Most people know Australia has a very multicultural society and that Sydney has a fabulous Chinatown area. As a poor student I often used to eat in the food courts on Dixon St on the way home from Uni rather than chance there being any food in the cupboards of our share house. These days I always stay in Chinatown when visiting the city and never tire of exploring the shops and markets.
The back door of my favourite hotel, The Great Southern on George Street, goes straight out into the heart of Chinatown and is only 5 minutes’ walk from Central Station where you can get a train to and from the airport. I can be sitting down to my first meal within 40 minutes of landing!
Not strictly Chinatown but nearby – dinner with a friend at the top end of the city at Bodhi was a lovely evening. This outdoor restaurant is pure vegan with various Asian influences. Set under giant fig trees near Hyde Park it was quiet, intimate and fabulous food. Two old friends both with healthy appetites and 22 years of gossip to catch up on – we made good work of the menu and were not horrified by the bill at the end.
Being a Friday night the Dixon street markets were still going as I headed back to my hotel. These are a must-visit if you find yourself at this end of town. Lots of hawker-style stalls set up on the closed off streets and mall, selling dumplings, satays, soups and all manner of sweet and savoury dishes. There are also buskers and trinket/craft stalls, massage posts and of course all the Chinatown restaurants are open and the bright lights shining. Those of you who know me well will recall I like tea and cake in bed before venturing out in the morning and there happens to be a particularly good Chinese Bakery (Emperor’s Garden Cakes and Bakery) at the bottom of the Dixon St Mall. Apart from moon cakes, sweet dumplings and other traditional fare they also sell yummy fruity tarts. A peek into their now rather empty display cabinet revealed just one lone fruity custard tart waiting for me. Yay – early breakfast taken care of!
Partial to a noodle soup for breakfast, the next morning I went straight to a place I knew would be open early. The food court at the top (third floor) of the Market City complex has become a favourite and Happy Chef Seafood Noodle stall does a huge variety soups at any time of day. Fortified by a really good veg and bean curd laksa after maybe one too many glasses of wine last night, I was ready to explore Paddy’s market below and the streets of Chinatown.
I love a good Asian supermarket and needed a few bulk spices to take home, so pottered about the aisles of some of my favourites. Having walked past it many times, I finally went in to the Thaikee IGA supermarket at Market City. Oh my God – the best supermarket in the country I reckon! Totally stocked to suit the local clientele, it has row upon row of Asian groceries, frozen goods, fruit and veg, kitchen utensils – even Malaysian sticky rice cakes. From now on this will be my go-to shop for all my hard to get cooking supplies I can’t get back home in Alice Springs.
By now I was ready for another meal so checked out some of the food courts I used to hang out in as a student. The upstairs Sussex Centre is good but I chose the underground Dixon House centre for a Malay three dishes and rice veg combo. This place is always filled with students, families and people like me who love good cheap Asian food. Here you can eat all sorts of Chinese, Malay, Indonesian, Korean, Japanese and who knows what else for around $10. And there is a bar so you can have a beer if so inclined.
A trip out of town on the train to visit my cousins filled in the afternoon, then it was back to check out Spice Alley which is only open in the evenings. This is a brand new project in the housing development on the site of the old CUB Brewery on Broadway – across the road from Chinatown. Situated in a tiny, narrow laneway are around 10 hawker stalls serving quick and cheap Asian foods in a wonderful cosy atmosphere. Bare brick walls, small café tables and loads of Chinese lanterns and graffiti art similar to that of Penang, decorate the surrounds. All the staples of Singapore are there including Chicken Rice, Tahu Goreng and Ice Kachang. There is a small bar that can only serve certain tables close to its footprint, however I think it’s BYO otherwise – although you might need to take your own glasses as well. We had a lovely meal – $20 for two dishes.
After a late dinner we wandered through the new development, admiring the open spaces and green walls incorporated into the design of One Central Park of which Spice Alley sits on the edge of. Another great day in my old home city of Sydney, enjoying the multi-cultural delights of the Chinatown region. I encourage you all, even those who live in Sydney, to book a hotel for the night in the city and discover some more corners of your own back yard