Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Anticipating the first Taste

An unexciting takeaway lunch in the lead-up to a food festival is oddly fitting. Treat the tastebuds with blandness and boredom so as to allow for an awakening at the hands and plates of some of Sydney's finest restaurants. There's some sense in there somewhere.

I'm so looking forward to the Taste of Sydney festival that I've essentially mapped out my pre-festival eating schedule so as to maximise space in my belly and dollars in my wallet, and minimise the strain on my tastebuds and food appreciation part of the brain. Let's just hope that the weather holds up and doesn't force me to lug an umbrella around, amputating me of a good eating arm.

When I get the motivation I'm going to go on a campaign against boring takeaway lunches. Aside from foods I eat regularly because I love, I'm going to try to eliminate those repeat lunches that are usually purchased because "I don't know what else to have...!"

Today was one of those lunches and despite my love for pastry covered lumps of minced meat, I feel I might be on a bit of a dumpling directive of late.

Boiled dumplings with pork and mushroom from
Daniang Dumpling, Dixon Street, Haymarket

In a strange fusion of franchise and um.., Asian hospitality, Daniang Dumpling isn't quite the efficient dumpling establishment its signage and logo might suggest. Upon entry into the restaurant, the McDonalds-like menu doesn't at all promote dumplings - other than their equivalent of a value meal ($5 extra for a drink and side dish).

A quick squizz at their print menu, though, has an indecisive dumpling lover nervous and hungry. Two full pages of dumplings to choose from, most (if not all) in boiled state. The pork and mushroom option eventually surfaces as the dumpling du jour and I'm told it will be about a 10 minute wait.

Despite the McDonalds feel of the counter the restaurant really quite feels like a restaurant. Or casual Asian eatery at least, given the flatscreen flashing Chinese pop singers. Which makes for some uncomfortable if not awkward standing about for a takeaway customer. I don't much feel like standing in the drizzle outside so I make do with averting my eyes from seated and slurping diners, flicking glances at the cashier as if it would make my dumplings arrive faster, and trying to look at but not watch the television screen (which, for your information, is harder to do than hearing and not listening).

My dumpling condiment of choice is normally vinegar sauce; however I'm in a bit of a chilli phase at the moment. Not sure how or why this came to be as I'm not so fantastic a chilli eater. Anyway, a little container of chilli oil looks just the thing to go with my gnarled and misshapen boiled dumplings, and it actually turns out to be quite the highlight of the meal.

The steaming hot dumplings and mildly excrutiating wait for them indicates some degree of fresh wrapping and cooking. The pastry is a little thicker than I like but defense against a more rigourous cooking method, I suppose, as opposed to steaming. The filling is a pleasing but unspectacular combination of seasoned minced pork, occasional mushroom piece and savoury-sweet soup.

But the chilli oil, which I neglected to photograph, was heavily infused with flavour. Not just that, the chilli flakes added to the oil were charred black, imparting an additional roasted flavour that was quite ingenious. Who needs vinegar and soy when you have roasted chilli?

The dozen dumplings were gone before the steaming stopped and didn't burn a tastebud. All the better for tasting tomorrow night.

Sydney Daniang Dumpling on Urbanspoon

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