We’re meeting my friend Charlene for dim sum breakfast. All I’ve had since waking up is a cup of tea, and I am ravenous. Charlene has been telling me all about Northbridge Chinese Restaurant’s deep-fried soft shell crab and I can’t wait to taste it for myself. By the time we arrive in Northbridge, I think Jac is tired of listening to me talk about it!
We join the fidgety crowd on the front steps waiting for the restaurant to open. When the doors finally swing open, we all swarm in. At peak weekend dim sum time, you may have to wait for a table.
By the time we’re seated and the trolleys begin rolling by, everything looks unbelievably good and I want it all. Steamed scallop dumpling? Yes please! Steamed pork bun? Gimme gimme! Pretty soon, our table is loaded with steamer baskets.
While Jac and I dip our dumplings into hoisin sauce, Charlene drowns her dumplings in chilli oil.
A woman walks around the tables with trays of cold drinks and a pen in one hand to note on your docket what you’ve chosen. The first time around, we all choose the pink watermelon juice. The next time, Jac can’t resist the colourful and layered jelly sago drink. The drink is handed over with the instruction “Mix it up before you drink it”.
Jac and I share a bowl of century egg porridge. It’s ladled into a bowl, then topped with crispy fried pastry squares and chopped fresh spring onion. It’s steaming hot, so of course, I burn my tongue on my first spoonful. I smile as I eat, thinking of my almost-three-year-old niece Zoe at dim sum with my family, trying century egg porridge for the first time. She happily ate all the black bits of century egg but spat out every single strand of spring onion.
The food keeps coming! We can’t resist the deep-fried squid tentacles. Charlene and I are still keeping an eye out for the soft shell crab dish.
The slippery rice flour rolls are available with different fillings, including prawns, barbecue pork and yow char kwai (deep fried dough) – we choose prawns.
We all enjoy our token vegetable dish of kai lan with oyster sauce, bright green and juicy-leafed with crisp stalks.
At last, the deep-fried soft shell crab. It’s verging on too salty but it’s irresistibly good. We eat it all, picking every last morsel of batter, crab and garlic off the plate.
Charlene and Jac have tau foo far, silken tofu in sugar syrup, served hot. It’s a dish I’ve never been fond of – I’ve always thought it’s too much tofu, not enough syrup!
I’m not done yet – for me, dim sum is not complete without a favourite item since childhood: egg tart.
Eating an egg tart fresh and warm from the oven makes me happy. The rustle of the patty paper in my hand, the crispy frills of slightly oily pastry, the soft egg custard in the middle, so soft I feel like I could lap it up…
As the trolleys continue rolling by, the thought of another dish makes us all feel a little ill, a sign that it’s time to go. The staff are ready to whisk the dirty cloth off our table the second we stand up. There are people watching from the sidelines, waiting to claim our table, eager to be among the bustle and food.
You know it’s been a successful dim sum outing when you don’t need lunch that day and a post-dim sum nap beckons.
Northbridge Chinese Restaurant, Northbridge
Open 7 days
Charlene and I attended the same university but became friends and met (in that order) through our blogs. We juggle life, work and our creative passions, and get together every few months to eat and catch up. We’re both storytellers and like to take photographs. You might like to check out one of Charlene’s current projects, Migrant Mothers – stories and images of women who came to Australia from elsewhere in the world and have now built a life here.