One of the things I miss most about my time living in China during my student years, was just how cheap the food was. Most days, I’d go down and have my breakfast of two steamed pork and vegetable buns for 5RMB, then lunch of a bowl of dumplings for 10RMB, an afternoon snack of danbing for 3RMB, then dinner of beef and vegetable noodles for another 10RMB. A day of eating, for less than $6AUD…and that was eating well! I could have done it much cheaper, and eaten for around $2AUD a day.
That’s not going to happen in Sydney! Still even though the pricing isn’t quite on par, there are some great places where you can get the comforting simple food you’d find available at street stalls in China. Craving some of that food, we recently dined at Peking Duck Chatswood – not for the more expensive duck pancakes, but for the steamed buns that we saw advertised in the restaurant window.
Once we sat down and looked at the menu, we realised that it wasn’t just steamed buns that were offered on their casual dining/breakfast menu – there were a whole heap of different breakfast/lunch ‘packages’ of casual street food that could be ordered for a few dollars each. I chose a package of hot soy milk, with a shallot pancake, for about $6. Unfortunately the hot soy milk wasn’t actually that hot, and tended more towards lukewarm.
The shallot pancake was really crispy on the outside, but a bit too doughy on the inside without enough shallot pieces to really make it fragrant. I always tend to prefer the thinner crepe-style shallot pancakes over these deep-fried versions as well, which probably colours my opinion!
K was coming down with a bit of a cold, so decided to order the millet congee package which came with two steamed buns and a “side dish” all for approximately $10. The millet congee was apparently quite plain, and unfortunately there weren’t condiments available on each table for some extra seasoning. Even just a dash of soy sauce could have made all the difference.
The steamed buns are the main reason I wanted to try the restaurant, and I wasn’t disappointed! The dough was really light and aerated, without being too dramatically white in colour which is always the result of using certain preservatives. The pork filling was superbly juicy and tasty, and even the vegetarian mushroom and chive bun was full of flavour. I’d definitely come back and even just buy individual buns to take away as a snack.
The side dish in the congee package was traditional tea eggs. The tea mixture was only very lightly spiced and herbed, and I feel like it could have been done a lot better. It certainly lacked that spiderweb pattern on the egg itself. I may just have to make my own!
The XO Duck Fried Noodles was a bit of an anomaly in our ordering, because it’s not really traditionally breakfast food the way the rest of our dishes were. Given that we were dining in a Peking duck restaurant though, it felt right to order a house specialty. There was a good amount of spice in these noodles, but not quite enough duck – and what duck there was, was a bit too fatty for my liking. They definitely were generous with the use of oil though, as these noodles left a bit of an oily aftertaste.
I always love ordering red bean pancake whenever it’s available on a menu anywhere – it’s one of my go-to desserts in Chinese restaurants. This version was heavy on both the crunchy batter and the sweet red bean filling, a real winner in my book.
And all this for less than $35 for both of us. We could have chosen to not order one or two of these dishes, and still been uncomfortably full. Other reviews show that the Peking duck itself isn’t that great, but I certainly can’t fault their cheaper breakfast offerings too much for the price. Service is a bit haphazard but it just adds to the charm, and reminds me a bit of the service in China! Definitely check it out!