Sunday, 8 September 2013

Yum Chatting @ the new Black Stump

Nowadays, yum cha is as Sydney as the Opera House. Where Aussie families once went for family meals to "safe-as-houses" Black Stump Restaurants, they now head to suburban yum cha palaces filled with fearsome fish tanks, chaotic cash register counters, and ceaseless stacks of white tablecloths in the corner. The foreign has become the familiar.

Without really trying, I found myself this morning at my third yum cha - or dim sum as Yanks call it - session in less than a couple of weeks. 

Session #1: with a mate at Kam Fook in Bondi Junction in Sydney's eastern suburbs. Topic of discussion: how banning the should charge tackle in rugby league makes some people happy and some people unhappy. Which obviously led to: how middle aged guys survive divorce by loving their kids.

Session #2: with my adult daughter for Father's Day at Tingha Palace in the Parramatta Leagues Club in Parramatta, Sydney's booming second CBD. Topic of discussion: the intrigue of old hand-painted advertisements for Bushell's Tea on brick buildings in country towns with names like Gulgong and Canowindra. Which obviously led to: what we would do if we won Lotto and could do anything we wanted to do.

Session #3: with my partner in "dumpling diving" and life at Fortune Palace at our local shopping centre, Carlingford Court, where specialty dried seafood stores and exotic soft drinks have literally replaced the Black Stump and a suburban roller skating rink. Topic of discussion: what's on for this week. Which obviously led to: whether to follow head or heart in deciding to quit a job.

The ladies in blue hospital-like smocks push banged-up metal carts stacked high with brown bamboo steamer baskets. A poster for a political candidate at the entrance continues to fight yesterday's battle. Another white middle-aged couple waves at the cute babies and smiles at the crinkly old ladies at a neighbouring table as big and round as the deck of Star Trek's Enterprise.

And, our conversations move from the mundane to the meaningful. We go from staring at our own lives to sharing them with people we care about.

Maybe, it's cos at yum cha, there is no self-consciousness about menus, who's ordering what, how much it costs... There's only happy and gentle "negotiation by nodding" about this cart's goodies or that one's - or let's just have both. Or, everything. 

Prawn and pork dim sims - packing a punch of protein. BBQ pork buns - sweet and crumbly as sunset in an apple orchard. Fried fish balls stacked on eggplant, capsicum and tofu - Cirque du Soliel on a plate. Gow gee with spinach and prawn or scallop - the snappy g'day of a happy God. Sesame prawn rolls - the dish that says "there's really no point at cooking at home in Sydney".

Or maybe we talk good at yum cha cos there's no hard borders, high manners or stolen glances between one set of diners and another, or diners and servers. Rather, it's got all the raucous joy of playing "stacks on" in the school playground.

All-in and all-good makes the chin wag. When we are fundamentally not alone, we are together. At yum cha, we shine as we dine.

As Suzi and I headed back to the car park, I notice a poster for scholastic tutoring on the wall beside the old escalator. I'm sure they do a great job giving the local Asian kids great test scores, but today I'm okay with every kindergarten teacher's lesson. For, sharing is truly caring.


  1. Nice close...well worth remembering every day.

    Cheers mate

  2. Tru dat, as C would say. Hey - awesome on that mad run. You were flying!