My final day in Chengdu – Dumplings and tea?

On the way back from Juizhaigou, in a heated food discussion, Leon told me about these amazing volcano dumplings that I just had to try.

We meet at noon, seedy, with the perfect hangover for consuming dumplings.

T, after informing Leon of Rolands knock on my door this morning – ‘Did a couple of guys follow me out of the bar last night?’

Leon – ‘Just one’

T – ‘Really? who??’

Leon with a smile – ‘Roland’

T – ‘of course..’

Leon takes me to this small open chinese eatery and orders 24 dumplings which were just steamed dough stuffed with spicy rice, heavy but very tasty. We can only eat 6 in total, and I was impressed with Leon’s serious miscalculation of how much he thought I was going to eat.

Leon decides to accompany me to the Tea markets where I was on a quest to find this special flower blooming tea.

As we sit at the tea tasting table, the tea serving ladies are asking Leon all sorts of questions, and it wasn’t only because he could speak enough chinese to get by, but also because he was tall, blond, and easy on the eyes.

Smittened serving lady to Leon – ‘Where do you come from?’

Leon – ‘I am from Israel’ then points to me and says ‘ she is from.. how do you say Australia in Chinese again?’

T – ‘They are not interested in me’

The lady ignores me through the whole tea tasting process addressing all her questions, answers, and smiles to Leon.

Leon, the hard-edged guy from Israel, is softened by the amazing flower blooming tea and decides to get ten buds for his Mum.

Leon – ‘I hope this gets through customs’

T – ‘Just put it up your arse and you’ll be fine’

Leon – ‘I think I will’

T, to the serving lady – ‘I’ll get (counts in head) 30.’ (smugly shitting all over Leon’s 10)

Suddenly, our serving lady turns and looks at me for the first time, then smiles to me that brilliant smile that had only favoured Leon in the last 20 minutes.

It was all the encouragement I needed to walk out of there with more tea than anyone about to spend 2 months in India really needs to have.

Lesson – Money does buy happiness.

Marrickville Yum Cha – YUM!

When I was asked if I had time to do yum cha in Marrickville today, the day before I depart state and country for 8 months, I said I would make the time.

We got to Hung Cheung Chinese Restaurant at 12pm, an hour later than usual. And if Sunday yum cha is anything to go by, we were expecting a long wait. As the car neared the restaurant, we didn’t even wait for the brakes to kick in before jumping out and stealthily sliding past the 3 unsuspecting patrons who nearly got to the door before us. They were the only people in the queue, and there was a surprising four or five tables available at the time, but we didn’t care. We were hungry.

The name of the game at Marrickville yum cha is speed. The speed that the food comes at you and the speed of eating it. There’s a delicate skill that seasoned yum cha pilgrims gain – You become a fast talking fast eating dumpling GPS, always knowing what’s coming out of the kitchen and the exact location of the serving trays within the restaurant.

Steamed snowpea and prawn dumpling, seafood dumpling, money bags, fried scallop dumpling, eggplant and fishball tofu, chinese broccoli, spinach and prawn dumpling, prawn in rice noodle, fried prawn dumpling, lightly fried rice noodles in satay sauce, two servings of fried chicken wings!!! (Deep Breath) It was beautiful.

Chatter over spilled tea and chilli sauce while chopsticks battle it out. A strategic play over how to distract your party so you can steal the last dumpling is also very common. My personal favourite is asking questions that require a reply in story form.

For those of us with expandable stomachs the Marrickville yum cha experience is priceless, in a good cheap cheap, way.