Dong Ba, Bankstown: Bun Bo Hue

Rating: 4 out of 5

Dong Ba
296 Chapel Road South, Bankstown 2200

dong ba bun bo hue

When Momofuku’s David Chang came to Sydney for the first time, he was given a list of go-to noodle restaurants curated by Deputy Editor of the AGT, Pat Nourse. Most of them are centred around the CBD but among the few that aren’t is Dong Ba in Bankstown. It doesn’t take a detective to work out that their specialty is Bun Bo Hue, if their windows are anything to go by.

The Bun Bo Hue ($10) is a huge serving of soup noodle goodness. If you’re not shy about animal products like processed meat or offal, this is deliciousness in a bowl. The round, white rice noodles are topped with chunks of tender pork, slices of fish cake, tender beef, and big firm, cubes of jellied pigs’ blood. Chilli flakes and chilli oil float on the golden broth, which is spicy, and fragrant with lemongrass and deep beef and fish flavour.

Enhanced with the fresh, crunchy bean sprouts, torn basil leaves and a squeeze of fresh lemon, you could almost imagine yourself in a busy street side stall in Vietnam. Now you only need to whisk yourself away to Bankstown for a slice of Vietnam.

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Ramen Zundo, Sydney: Tantanmen

Rating: 4 out of 5

Ramen Zundo
Shop 10.30 World Square, 644 George St, Sydney 2000

ramen zundo lanternsWorld Square’s little alleyways, crammed with side by side eateries, reminds me a bit of Asia. The buzz and brightly lit doorways transport me the streets of Sapporo or Hong Kong or Singapore.

In the midst of action is Ramen Zundo, and I’m immediately drawn to the front window, which is filled floor to ceiling with red and white lanterns. Very striking. The menu is a dazzling array of choices, with curries and donburi, and enough ramen options to render this hapless noodler torn between tonkotsu or chicken broth, small or large, standalone ramen or a set, mild or spicy. As tempted as I was by the tsukemen, the Zundo black (particularly after I loved the black ramen at Hakata-Maru), and the Double Soup – can’t decide between tonkotsu or chicken broth? Have both! – I opted for the tantanmen.

ramen zundo tantanmen

The tantanmen ($12.80) came after a much shorter time than it took to place the order, and was delivered with a  sweet and polite nod and smile from our server. The menu indicated that this would be a spicy affair, and the anticipation was heightened when I saw the liberal sprinkling of dried chilli flakes on the noodles. First things first, I had a taste of the soup and it certainly had a lovely, rounded flavour with a fiery kick to finish, and didn’t feel very heavy.

The yellow, straight noodles were soft with still a bit of bite. The pork mince was flecked with more chilli, but it was delicious and moist, and particularly tasty when spooning it out of the bowl after it had absorbed the soup flavours. Some freshness and texture was added with the baby bok choy and sweet bean sprouts.

This was a very enjoyable noodle experience, with something on the menu to suit everyone, and polite and quick service. Next time I might work up an appetite and get a ramen set so that I can sample the curry or donburi without missing out on my noodle fix!

ramen zundo restaurant

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Ichi-ban Boshi, Sydney: Wonton-men

Rating: 4 out of 5

Ichi-ban Boshi
Level 2, The Galeries, 500 George Street, Sydney 2000

ichi ban boshi wonton men ramen

If a ramen could be judged by the size of the queue, Ichi-ban Boshi undoubtedly has a good thing going.  On each of my visits, there has been a throng of hungry diners waiting for a table.  Thankfully, the queue seems to move fairly quickly, especially if you’re willing to share a table with other ramen fans.

It’s a slightly odd experience coming to Ichi-ban Boshi for dinner.  The restaurant is situated right at the top of the Galeries, next to Kinokuniya bookshop.  In the evening, when the centre is closed, dark and quiet, it’s as though the restaurant is an oasis of light, food, and chatter.  Claiming a table is a matter of jotting down how many diners are in your group on the grid provided, specify whether you are happy to share (presumably this increases your chances of getting a table sooner), then take a number and wait.

