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Sunday, 28 September 2008

Tastes Like Home: Melbourne's Chinatown - Page 2

Written by Jacqui Menard
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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.

Tastes Like Home: Melbourne’s Chinatown, Shark Fin House, travel melbourneThe next morning people are crammed around tables, waitresses shout orders from across the dining room, silver yum cha trolleys quickly empty, and the staff already look warn and overworked: they’ve been open for less then an hour. We are given a center table, right in the heart of the restaurant. I leave the ordering up to my friends, and pretend I know what they are saying as they converse with the waitresses in Mandarin, each party speaking a mile a minute.

Suddenly, I feel as though I’ve been transported back in time, a guest at a royal banquet. Pork buns, porridge, and prawn dumplings in bamboo baskets quickly fill the table as my eyes grow wide and my stomach growls in delight.


I reach across the table and attack a dumpling with my plastic chop sticks, dunk it in chili sauce and pop it in my mouth. I savor every bite; noting each ingredient I swallow: prawn, rice paper, carrot. I put down my chop sticks, wipe my mouth on my napkin, relish in the fragrance of my cup of tea and think, “Man, this tastes just like home.”

We make small talk, take pictures and just as I think the food frenzy is about to end, expensive items wrapped in banana leaves, or baked in oyster shells take the place of empty dishes. I haven’t eaten this good since I was last in Malaysia, I think to myself as I force myself to try a spoonful of everything. I lean back in my chair, and take another sip of tea in hopes that it will dissolve the over flow of food.

“Egg tart?” Leng presents me with a plate of steaming yellow tarts.

I smile. Should I? Aah what the hell! I grab one, bite into the warm yellow filling and golden crusty base, and suddenly I was ok with not going home for another four months.

© Jacqui Menard

Photos © Junie Leong


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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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