This restaurant is a firm local family favourite, even though it’s not that local to us. We started eating here about 15 years ago and have all our celebrations here – birthdays, Chinese New Year, Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋節) – and keep coming back for their quality Cantonese fare and friendly service. It is a family run business, with three son-in-laws who look after the various parts of it.
Monsieur Poisson and I stop by for brunch one day en route to visiting my mother, and I hone in on some common Cantonese breakfast/brunch/lunch items. We start with sampan congee (‘teng jai jook’ – 艇仔粥) which gains its name from the vessel which housed fishing families who are the ones credited with ‘inventing’ this type of congee.
The ingredients used vary from place to place but typically include, of course, fish, minced pork or beef, peanuts, dried squid and dried pork crackling. Our large bowl here comes topped with sliced spring onions and deep-fried pastry bits to give added crunch, much like croutons to soup. We’ve also ordered some deep-friend dough sticks (‘you tiao’ - 油條) on the side for dipping.
And how I miss seeing street vendors (usually old men) in Hong Kong frying these up in bubbling vats of hot oil! Stretching and shaping premade dough, deftly wielding long chopsticks, turning the ‘you tiao’ in the oil until golden and fishing them out to drain on a wire stand, awaiting to be placed into brown paper bags upon purchase. Absolute simple bliss.
Next we have some stir-fried soy sauce noodles (‘si yau wong chau meen’ – 豉油王炒麵) which are egg noodles tossed in a combination of dark and light soy sauces, and bean sprouts as well as garlic chives. A bit lacking in the garlic chives in this instance, however the flavour balance is right and the noodles are neither greasy nor clumped together. I used to order these at street-side eateries in Hong Kong for breakfast and would liberally douse the lot with toasted sesame seeds from canisters provided at tables.
We finish with another breakfast staple – steamed plain rice noodle rolls (‘ju cheung fun’ – 豬腸粉) which gains its Chinese name from its appearance resembling pig’s intestines, apparently. A lot of places don’t serve this unfilled variety of rice noodle rolls in Sydney, as opposed to the ones with filling seen at yum cha, and I’ve never understood why. When made well, they are smooth and slippery and shouldn't be rolled up too tightly otherwise they're too stodgy in texture. Here we are served a mound of the noodle rolls covered with light soy, a thin sesame sauce and a thin hoi-sin sauce. Chilli sauce is a common addition as well.
So between the two of us, we fail to finish all this food but staff are more than happy to package up the remaining half plate of noodles for us. I take it along to my mother’s where it serves as a welcome afternoon snack.
Hurstville Chinese Restaurant (華英小廚)
184 Forest Rd (cnr Park Rd), Hurstville NSW
Tel: (02) 9586 0828
Opening Hours: 7 days 11am-3pm (lunch)