Yum Cha KL – Very stupid indeed.

We arrive at Hong Tee’s Tim Sum (Yum Cha/Dim Sum) restaurant – HUNGRY. I’m joined by my cousin Sheba and her family (husband Ian, and 6 year-old daughter Tia), My grandmother (Popo) and Sheba’s friend Camelia arrives 10 minutes later.

I’ve never eaten yum cha with my Malaysian family before but I’m delighted to report that they eat yum cha just like me. Hard, fast, and without regard for anyone else. There was no messing around, and there were no boundaries, especially when it came to something as trivial as quantity. Within seconds there were 12 dishes on our table, then within 15 minutes when Camelia joined us, we had ordered another 12 dishes, and ate these extra plates as if nothing had happened prior to her arrival.

The food was delicious, though I wouldn’t say outstanding or better than yum cha’s I’ve been to in Sydney (go Hung Cheung in Marrickville). Major differences are that there were no western alternatives; like the marinated lamb cutlets that they serve in Crows Nest yum cha, or the mango ice-cream pancake, though they didn’t have my favourite chinese desert either, Tofu fa – a boiled curd (tofu) in sweet syrup. Which I admit doesn’t sound appetizing, but it is.. trust me.

During our yum cha session my Popo was saying something to Camelia about me. Camelia is Chinese and understands Cantonese. I waited patiently and expectantly for them to finish so Camelia could translate into English.

Camelia, sympathetically – ‘My grandmother says the same thing about me in public’

T – ‘Why? What did she say?’

Camelia – ‘Cheong (low tone), it means stupid.’

T – ‘oh (surprised), I heard her say ‘Ho cheong’?

Camelia – ‘Ho means ‘very’, so ‘very stupid’.’

I know my gran would have only called me ‘Ho cheong’ in the most endearing way possible, and for my 84-year-old chinese gran to be able to remember more English words than I could remember Chinese, or even Bahasa, it was pretty embarrassing on my part. Luckily, both my gran and I blame my parents for not keeping a bilingual household in Australia – What a ‘cheong’ decision it was for parents who could speak up to 4 languages to only teach their children english – Ho Cheong!

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.