Eat here: One Noodle Friendship, Melbourne (Chinese)

One Noodle Friendship
417-419 High St, Preston

The gentrification that’s taking over the northern suburbs at the moment is a bit of a double-edged sword. There are some amazing places popping up now with food my parents’ generation (who used to live around the Preston/Thornbury area) never would have dreamed of. On the down side, there’s always the risk of the golden oldies disappearing. The thing I love most about living in this area are these golden oldies – while I love a good hipster brunch establishment as much as the next Gen Y-er,I love even more the dodgy looking coffee shops with small piles of biscuits indiscernible to anyone not Italian and old men gathered out the front, the Turkish places with piles of rustic and inconsistently sized cheese-stuffed pastries as high as the counter, the Asian restaurants that have some suspicious looking meats hanging from hooks in the front window and are packed to the rafters.

Preston’s High Street has always been home to a lot of Asian eateries, and they’re all well priced and delicious. A lot of the staff don’t speak English and menu items are often misspelt. One Noodle Friendship is one of these; down an arcade-like alley off High Street, it’s a little place with an open kitchen, wonky old thermoses on the tables with hot tea, and boxes of tissues in place of napkins. We’ve eaten there a few times since moving into the area a few years ago, and I love it; their handmade noodles are insane! The fried handmade noodles with beef is my favourite dish…

They also do a lot of noodle soups, kindly serving the soup on the side so you can play around with it and add as you please. While the flavours are great, they’re not overly different to anyone else’s; it’s the noodles you have to visit for. They’re outstanding, and comfortably the best I’ve had on the High Street strip, and there are a lot of good noodles on that street. The dumplings are unreal, too – particularly the fried pork ones. Highly recommend a side of those.

Don’t expect anything fancy here – it’s basically Asian street food undercover. You can roll up in your trackies. You can use plastic chop sticks. The menu has spelling errors, there’s often tea leaking from the thermos on your table, and the staff don’t speak a whole lot of English. But there’s nothing pretentious about it; it’s good, authentic food made the way it’s meant to be, and I hope this never loses out to the rejuvenation of the area.

One Noodle Friendship Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Eat here: C-Culture, Melbourne (Chinese)

C-Culture – Seafood & BBQ Chinese Restaurant
Shop 1, 437 High St, Preston
https://www.facebook.com/pages/C-CULTURE/342458736114

It was one of those nights on Friday night. It had been a really long, really shitty week. I was freezing cold and starving hungry, and I was craving some sort of comfort food. Something rich and filling and warming and substantial.

Walking down High Street in Preston is a good position to be in when you’re feeling like that, because everything is there. Italian, Vietnamese, Middle Eastern, Indian, Chinese, I mean, pick a cuisine and chances are you’ll find it. The original plan was Noodle Kingdom – their Shanghai fried noodles are comfort food perfection. But, on the walk, the C-Culture sign caught me eye, like it has almost every other time I’ve been past it. Friday night, I just felt like I needed to get in there and try it out; I suddenly realised I was craving duck. I don’t know why, I just was. One glance through the front window to see a whole lot of golden roast duck as well as a crazy busy restaurant service in full swing, and husband agreed to go with my hunch that the food would be good.

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Nothing special outside or in – it’s like the dozen other Asian eateries on the street. We were immediately seated at basically the last empty table in the place, and handed menus written half in English, half in Chinese. After a quick scan of the menu, husband left the meat ordering to me, and he picked out a noodle dish to go with it…

The noodles we got were the fried egg noodles with BBQ pork; they were nice, but not amazing. That’s probably because we were both comparing them to those Noodle Kingdom noodles that we both love so much. These were still really nice though – crispy fried noodles which softened in the delicious oyster sauce, with a good amount of pork and veggies. A good size dish to share if you’re getting some other dishes too, which I’d highly recommend.

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Next up, to satisfy my duck craving, we got a serve of Peking duck pancakes. Amazing. The duck was delicious, with lashings of hoi sin sauce and super soft pancakes. They were more like thinner tortillas almost than other pancakes I’ve had with Peking duck before, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, they were delicious!

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Finally, the pièce de résistance. Crispy skin pork belly. Would you believe this was apparently the entree serving, which cost all of $9.00?! It was a mountain of pork, and it was perfect. Holy wow. We both agreed that we’d go back JUST for the pork, it was THAT good! Super soft and tender meat, beautifully rendered fat, golden crispy tops. It’s the stuff dreams are made of. I can’t overstate the deliciousness of this pork enough.

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This is the biggest blessing of living in such a multicultural area; the food is amazing. So much of it is family run business, and the fact that so many places on High Street have been around for SO long says a lot about the quality of the food. If you’re lucky enough to be like us and live close to Preston, venture out from your usual same old spot tonight and give C-Culture a try. And if you don’t live in the area, make the effort to visit; I promise you won’t be disappointed!

