We had driven twenty-one hours, endured the elements, one another’s company, McDonald’s for breakfast, lunch and dinner, in preparation for the culinary delights of Melbourne’s Chinatown.
If there’s one thing I miss when I’m at school in Australia it would have to be the food at home: the savory rice, the chilies, the fresh green vegetables and juicy ripe fruits. My pathetic attempts at cooking anything similar often ends in watered down curries, crunchy rice and charred pots and pans.
Maybe the taste of food has to do with where you eat it and the people you share it with. As a Canadian, living in Malacca, Malaysia, I couldn’t agree more. To me, food always tasted better when it was eaten with family and served hot by a waitress, as opposed to slopping it on a paper plate amidst the busy atmosphere of some shopping mall in the suburbs.
Melbourne’s Chinatown is full of life, color and food. It spans a few blocks and one can expect tasty meals inspired by mainland China and South East Asia.
On our first day, the mission was to find Shark Fin House, a much talked about restaurant in Chinatown. My friend Leng had heard about it from her relatives in Adelaide. We traversed city blocks, asked strangers, talked to shop keepers who all enthusiastically pointed us in the right direction.
We finally spotted it and stepped inside. The inside looked elegant; waiters and waitresses were dressed in freshly pressed clothes and an impressive fish tank alive with exotic seafood greeted customers at the entrance. Leng scans the grounds before she’s approached by a pleasant looking employee. She makes a reservation for yum cha the next morning at 11. As we’re leaving a frenzy of hungry locals and tourists pile in and the lunch rush begins. A Chinese tour guide with bright orange lip stick, a head set and an impressive looking clip board motions her crew forward.