On this visit, I decided to try the wonton ramen ($13).  Wontons are more familiar in Chinese cuisine, so this dish is a clever fusion of Chinese and Japanese styles.  The thin, straight noodles are served in a light, shio soup, along with choy sum, seaweed, and a dollop of miso paste.

The noodles were spot on in their springiness and bite, but the absolute highlight were the triangular-shaped wontons.  Each wonton was generously proportioned, with a huge hit of juicy prawns in each one.  However, if seafood isn’t your thing (gotta say though, your loss!) there is a huge range of different ramen dishes to appeal to your taste buds.

Ichi-ban Boshi on Urbanspoon

Hoang Gia, Flemington: Bun cha gio

Rating: 4 out of 5

Pho Hoang Gia
2/98 The Crescent, Flemington 2140

bun cha gio

As much as I love pho whenever I venture out for Vietnamese, sometimes I just really want a lighter meal than a hot, beefy soup.  What these occasions call for is bun cha.  In fact, I think I could easily eat bun cha for the rest of my life.  It has all your food groups in one bowl – vermicelli rice noodles, vegetables and salad, and topped with the protein of your choice.

Amongst all the Vietnamese restaurants in the Flemington strip, this one was recommended by friends in the know.  It is tucked in a lane way behind the main street and is bustling with lunch time diners when I arrive.

My bowl of noodles comes out reasonably quickly, and my eyes excitedly widen at the golden cha gio (or spring rolls) artfully arranged around the edge on the top.  The salad of noodles also comes with crunchy, fresh bean sprouts, shredded lettuce  and carrot, fragrant chopped mint, and crushed peanuts.  I pour over the home made nuoc cham dressing, which brings all the flavours together in a lovely sweet, salty and sour mix.

The noodles are light and refreshing, and I was particularly impressed with the cha gio, where the crisp shell was filled with delicious pork mince, carrot, garlic, black fungus and strands of vermicelli.  Combined with the soft noodles and crunchy, fresh salad, it’s a fun contrast of flavours and textures.

Hoang Gia on Urbanspoon

Shanghai Night, Ashfield: Zha jian mian

Rating: 4 out of 5

Shanghai Night
275 Liverpool Road, Ashfield 2131

shanghai night dumpling making

Ashfield is Sydney’s dumpling hub.  If it’s Shanghai-style dumplings you’re after, whether you’re hungering for the steamed, soupy, flavour burst of xiao long bao, or golden, crisp-bottomed pan-fried dumplings, there are a string of outlets along Liverpool Road to satisfy all your cravings.

Shanghai Night has undergone a bit of a cosmetic freshen up in the last twelve months.  It doesn’t look as dark and moody as the slick joint, New Shanghai, next door, but don’t let its nondescript looks fool you.  This place is renowned for its dumplings, and you can even see them being made behind a glass panel at the back of the dining room.  Deft hands mould and pinch delicate, white skins around the minced fillings to craft identically sized and shaped dumplings, ready for a steamer.  Thankfully, for noodle fiends like myself, there is also a good selection of dishes on the menu that serve bouncy, hand made noodles, la mian.

Zha jian mian is a bit like spaghetti bolognese, Chinese style.  Here, the white, hand-pulled noodle is topped with rich, pork mince and slices of cucumber.

zha jian mian

Mix it all up and you get a wonderful concoction of meaty pork, soft yet toothsome noodle, offset by crunchy, refreshing cucumber.  It’s like a party going on in your mouth.  The sauce also has a delicious hint of chilli, making it difficult to stop until you’ve polished off the entire serving.

