>Disappearing food and yumchas I’ve known

>I had composed a post that included food porn and then Blogger ate it. Musta been the yum factor. I seem to have trouble posting photos to Blogger without regular image disappearances and, sometimes, whole posts. I know there are much better, more flexible ways to blog…but now I’m attached to my URL (tragic, I know). Will attempt to post the foodporny entry again soon.

Since I’ve been in Melbourne – about 3.5 years now – when our family did yumcha, we’d almost always end up at one of the Shark Fins in Little Bourke Street. Usually, it’s the Shark Fin Inn. A couple of times I went to the Shark Fin in Burwood with Som, but I think that place has now gone adios. Because of the increase in hassle in getting our family into town these days (with bubs in tow), we’ve started frequenting a yumcha place on our side of town (southeast). It’s in Springvale: Gold Leaf Restaurant. It’s on the top floor of one of the shopping complexes that front Springvale Road. My sis’ partner, who made the journey to Springvale for the first time for my birthday yumcha, commented that the shopping area was fantastically dynamic and engaging but incredibly unaesthetic. I think the way Springvale is is the way most ‘ethnoburbs’ are – thinking here of Darra, Sunnybank and Chinatown in Queensland – where maximum content is jammed into minimal area. Shop-fronts mostly emphasise the functional and are piled high with teetering goods that threaten anyone who use the footpath.

The roast meat shops often have mysterious codes of ordering, usually no queues (just a blob of customers ready to shout), and machine-gun ordering exchanges. I’m always intimidated by these roast meat shops, and my mother tries to counsel me about what (and how) to order so that they don’t give me the burnt, fatty ends of roast pork, or the overly lean and dry sticks of char siew, or try to give me the roast duck without its aromatic, luscious juices that spill onto the massive chopping boards when I inevitably ask for the duck to be cut up (which is already a faux pas, really, because all dedicated foodies would take the whole duck to reheat in their own ovens so that the meat didn’t dry out too much). Because I don’t speak Cantonese or Mandarin, I know I already sound and look uneasy during these encounters. Once, when I said, “No, not the back end of that pork; the middle of that other one”, the woman behind the counter smiled at me and said, “They’re all the same!” Which was annoying because I know they’re not and I could tell that she was telling me this because I didn’t speak the lingo and, therefore in her mind, I must have no clue about the quality of Chinese foods and who cares if she sells me something dodgey because I’m hardly going to be a bread and butter customer… (which, unfortunately, is very true. My mother is her bread and butter customer because she goes into those places and orders a few sticks of char siew, a couple of roast ducks, and some slabs of roast pork).

The fruit and veg shops in Springvale are jostling and packed; I know most of the items but there are always boxes of greenery that defeat my ability to name them. The buildings are often well used, a little grubby, and with bodgey signage.

Anyway, back to the yumcha: Gold Leaf is not bad at all. Good variety of offerings, very fresh for the most part (we’ve been there half a dozen times and only had dishes that tasted slightly “pre-made” a couple of times), and lots of it – we’re often witnesses to trolley-jams. One of the best things I like about Gold Leaf is their wide range of good Chinese desserts. I know this sounds like an oxymoron but there ARE good Chinese desserts. Here, I can choose from the old faithful egg tarts or different milky jellies (including a coconut and green tea combo that’s damn fine), or – my favourite – tou foo fah (tofu custard with pandan and ginger syrup). This attachment to dessert means, of course, that we can’t eat ourselves completely insensible or we wouldn’t be able to fit in one last sweet dish. It’s a whole new discipline for yumcha…

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