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  • Writer's pictureTina Brand

Breakfast Adventures: Sydney Chinatown:

I had been skirting around exploring Chinatown, the idea a little overwhelming as there's just so much to explore and shop for and eat, so decided that separating the visits into categories would enable us to cover more that was on offer, and present it to you in a (hopefully) methodical way.

Lorrie and I did the logical thing to start with breakfast, as the first meal of the day.

We met up first at Boon Cafe, part of the Chat Thai family of restaurants. Boon Cafe is my absolute favourite template of a food outlet: part grocery store, part cafe, part greengrocer, and the clever mash-up doesn't end here.

Inside, the space is also a blend, being part SE Asian coffee shop with wood stools tucked into round tables, part Dean and Deluca with subway tile walls and smart pendant lights casting a glow over the impressive counter and coffee machines, and part grocery store with piles of fried goods in packets, shelves of sauces, spices and herbs, as well as what must be one of Sydney's freshest greengrocers, bursting with fresh herbs and veggies from their farm in Byron Bay.

I order the Thai red iced tea even as I take a seat, and peruse the menu. Congee is a mainstay, with other contenders including pan baked eggs with smoked fish sausage, and more usual Aussie offerings like avocado on toast, fig and walnut toast with preserves and mascarpone, and mushrooms and eggs on toast.

Wash all this down with a serious ristretto, macchiato or be more flamboyant with a Goldilocks latte, or a housemade tisane of pandan, sweet pickled plum or longan.

Lori and I share the pork skewers with sticky rice, and finish with the famous pandan custard filled croissant accompanied by a latte for Lorrie and a matcha green tea for me.

We headed into the heart of Chinatown with a hot tip form a friend we bumped in to: a bee line for Nanjing/Duck Beef a little cafe, scrupulously clean on Little Hay Street.

Perusing the menu quickly (how many breakfasts can one have before midday?), we settle for steamed pork dumplings which had 'Must Try!' beside it, and a congee bowl of shredded chicken with pickled turnip.

The plump white parcels which arrived in their basket quivered and steamed as we doused them generously with chilli oil and vinegar before popping them in our mouths. What an eye-popping explosion! Squirts of pork juice, followed by light and gooey steamed dough, finished with a perfect pork mice ball of wonder and delight.

The congee arrived in a massive bowl which looked like it could feed four... the diced pickled

turnip was a contrasting homey taste, the broken rice congee thick and comforting. Smeared with some chilli paste and oil, it rounded out the simple flavours to leave our tummies with a gentle warmth..

Super Bowl in Dixon Street was next on our list as their congee comes with fried bread sticks which I have long been craving. It doesn't disappoint. The breadsticks are massive, pillowy on the inside and crunchy and chewy on the outside. Perfection when dipped into the congee- these here are more manageable sized bowls and with options of pork floss, fried wonton skin, fish and pickled veggie toppings.

Other options to tempt are sticky rice with pork floss, fried noodles and varieties of dumplings.

If hitting the CBD for you means being on the fly, picking up breakfast to go offers a myriad tasty options around Chinatown. A couple doors from Boon Cafe on Pitt Street is a little Thai mini mart, with every

imaginable snack from grilled octopus skewers, steamed rice cakes with fresh coconut topping, sago puddings, friend mackerel with chilli and basil and sticky rice in bamboo tubes. All neatly packaged and labelled. Nearby is also Thanon Khaosan for more breakfast goodies.

Wander into World Square on the outer edge of Chinatown and and pick up a Hokkaido baked cheese tart at the outlet of the same name, or a coffee and butter bun. If all you need is a drink then an Es Chendol at Enjoy Mei might do the trick: a sugar hit, thirst quencher and stomach liner all at once with the green wormy flour noodles adding a little starch to the whole sweet, colourful concoction.

There are any number of yum cha restaurants which start early enough where you could get a few small plates and some hot tea to satiate the morning hunger pangs. Try these for starters: Palace Chinese and Marigold.

Whatever your up to early in and around Chinatown, you won't go hungry.

Boon Cafe

425 Pitt Street, Haymarket

Ph: 02 92812114

Opens at 8 am

Nanjing Duck Beef

6, Little Hay Street, Chinatown

Super Bowl Chinese Restaurant

41 Dixon Street, Haymarket

Ph: 02 92812466

Opens at 11 am

Thanon Khaosan

413 Pitt Street, Haymarket

Ph: 02 92111194

Opens at 11 am

Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart

World Square

Opens 10.30 am

Enjoy Mei

375 Sussex Street, Haymarket

Ph: 02 9261 8441

Opens 11 am

Palace Chinese

133-145 Castlereagh Street, City

Ph: 92836288

Hours vary: best to phone prior

Marigold Restaurant

683 George Street, Haymarket

Ph: 02 92813388

Open every day at 10 am


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