121/133 Burwood Rd
Burwood, NSW 2134
Burwood Chinatown may not be quite the same as the street food hubs found all over Asia that it’s clearly trying to be, but I gotta say, it certainly comes closer than anything else I’ve seen in Australia. There’s an impressive selection of tiny shopfronts packed into the relatively small area, spruiking all things Asian that can be eaten whilst walking and gawking. The whole sector is topped off with an outdoor courtyard, a good-sized playground, and plenty of room for live music and popup stalls on the weekends. The enclosed space does unfortunately get rather cramped during peak hour, but I guess you can just chalk it up to being part of the experience.
Don’t miss: Guo Kui Master
Hold off on: Milk Flower
If you’re heading to Burwood Chinatown, Guo Kui Master should be your first stop, because there’s nothing else quite like it. Their Beef Pancake ($8) is slapped onto the side of a cylindrical clay oven, tandoori-style, and the result is a delightfully thin and crisp flatbread, flavoured with spiced meat and a hint of smokiness. It is very moreish indeed.
Whilst waiting for my Guo Kui, I succumbed to a serve of Takoyaki ($12, 8pcs) from Grab & Go, after seeing that it was made in a real-deal takoyaki pan. It’s pretty decent, with that signature mouth-burning gooeyness you can only get from making them in a takoyaki pan, but the batter was not as flavoursome as I would like, and more octopus would’ve been welcome. But not to worry – there’s plenty of other treats to be had here from all corners of Asia if you’re unimpressed by octopus balls.
I’ll admit it, I’m a complete and utter sucker for lamb skewers, and the Signature Lamb Skewers ($12.9, 5pcs) at Lovin’ Lamb really are as good as they get. Cooked over a undoubtedly carcinogenic quantity of coals, these skewers were hypnotically smoky and spicy, the tender pieces of lamb interspersed with decadent chunks of sizzling fat.
Though not quite in Chinatown proper, Tian Jing Shi Tang is well worth the 50m walk down the road. True to its name, it is a bona fide Chinese-styled canteen cooking up all sorts of quick snacks to go, as well as a selection of home-style meals. The Traditional Chinese Egg Pancake ($8.8) is the most quintessential of Chinese street foods, the thin crepe-styled pancake cooked with a couple eggs cracked over the top, then folded with deep fried crackers and a combination of hoisin and chilli sauce. It’s soft and crispy and sweet and savoury all at once. And if carb-on-carb really isn’t your thing, you can ask to have everything from pickled vegetables to pork floss added in. This place is a huge nostalgia trip, and pretty great in every way, except someone really need to tell them that the menu should say ‘black sesame sugar flatbread’, not ‘semen sesami pie’ (I hope, anyway).
The Signature Mango Milk Flower ($11.8) from Milk Flower may look good, but don’t be fooled. For starters, it comes pre-made – who even does that these days? And when you actually get around to drinking it, the combination of mango puree and coconut milk is just the right (that’s to say, wrong) viscosity for it to be neither drink nor dessert, and it just ends up feeling sort of unwholesome. I did enjoy the addition of coconut jelly and sago, but you can get that in plenty of other things that isn’t this.
Instead, if you’re after something sweet, give Lelesu a go. These little cakes are a little hard to describe, but think a very short, and extremely flaky pastry, filled with all manner of fillings both sweet and savoury. The Custard Pastry ($2.8), colloquially known as the Husband Pastry (yes there is a wife pastry) holds a thick, eggy filling that has just the right amount of sweetness. Meanwhile, the Matcha Osmanthus Red Bean Pastry ($3.3ea) is a good example of the all the key Asian dessert flavours, and would go wonderfully with a cup of green tea.