It’s worth coming out to Shanghai Night just for this dish, but hey, it doesn’t hurt to have some dumplings on the side either.zha jian mian 2

Shanghai Night on Urbanspoon

Kiroran Silk Road Uygur, Haymarket: Dapanji

Rating: 4 out of 5

Kiroran Silk Road Uygur
Shop 3, 6 Dixon Street, Haymarket 2000

chicken big plate dapanji uyghur food

For a long time, Chinese cuisine has been best known in the West for its Cantonese-style dishes. Fans would flock to their local Chinese restaurant for the sugary and cloying sweet and sour pork, lemon chicken, and beef in black bean sauce.  I’m not one to judge though, since the occasional honey king prawns is a guilty pleasure!

Only in the last decade have we really seen people branching out into the cuisines of other regions in China. Punters are embracing the spicy and mouth-numbing dishes of Szechuan province, and flocking to the Taiwanese-style dessert restaurants. One of the lesser known regions, the Xinjiang Uyghur region, has a cuisine that reflects its Central Asian history. It’s big on meats, particularly lamb and mutton, tomatoes, eggplant, and la mian, which brings the Noisy Noodler to Kiroran Silk Road Uyghur.

The restaurant is a mere stone’s throw from the heart of Chinatown, and is situated up a flight of stairs above another Uyghur establishment.  On my visit, it is a brightly lit and cheerful atmosphere inside, with a few large groups sharing laughs and drinks over their communal hot pot.

One of my dining companions hails from the Xinjiang Uyghur region and recommends the dapanji.  It literally translates to big chicken plate, and he assures me that it’s not only the best known dish from the region, but it also has Uyghur-style hand pulled noodles.  My friend also tells me that this dish is famous for its tender chicken, which is due to the addition of beer during cooking.  A clear no-brainer!

The dapanji is a large sharing dish of tomato-based Uyghur-style soup with big chunks of tender, slow-cooked chicken, potato, whole dried red chillies, capsicum, celery, and coriander.  Buried beneath the soup and chicken are glimpses of the white, flat noodle.  They are almost rustic with their uneven length and thickness, but are beautifully chewy without feeling like hard work.  The noodles go down such a treat that we order another serving of fresh noodle, kaedama-style.  The soup has a lovely aroma from the coriander and chillies, sweet with a hint of vinegary sourness, and the chicken pieces are soft and readily absorb the flavours of the soup.

If you’ve not had the chance to try Uyghur cuisine, the dapanji is a good place to start.  Sharing a large dish between a few people is a fun, communal way of eating, so bring a few friends too!

big plate chicken uighur

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Pho An, Bankstown: Beef pho

Rating: 4 out of 5

Pho An
27 Greenfield Parade, Bankstown 2200

beef pho an bankstown

When the topic of Sydney’s best pho crops up, Pho An regularly gets a nod from pho enthusiasts.  I was a little skeptical that the best pho could come from somewhere other than Sydney’s Vietnamese heartland of Cabramatta, but in the interests of impartial noodle testing, I was happy to make the trip to Bankstown in the search for good bowl of pho.

Pho An is a large, brightly-lit setting with rows of wipe-down tables and chairs, reminiscent of a Chinatown food court.  As soon as we walked in, we were quickly ushered to a table in the very back corner by our host.  Our bums had no sooner been planted on our seats before our host asked us for our order.  We quickly craned our necks to peer at the large menu board on the wall and concentrated as hard as we could in an attempt to decipher the Vietnamese and Chinese writing before our host finally put us out of our misery and asked whether we’d like to see a menu in English.

We looked over the menu to find that this place isn’t called Pho An for no reason – the only dishes they served were their specialty pho. There is a choice of beef or chicken, with further decisions to be made on the combinations of these animals that you fancied, including rare or cooked beef, cartilage, chicken, heart, liver, and blood jelly.

We couldn’t go past the pho topped with the beef combination of rare and cooked beef, tendon and tripe.  The large serving is a mere $1 more than the small, but it is dauntingly bigger portion.  The pho came topped with juicy pink, rare beef and feathery slices of tripe, and deep within the bowl of fragrant broth were hunks of smooth and buttery soft tendon, and silky noodles.  The broth was wonderfully beefy with strong flavours and aromas of coriander, shallots and ginger, although it had a slight bitter aftertaste which was effectively neutralised by lemon juice and chilli sauce.

