“The marketing strategy of pricing mud crabs in half kilo is an obvious ploy to give a perception of value. But $27.60 a kilo at a restaurant is even cheaper than live mud crabs at the Sydney Fish Market which normally retail for around $30.”
When I first came to Sydney in the 1980s, good Chinese food was usually found in big Chinese restaurants in Chinatown. These restaurants are run by a consortium of owners offering anything from simple fried rice to elaborate seafood such as lobster and king crab.
Typical suburban Chinese restaurants were nothing more than small family businesses offering fried wonton, sweet and sour pork, lemon chicken and fried rice to unsophisticated diners. Thirty years on, Chinese has become one of the most popular and important mainstays in Sydney’s dining landscape.
Good Chinese food can be found in just about any corner of the city with a strong Asian community. Suburbs such as Chatswood in Sydney’s northshore, Kingsford, Kensington, Bondi and Maroubra in the east, Hurstville in the south and Cabramatta, Penrith, Parramatta, Carlingford, Beverly Hills, Canley Vale and Flemington in the west are littered with good Chinese restaurants to match the Chinatown stalwarts in the CBD.
Tonight, we decide to check out Tingha Chinese Restaurant which has been enticing diners with its bargain price of $8.80 per half kilogram of live mud crabs.
This restaurant is not the easiest to find in terms of its location because it is not visible from the main road. It is located inside the Tigers Club which is part of the Sydney Markets complex in Homebush West.
The dining room is rather spacious and being inside the club, you can enjoy a game of pool before dinner or hit the pokies if that’s your thing.
Crispy duck with yam is deep-fried with a crisp top and a thick gooey consistency inside. Duck breast on the bone is sandwiched underneath the layer of yam.
This is a popular Chinese dish with five spice flavour but personally, I have always wondered if fresh duck and mashed yam is the best of combinations. You do get a crispy layer on top but I’d rather have Chinese roast duck on its own or the classic yam ring with sauteed Asian vegetables.
Our friendly waiter Jack informs us there are two prices for live mud crabs – $8.80 and $13.80 per half kilo with the latter being better quality crabs. We choose the $13.80 per half kilo quality and Jack brings two live crabs weighing a total of 2.5 kilos and we opt for the ginger and shallots style.
The marketing strategy of pricing mud crabs in half kilo is an obvious ploy to give a perception of value. But $27.60 a kilo at a restaurant is even cheaper than live mud crabs at the Sydney Fish Market which normally retail for around $30.
(Note: We are informed by the restaurant these mud crab prices are CASH ONLY)
Ginger, shallots and garlic is the holy-trinity of Chinese cooking and the flavours here are good though a tad salty. The quality of these live crabs may not be the best as the meat is not as firm and chunky as some other mud crabs I have tasted but passable, nevertheless at these prices.
Wasabi beef cubes are too small because the spirit of this dish is in its big and chunky cubes.
The meat though tender is lacking the bold beef flavours while the generous wasabi and mayo sauce has a tinge of sweetness. I have had much better interpretations and this one unfortunately is rather forgettable.
Chinese mustard greens are gently parboiled before being stir-fried and I prefer this style because the texture has a gentler crunch compared to a straight stir-fry.
Flavours from shao xing wine and ginger sauce are good but the larger stems are older and a little chewy.
I am glad to have suggested a Chinese fried rice with chicken and salted fish to test the ‘kung fu’ of the chefs in the kitchen because this turned out to be the outstanding dish of our meal.
There can never be enough of good ‘wok hei’ or breath of the wok in this dish and the salted fish does its job in giving that wonderful salt complexity to the rice.
On the whole, Tingha Chinese Restaurant offers good value though food tonight is average compared to top tier Chinese restaurants in Sydney. Then again, I have had Chinese food in Tasmania and New Zealand but that’s another story altogether.
I would return to Tingha to check out stir-fried noodles, tofu hotpot, crispy skin chicken, sizzling Mongolian beef and salt and pepper pork ribs. Simple Chinese food you might say but I believe at second tier Chinese restaurants, this what they do best.
So dear readers, which is your favourite Chinese restaurant in Sydney?
Tingha Chinese Restaurant
Tigers Sydney Markets
250 – 318 Parramatta road
Homebush West, New South Wales
Tel: +61 2 8789 6300
Opening hours: Sunday to Thursday 10am to 10pm, Friday and Saturday 10am to 12pm. Yum cha daily from 10am.
Hint to get here: Enter the Sydney Markets complex via Parramatta road. Alternatively, enter via Homebush Bay Drive and walk through the Sydney Markets into the complex and retail shops area and walk up to the first level where the restaurant is located.