Working in the food industry as a writer and marketing consultant, I feel fortunate to have been cooked for and eaten with some of Sydney’s best and finest – but the further in this food journey I get, I keep going back to the notion of ‘soul food’ – not in the 70’s United States blacksploitation sense, but closer to home – it’s the stuff you grew up with: The familiar, comforting foods of your family, ethnicity and experience. For me, that’s Chinese cuisine, and the array of wonderful regionally specific cuisines we get to call our own.
The combination of great Chinese food, friends and buzzing atmosphere is no better encapsulated than by eating at Golden Century Seafood Restaurant in Sydney’s Haymarket, late at night (often after midnight), with a bunch of chef, wine and front-of-house mates from some of Sydney’s best restaurants. After everyone has finished work, it’s a chance to hang up the apron and catch up on the news of the day.
Our group, including pastry enfant terrible Adriano Zumbo, Bentley Bar's Kylie Javier, are happy to leave the ordering duties to Lotus’ Dan Hong, who doesn’t need a menu at this much-loved Sydney establishment, we’re quickly served up a huge platter of pippies, stir-fried in XO sauce, salt pepper and chilli fried whitebait and squid, ‘special roasted’ duck, fried rice and an emerald-hued plate of wok-tossed greens. A light supper, if you will.
It’s such a pleasure to eat any Asian food with a huge table of hungry friends – there’s delight in making a mess, fighting for the last piece of duck, with it’s crisp skin and sweet sour dipping sauce, sucking the aromatic, spicy sauce from the pippie shells and slopping tea on the table cloth while pouring each other tea.
Long after the dishes are cleared away, it’s these kinds of food moments that stick with you (and sometimes to the arteries) – it isn’t always the most haute, expensive or obscure regional cuisine that creates the best experiences – if there’s good produce on the table and good friends around it, it’s all you need, really.