If it’s noodles you’re after, this is a no-fuss and slick operation that specialises in decent pho.  Don’t bother with the menu – just go straight for the beef combination pho, and in no time, you will be in beefy bliss.

beef pho an bankstown

pho an bankstown

Pho An on Urbanspoon

Seabay Handmade Noodle Restaurant, Burwood: Chopped noodle with pork

Rating: 4 out of 5

Seabay Handmade Noodle Restaurant
181D Burwood Road, Burwood 2134

chopped handmade noodle

Hand pulled noodles, or la mian, is a well known Chinese speciality which is a fascinating process to watch.  The result is usually long strands of beautifully springy noodle.  However, on a visit to Seabay Handmade Noodle Restaurant in the Inner West suburb of Burwood, I discovered a new way to have these delicious noodles – chopped!  The thicker rope of yellow noodle dough is chopped into little chunks so they look like a pile of corn kernels.  No longer will first daters fumble with their chopsticks in a lame attempt to look like they’re worldly, yet try in vain to prevent embarrassing stains in their lap.  Here is a noodle that you can eat with a spoon!

The chopped noodle was firm due to its thickness, but still had a nice chewy and bouncy texture.  It was served with a loads of pork mince, chopped tomato, red capsicum, Chinese cabbage and chives, all in similar size pieces so that you can get a good mix of everything in each spoonful.  Bringing it all together was a delicious soy, garlic sauce with a hint of vinegary sourness contrast.

A generous serving will only set you back a mere $11.80, which equates to decent value at this popular Burwood noodle joint.  If you haven’t tried chopped noodle before, this dish is a surefire bet to convert you to the convenience and ease of spoon noodle eating!

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Seabay Handmade Noodle Restaurant, Burwood: Beef noodle soup

Rating: 4 out of 5

Seabay Handmade Noodle Restaurant
181D Burwood Road, Burwood 2134

beef noodle soup handmade noodles

Seabay Handmade Noodle Restaurant has a bit of a rock star reputation according to the locals in the know. Despite the nondescript exterior, which includes a large photographic menu board that virtually covers their front window, this place is busy day and night. What the locals come here for is the beautiful hand made noodle, la mian, and the cumin lamb that comes on long metal skewers (in my opinion though, the best cumin lamb skewers in Sydney can be found at Lamb & Cumin at Hurstville station).

One of my friends, who is a Burwood local, could not rave about this place highly enough, and specifically the beef noodle soup. As I walked into the restaurant during their busy dinner service, I could see a few diners hunched over their steaming bowls of beef noodle soup – clearly a favourite! It was a no-brainer to go with their specialty.

When my very large bowl of beef noodle soup arrived, I was struck at first by the beautiful fragrant aroma of the fresh coriander and spring onions, which were sprinkled liberally on the top. It almost reminded me of a pho, the Vietnamese beef noodle soup. The almost paper thin slices of beef were floating tantalisingly on the surface, and the snow white hand pulled noodles were hiding just below.

The first thing I did was the pick up a spoon and taste the beautiful clear broth, and it had a clean beef flavour with a hint of sweetness, and my whole mouth and nose filled with the fragrance of the fresh herbs. The noodles had the perfect level of firmness and chewiness, which despite the overly generous portion, were so delicious that I just had to fish out every last noodle from the bottom of the bowl!  A simple meal, but oh so satisfying.

This was pretty much a perfect bowl of noodle soup, save for beef slices, which were a tad on the dry side. If they could have served the sliced beef raw, this would have been my idea of heaven in a bowl. And at a mere $9.80 for a massive serving, you could not get better value anywhere else in Sydney.

beef noodle soup handmade noodles

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