Emerald Square Burwood
31 Belmore St
Burwood, NSW 2134
A good few years back, K went on a month-long trip to the US to hang with his relatives, and proceeded to be inundated with so many rounds of yum cha that he couldn’t look at a prawn dumpling without gagging for months after. I thought it was pretty funny at the time, and gave him a good amount of grief over it. But as they say, what goes around comes around, and a few years later I was back in Kunming, where my relatives ‘treated’ us to so much of the oily, chilli-heavy local cuisine (basically think Sichuan food) that I’m convinced it was responsible for the gastritis I developed sometime last year.
It turns out however that you apparently can’t take the Kunming out of the girl, because after I got a few salads in me, I was right back on the spicy food bandwagon, even if my stomach isn’t as strong as it once was. And my choice of Chongqing Street Noodle for dinner is living proof of that undying love, because aside from noodles (spicy, of course), what you’ll find here is a wide range of fried, braised, and marinated street-styled snacks, almost all of which are doused in chilli oil.
The namesake dish here is the aptly-named Signature Noodles ($11.8) – a ferocious-looking bowl of hand-pulled noodles garnished with minced pork and crushed peanuts. But despite appearances, this was actually a very easy eat, the chillies adding less heat and more of a smoky warmth. Dare I say it even erred a bit on the bland side?
The noodles themselves however were absolutely fantastic. Freshly made to order, they had an unbeatably chewy texture, as well as that distinctive bicarbonate flavour I enjoy so much in my noodles. The soup may be lacking in depth, but these were more than good enough to eat on their own.
Not wanting to have a meal of nothing but spicy things, I decided to try one of the few non-spicy noodle options on the menu – the Chongqing Cold Noodles ($9.8). Unexpectedly, this was the winner of the night. First impressions may see a little underwhelming, but once you toss it through with the sauce of caramelised black vinegar and crispy chilli oil pooled at the bottom, that’s when the magic happens. The careful balance between savoury, tangy, and spicy ensured that each bite was flavoursome and moreish without being cloying, and the addition of fresh sprouts and crunchy peanuts scattered throughout provided textural interest. Even if you’re not familiar with cold noodles, I implore you to give this a go – it might just be the bowl that changes your mind.
I had grabbed the Shredded Cucumber with Sauce ($4.8) with the intention of it being something of a palate cleanser between all those bites of carb. Unfortunately this was not the tangy vinegar-garlic rendition that I had expected, but one that’s doused in chilli oil (I’m getting some déjà vu here). And just like the signature noodles, these were actually rather bland despite their appearance, and leaning close to unpleasantly oily. I’m usually one to clean everything on every plate, but some of this actually ended up uneaten.
I could not believe my eyes when I saw Iced Jelly ($1) on the menu. This is a dessert I absolutely love, yet have never seen outside of southern China. The combination of clear jelly in ice-cold brown sugar water alone is delightfully refreshing, but it’s the variety of toppings that give it personality. In this case, it’s a combination of hawthorn flakes, sticky rice, sesame, and sultanas. And yes, you read right – it’s ONE SINGLE DOLLARYDOO each bowl!
For the uninitiated, the Rice Curd with Browned Sugar ($5.8) may seem like an unexpected thing to be excited about, but trust me – you’ll want to order this. Basically, think long pieces of plain mochi, pan-fried until the outside is golden whilst the middle remains stretchy, then drowned in a rich, sweet syrup of caramelised brown sugar and topped with powdered peanut. It’s crispy, chewy, sweet, and just a tad savoury all at once, and it’s just incredible how addictive the combination is.
Chongqing Street Noodle is a lovely little taste (metaphorically and literally) of the place where I was born, and for that alone, I liked my meal here. Sentiment-aside, this is still a pretty reasonable place to grab a bite to eat. I know from experience that the food – especially the signature noodles – could be better, but that doesn’t mean that the food here wasn’t enjoyable in their own right. This falls into the category of places where although I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat at again, I would be perfectly happy to come back to, if for nothing else than the iced jelly.
Rating: 12.5/20 – taste of home.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.