head’. This dish was slowly savoured and appreciated, with both Mumma and Pappa applauding my contribution to the dinner selection! It is almost impossible to explain how wonderful this simple dish really is – one must try it first hand! I will definitely be back to sample the other varieties, but I do have a feeling that the perfection of flavours in ‘Lemon Grass with Chilli’ will still hold the key to my stomach.
With kimchi on her mind, Mumma decided to order a bubbling bowl of spicy, ‘wake-me-up’ ‘Kimchi Noodles’ from ‘Wooree BBQ’. Being, a taste that defined Mumma’s pregnancy with yours truly, I have inherited the love for all things kimchi! Never having been to Korea I would not consider myself an expert on the authenticity of this dish by any means but the popularity of this stall and its long-time residence at this location is most likely a sufficient indicator. This warm bowl of hot flavoured goodness contained springy ‘ramen-like’ noodles, soft pieces of tofu and ‘nian gao’ (slices of rice cake). I can’t quite remember how much this meal was but I was surprised when an extra bowl of rice was served with the bowl of noodles – again a filling meal that was unbelievably cheap! Mumma and I had planned well, sharing the ‘Fried Fish’ and ‘Kimchi Noodles’, letting the worlds of Thailand and Korea meet upon our tastebuds.
Mumma may have gone slightly extreme with her order of Beef Bulgolgi as well, so we assigned Pappa to the role of table-minder in a bid to stop anymore food being ordered. I only had a taste of this dish as I was too taken by my ‘Fried Fish’ but the Bulgolgi taste was wonderful and the pieces of meat were tender – no wonder why Pappa polished it off (although I could tell he was envious of my dish!). With a serving of rice and seaweed soup on the side, we really could not have asked for more.
Perhaps it is not always worth paying restaurant price – when looking for authenticity and comfort at the end of a tiring week we just want to enjoy our food without having to worry about the frills. At times I feel that in the midst of aiming to dine in the latest cafes or restaurants to hit the scene, we forget the simplicity and beauty of the food itself. While I admittedly do truly enjoy complex and modern creations and indulging in more ‘up-to-speed’ and chic locations, my stomach and heart still retreat to these simple, unpretentious eats that let the original cultural tradition and ‘love’ in each dish sing. There is nothing a meal at a hawker centre or a home-cooked meal by my ‘Ah Ma’ cannot fix.
Sussex Street Food Centre is a definite must try if you are around Chinatown and looking for a ‘hole-in-the-wall’ beauty!
Sussex Street Food Centre
L1, 201 Sussex St, Haymarket