 

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Through my eyes: Chinatown, San Francisco

Ohh happy days – not only have we made it to Saturday morning, but we’ve also (if you’re from the same part of the world as me) made it to the start of a long weekend! God bless the Queen and happy birthday to her! This is gonna seem a random post, but for some reason, I often associate public holidays with Chinatown. Weird, right? Actually, not so much – I’ve found that generally, where ever I am in the world and what ever else is going on/which ever other establishments are closed for whatever reason, Chinatown is pretty much always open. Even on public holidays. You can still get a good plate of dumplings and a side of fortune cookies even when everyone else is taking the day off. So here’s to you, Chinatown, all over the globe!

I really do love a good Chinatown, and have heard so many times that the one in San Francisco is one of the best in the world. I also grew up watching Charmed, and remember watching so many scenes of the sisters in Chinatown buying various herbs and what not… I was excited to finally be going to visit!

One of the must-do things for your San Francisco Chinatown visit should be the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory on Ross Alley, where this photo was taken. They don’t allow any photographs in store (not without a small “donation,” anyway), but they are more than generous with free samples, and a bag of cookies to take with you won’t cost much – and you definitely want to take a bag home, because they’re delicious!

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Eat here: Yummy Yummy Dim Sum, San Francisco, USA

Yummy Yummy
758 Pacific Ave, San Francisco, USA

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Our first day in San Francisco was a pretty big one; Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf, Union Square, Ghiradelli, Lombard Street.. There was a lot going on. Except for food.

We’d had a bit of a situation the night before at the airport, flying to the city from LAX, which necessitated dinner being a bag of Bugles just before boarding. Breaky was provided by the hotel and eaten on the run in transit to Alcatraz, and lunch was a quick seafood cocktail at Fisherman’s Wharf. Come dinner time, it was decided that a proper sit down meal was needed, and we figured the best place to find something delicious and at a decent price would be Chinatown – that’s always the place to check first in these situations!

We took the same approach we usually take – if it looks super busy with heaps of locals, it’s probably good. This place seemed pretty popular, and not another backpack or tourist in sight. Looked a bit sketchy from the outside, sure, but the food…

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For around USD$30 (including tip) we feasted on BBQ pork, pot stickers and the most insanely oversized pile of house fried noodles I have EVER seen in my life! Having unwittingly yet comfortable ordered enough food for 3, we nommed our way through some of the best Chinese either of us have had in a very long time. Oh, and we got complimentary fortune cookies at the end of the meal, too! Not sure how accurate mine was though..

Looks can be deceiving; if you’re in San Francisco and looking for something other than burgers and fries, hit up Yummy Yummy!

Eat here: Noodle Kingdom, Melbourne (Chinese)

Noodle Kingdom, Preston, Melbourne
http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/71/1512514/restaurant/Melbourne/Noodle-Kingdom-Preston

I’m a big fan of the neighbourhood, family style, honestly good Asian restaurant, like Maney’s.  This is another one. Located out in the northern suburb of Preston (it’s actually got another spot in the city), it looks like a lot of the other little places on the same street – always busy, always smells amazing, always tempts you to cross the threshold through the front door. Husband and I first visited on a friend’s recommendation when we moved into the area, and now head back regularly – it’s pretty amazing!

This last visit saw us order a nice big serve of pan fried pork dumplings to share (12 pretty big dumplings for around $9.00 = amazing value!). These are seriously delicious dumplings, and one of the main reasons we keep going back. They’re the perfect share plate, and very filling.

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Next up was another share plate – the main meals are ridiculously enormous. We shared a Shanghai fried noodles (again, only around $9.50 from memory), which was MORE than enough to fill us both up after the giant dumplings. These noodles are incredible, freshly made (you can see the chefs hand making them in the front window on entry) and just so perfect. You can’t get this kinda food out of a packet!

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It’s not fancy food, it’s honest food. It’s delicious, it’s home made, it feels like home. And it’s super cheap, a rare luxury for such good food. That’s why we keep going back, and why you should check it out too!

 

Noodle Kingdom on Urbanspoon

Eat here: Shandong MaMa, Melbourne (Chinese)

ShanDong Mama, Melbourne
https://www.facebook.com/shandongmama

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I visited ShanDong MaMa on a tip from one of my lovely followers, Felicia. I found it nestled away in the heart of the city in a little arcade I’d never noticed (that’s what I love about Melbourne – you may have lived there your whole life, but there will always be something new to discover!), which was literally wall-to-wall Asian restaurants. And they were all busy, on a Thursday night, which meant they must have all been pretty damn good!

