21 February 2013
Fujia Traditional Restaurant ~ Chinese - Broadway
Yes, it's Chinese food Jim, but maybe not as you know it.
It's interesting how our perception of Chinese food has changed over the last few decades.When we were growing up, Chinese food was fried rice, mongolian lamb, honey prawns, deep fried pieces of pork in sweet and sour and beef and black bean (and it still is many a club bistro). Then a few years ago there seemed to be a shift. If you suggest Chinese for dinner now more than likely most people would think of dumplings and noodles, seafood or even a fancy pants fusion joint with designer chopsticks for double the price.
Then you find out all these other dimensions to Chinese food, dishes that come from other regions and special ways of cooking that are close to the heart of Chinese folk from the cold north, dusty far west or sunny south, and what you know or understand as Chinese food starts to shift.
When we first sat down in Fujia the menu looked excitingly new. There were pages and pages of cold dishes, hot pots and others cooked in an autoclave (pressure cooker to you and me). We feel lost, not quite sure what to order, a little out of our depth. And that's exactly how we like it.
We ask the boss folks about the food origins. Turns out it (and they) are from the northern city of Harbin, home to minus 30 degree winters, ice festivals and Russian emigres. That explains the hearty and almost unrecognisable style of dishes then.
We order spinach and nuts ($10.80) from the cold section of the menu. This is a a humdinger of a dish: water spinach with loads of garlic and crunchy peanuts. There's something tangy and subtle in the dressing that we can't put a finger on. It's a good main-sized serve. Fantastic.
We asked the boss bloke "what's the best?" He points to the sweet and sour chicken ($14.80) special on the wall. We'll take it. His next suggestion was pig lung. We chickened out of that one after a not so nice lung dish at the old Pondok Bayung haunting us still. The boss bloke tells us this sweet and sour chook is a speciality from northern China. It's a huge serve with peanuts, capsicum and lots of protein. We like it. A great combo with the spinach.
Northern vegetables salad - $10.80. Fine shreds of chinese cabbage, onions and green stalks speckled with dried chilli and then tossed in a slightly sweet and vinegary dressing. When we ask why there are so many cold dishes on the menu we're told its a tradition to eat a cold dish first, then hot. We oblige with the rules.
We also ask about the vegetables in the northern salad as they taste chewy yet springy. The boss lady finds out for us (it's chinese cabbage shredded so you wouldn't recognise it) and then asks us in return to help her better translate 'autoclave'. You might not see it written like that in the menu next time.
Pork with corn, potatoes and beans cooked in the autoclave - $15.80. The autoclave dishes on the menu intrigue us. Alison looks it up online and wonders if it really is the sterilisation unit for medical instruments being put to good use. Turns out its a pressure cooking method to cook everything together into a tasty hot and utterly satisfying dish. Fresh minced garlic on top gives a reviving flavour hit, while a thick sauce from the melting potatoes causes an end of dinner tussle for the leftovers.
Pork spicy fish with rice - $8.50. A pile of shredded bamboo shoot, black fungus and pork in a sauce similar to the sweet and sour chicken. A good filling feed with a generous portion of rice.
Szechuan dan dan noodle - $9.80. We love cold noodles, and when this dish came out we were happy to find it only slightly warm. There's a generosity of chilli, minced pork and noodles, with a milky sauce carrying the chilli oil along the surface. Szechuan peppercorns give you that 'crazy mouth' feeling.
Mince acid beans - $12.80. We were hoping for some kind of Frank Zappa electric kool aid wonder after eating the acid beans but it turns out they are preserved, somewhat pickled green beans chopped into small pieces mixed with pieces of pork. The big hits of fried chilli give a mean kick, eat a few of those for a different kind of high.
Ma po tofu - about $10. The Chinese classic of soft tofu and pork mince in a spicy sauce with chili and mouth tingling Szechuan peppercorns.
Pork rib, potato and tofu hotpot- $9.80. A nice meaty broth with some lovely sweet lardy pork chunks, veggies and firm tofu. There was no potato but there were potato noodles, which are clear and perfect flavour soakers. The sweetness of this dish made it a perfect partner for the spicy ma po tofu.
Fujia Traditional Restaurant had us bursting with food-nerd happiness on every visit, and has instantly become one of our all-time Sydney favourites. It's the kind of food we normally have to forage for around the side-streets of Hurstville or Auburn, or China for that matter.
Fujia Traditional Restaurant is at 159 Broadway, Ultimo