She squeals. But we are not taking ‘no’ for an answer and keep prodding, “Eat it! Eat it!” She squeals some more and simply won’t barge. Betty eventually takes her drink away and says, “If you are not going to eat it, you won’t get your Coke!” And it worked.
Karen slowly picks up her chopsticks, pokes a tiny cube of pigs blood jelly we have placed on her plate. “Ewwww…”, she puts it in her mouth, chews, quickly grabs the can of Coke, takes a big sip and swallows. By now, the whole table of food bloggers are cackling in tears, we are so cruel on someone’s expense.
Pigs blood jelly (Ju Hoong) – – Love it or hate it, I am the former. Cubes of blood are already set on its own before cooking, thanks to the plasma inside the blood and no gelatins were used. Once steamed, it will transformed into a firm chocolate brown of iron goodness that crumbles easily with the touch of the chopsticks. A slight metallic taste like the liver, but it is simply divine braised in chili soy sauce, topped with garlic chives for the crunch. Delicious! But of course, the pigs blood jelly is not the only dish we ordered at the yum cha.
Helen and I just hijacked a group yum cha outing (Sorry, Leona!) and push forward to 11am instead of 1pm as planned to avoid the rush hour crowd. Especially the venue chosen is one of the more popular yum cha haunts in Chinatown at the Marigold Restaurant, it will be almost impossible to get a table that late without having to wait in queue for over an hour. It was a wise move as we show up at 11am sharp and secured a table immediately at the far end next to the wall.
Marigold Restaurant spread over two floors where level 4 is only opened for the a la carte dinner and level 5 is opened for yum cha during the day. The restaurant is almost full house when we arrive and dim sim trolley ladies are already patrolling the aisles between tables in high spirits. I sense a rush in the restaurant and feel stressful with trays of dim sims shove right in front of us asking whether we want it, despite they can see only 3 of us at the table while still waiting for the others to arrive. Once our group is complete, it doesn’t take long for our table to be covered in bamboo steamer baskets and piping hot dim sims.
Garlic chive dumplings (Gow Choi Gao) – The dumplings are plump, packed with chopped garlic chives, just fragrant enough without overpowering the sweet chunks of prawns inside.
Teochew pork and peanut dumplings (Chiew Jao Fun Gor) – Strangely this dumpling has always been one of my favourite. The comforting mix of pork mince, dried shrimps, shiitake mushroom, tofu and the crunchy peanut, all wrapped in a translucent glutinous rice skin, a perfect winter warmer.
BBQ pork baked buns (Char Siu Siew Bao) – The bbq pork baked buns is soft and shiny with a sticky glaze on top, a small clump of chopped bbq pork taking refuge inside is sweet and tender, easily a crowd pleaser.
Deep fried yam dumplings (Woo Gok) – Almost a “must order” for me every time I go yum cha. The yam dumplings here at Marigold is flaky and not oily at all. A light crumbly crust exterior simply deteriorates on each bite, with soft mashed yam centre filled with warm saucy pork mince.
Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce (Hou Yao Gai Laan) – Much needed greens from all the dumplings. The trolley cart lady blanches the broccoli on order in hot water briefly, cut into equal lengths with scissors, a general dash of oyster sauce and serves. A healthy tasty crunch.
Mixed cow tripe (Ngao Jaap) – I love when I am having yum cha with a group of Asians and I get to order and share dishes that don’t get as much attention as it should, offal for instance. The glass bowl is overflowed with braised intestines, liver, honeycomb tripe in peppery garlic sauce. The chunk of liver is a little overwhelming even to my taste, but the soft rubbery honeycomb tripe is always a winner.
Black bean and chili spare ribs (Pai Gwaat) – Helen’s affection of this dish is undeniable. “How can you not love Pai Gwaaaaattt?” She mourns when I pft-ing at her ordering this dish. The fatty pork ribs are tender soft, soaked up all the beautiful juices from steaming, with a subtle hint of chilli kick, but the salty black bean is always a delight to chew on. The most challenging part of eating the rib is trying to pick them up using chopsticks. Those slippery suckers!
BBQ pork steamed buns (Chaa Siu Bao) – Another ‘must order’ for me. I haven’t find many restaurants that do good bbq pork steamed buns with a satisfying ratio between the bun and the pork filling inside. The buns here at Marigold come close to my satisfactory, soft fluffy bun without a soggy bottom from steaming, and the filling inside is sufficient enough to make me sigh on every mouthful.
Braised chicken feet (Fong Jao) – “But, where’s the meat?” It is not about the meat, full stop. Sucking on the ‘Phoenix Claws’ as poetically translated by the Chinese, is a leisure that not many people would understand. The claws are cleaned, de-nailed, deep fried, then braised in thick sauce of garlic, black bean and chilli, until the skin almost falls apart, the long cooking process makes the chicken feet a true delicacy that only a true food lover would know how to appreciate.
Prawn rice noodles (Haa Cheong Fun) – While waiting for more dumplings to emerge from kitchen, we manage to sneak in a plate of steamed prawn rice noodles as filler. The slippery rice noodles are silky smooth, and the prawns are bouncy and plump.
Sticky rice in lotus leaves (Hor Yip Lor Mai Faan) – More filler for those who are still hungry. A tube of glutinous rice is wrapped together with tender chicken pieces, a slice of mushroom, dried shrimp and Chinese sausage.
Egg custard tarts (daan taat) – You simply can’t go yum cha without ordering the egg custard tarts, if there’s any left that is… The bright yellow custard centre that wobbles a little, still warm, soft and creamy, encased in a multi-layered puff pastry that is so flaky and will get stuck in your throat and get choked if you are not careful.
Silken tofu with sugar syrup (Tofu Fah) – But I actually already have my eyes on the Tofu Fah since I saw the trolley cart lady pushes the big wooden barrel passed us by the very first time. If you are a yum cha regular, then you would know that the dessert trolleys usually come out between 12pm-1pm, that’s when they hope you can finish your meal, clean the table and ready for the next hordes of customers waiting at the door.
We just miss the round of dessert trolleys when we are ready to order, but a quick call for the manager and tell him what we are after, the Tofu Fah trolley is out from the kitchen again and parked right next to us just after a short wait.
This silken tofu is so smooth and delicate, it will simply sip through the gap of your teeth without having to open your mouth, swallow is almost unnecessary. The bland silken tofu is sweeten with ginger flavoured sugar syrup, the ginger heat warms your body up from the inside out.
The dim sim at Marigold Restaurant is above average, fresh, well made and not too greasy. We sip our hot tea to wash the grease down our system one last time before making our way to the door, squeeze our way into the lift while another group of hungry people just arrive and join the queue for the yum cha frenzy.
Marigold Restaurant Level 5, 683 George St, Haymarket, Sydney (the Citymark building) Tel: +61 (02) 9281 3388 Open 7 days Yum cha 10am - 3pm Dinner 5pm - midnight Yum cha prices as at March 2010: Small - 2.80 Medium - 4.20 Large - 5.00 Extra large - 5.80 Special - 6.50 Chinese tea per person - 2 Chrysanthemum tea per person - 2.50