We decided to order the boiled fish (mackerel) dumplings (10 pieces for $15), the fried pork dumplings (10 pieces for $10), and the scallion pancakes (2 for $7.50).

First up, the signature mackerel dumplings (with ginger, chives and coriander, made into a mousse-like filling); honestly, I didn’t think they were all that special, I found them a little bland..

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The pan fried pork dumplings (coriander, black fungus, cabbage and dried shrimp) were pretty good, but nothing special. They were not your standard dumpling in that they came out looking like little mini pan fried upside down tacos – they were tasty, but I’ve had better.

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The huge surprise and by far the stand out of the meal were the scallion pancakes – holy wow these were good!!! I usually enjoy the crispy, traditionally shaped round pancakes you get at Asian restaurants, but I wasn’t expecting them to come out the way they did, all stringy and what not! They were perfectly golden and crisp, and tasted absolutely amazing – I’d go back just to order them again, they were THAT good.

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Melbourne has some pretty amazing dumplings on offer and I didn’t think these really made the cut, but those pancakes will be reason enough for me to visit again. Wouldn’t mind trying some of the main meals too now after that unexpectedly pleasant surprise!

 

Shandong Mama on Urbanspoon

Eat here: HuTong Dumpling Bar, Melbourne

HuTong Dumpling Bar, Melbourne CBD
http://www.hutong.com.au

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Melbourne’s dumpling trend seems to have passed (our latest obsessions are American diner style food and Asian street food), yet HuTong Dumpling Bar is still consistently a top 5 fixture on Urbanspoon’s most popular restaurants (on the moderately priced list). So, when it seems that for the most part the city has moved onto the next big fad, how is it that HuTong is still so popular and so relevant?

Traditionally, a HuTong is a narrow alley or lane way in China, consisting of a number of traditional courtyard residences, particularly prominent in Beijing. Appropriate, considering you need to make your way down the alley that is Market Lane, in the heart of Melbourne’s pulsing CBD. If you’re turning up for dinner or a weekend lunch and don’t have a reservation, expect a wait. I’m normally very anti-waiting to be fed, but this is one of the few places I will advocate a short delay for.

This most recent visit of mine was after work on Friday night with a good friend, also a dumpling fiend. We’d both had one of those weeks, and needed wine, quick service and incredible dumplings to dull the pain of our mundane Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 lives.

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We got in pretty early, 5:30pm (right on opening time) and were promptly seated down stairs. If you can get a seat upstairs, that’s even better – the atmosphere is electric and you no longer feel like you’re in the heart of Melbourne’s business district. That said, downstairs is where you get front row seats to the show that is professional dumpling making. This girl took little lumps of dough and rolled them into perfectly formed circles, the likes of which I’d need a cookie cutter to achieve. We watched, completely mesmerised, until we realised we probably needed to order if we wanted to eat them any time soon – we’d been seated 10 minutes and there was already a line at the door.

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We ordered four plates of dumplings:

  • Shao-long Bao
  • Pan fried dumplings
  • Crab meat and prawn dumplings
  • Duck meat dumplings

They started coming out within 5 minutes of ordering, which we’re putting down to the fact that we got in early before the Friday night mayhem really began. Whatever, we were happy!

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The Shao-long Bao were first out, and are their signature and most delicious dumplings. Delicate, steamed little parcels filled with the most magnificent broth, pork and prawn, they’re best left a few minutes to cool if you’re like me and want to pop the whole thing in your mouth at once so you can get that whole (literal) flavour explosion in your mouth. You could also take the classier route and nibble the parcel a little to release some of the steam, suck out the broth and delicately eat the rest of the dumpling. Or not.

The crab meat and duck meat dumplings were delicious too, translucent skins somehow simultaneously packed full of flavour and very subtle at the same time. Last out were the pan fried pork dumplings, a favourite of mine. All magnificently uniform and standing to attention on their crispy base, they are meaty and juicy – the ultimate (albeit unexpected) comfort food.

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If you’re a dumpling lover, there’s not much on the menu that will disappoint you. They do main meals as well, which are also delicious, but they’re so well known for their dumplings that it’s hard to order anything else! HuTong sometimes gets a bad wrap because, for dumplings, it’s not super cheap (we paid around $65 for 20 dumplings and 4 glasses of wine), but I honestly believe that you get what you pay for, and these dumplings are worth a little more. So, while Melbourne may be past it’s dumpling epidemic, we still appreciate good and authentic food, which is why while the other food fads continue to come and go, HuTong will most likely continue to be relevant and top 5 worthy.

 

HuTong Dumpling Bar on Urbanspoon