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The best yum cha in Sydney

Because nothing says 'Sydney weekend' like a bowl full'a dumplings and mango pancakes for pud

Photograph: Anna Kucera

Fluffy pork buns. Silky, thin tofu skin. Beef tendon. The sweetest prawn dumplings. Here is our definitive list of the best trolley spots in Sydney.

8

Golden Unicorn

Must Order: Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce

A favourite of surfers at the ’Bra as well as Chinese nannas, this modest beige room has some of the nicest staff on the yum cha circuit, even if their dumpling skins aren’t always silky-soft. They do a good fried cheong fun (rice noodle roll) though, and serve one of the rare mango pancakes where the batter hasn’t been dyed safety orange. It’s cheap, too: perfect for some post-swim dumpling action.

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Maroubra
7

Sunny Harbour Seafood Restaurant

Must Order: Stuffed Chinese donuts, wrapped in rice noodles

A perennial favourite with yum cha fans the city over, Sunny Harbour is a multi-level Canto-palace featuring some of the more interesting dim sum on offer, like braised tripe, congee and stuffed donuts. We’re suckers in general for those Chinese donut sticks wrapped in soft noodle sheets, but the version here goes one better, stuffing the middle with (what we think is) scallop mousse. It’s prawn-o-rama here too, with rounds of sweet braised eggplant stuffed with chopped-up prawn; prawn and scallop dumplings topped with a tiny scallop; and hargau (plain prawn dumplings) boasting a very respectable 11 folds, despite their thickish skin. Favourites like fried cheong fun (rice noodle rolls) and extremely garlicky garlic chive dumplings make their way around, as do sweet, crisp snow pea dumplings and tiny custard tarts. The thing is, though, all the action is downstairs. Our upstairs corner table (the place is absolutely rammed at lunch) is in Siberia and while downstairs is a wonderland of hot grills, plenty of greens and interesting desserts, upstairs feels more like an afterthought. Our advice? Take a posse and book, or insist on a downstairs table for maximum action.

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Hurstville
6

Sea Treasure

Must Order: Huge mango pancakes

In Sydney, the hallmark way to while away the midday hours on a Sunday is yum cha. Sure, the artery-clogging feeding frenzies in Haymarket are good fun when book-ended by a trawl through Paddy’s Markets and butchershops. But across the bridge exists proof positive that yum cha can be so much more than a cheapskate shortcut to self-induced food coma. At Crows Nest’s polished Sea Treasure, the produce is a notch above – even the schools of fish staring out from the tanks at the restaurant’s entrance seem smilier. Watching the floor show – waiters netting and transporting huge bags of wriggling fish to the kitchens, trolley dollies ricocheting between tables wielding wicker steamers full of dumplings, and maitre d’s radioing orders and bookings ahead like generals in a warzone – is better than watching an entire festival of Cantonese kung-fu films. Their salt and pepper mud crab is as good as it gets.

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Crows Nest
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5

Fisherman's Wharf

Must Order: Live prawns

Fisherman's Wharf is one of the better locations in town with spectacular views of Blackwattle Bay and the most impressive fish tank in town. This thing has the best range of seafood you're likely to find from pipis and scallops to coral trout and yabbies. And it'd want to - it's right above the Sydney Fish Market.

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Pyrmont
4

The Eight

Must Order: Barbecue pork knuckle

There are a couple of good reasons to eat yum cha here. The main is the fresh seafood. Well, you’d want to hope so, considering its location, perched on top of the Sydney Fish Market. The tanks are filled with coral trout, lobsters and there’s a special shallow pool just for live prawns. If live seafood’s not for you (it can get exxy, especially if you’re big on crab) go straight for the dumplings. They’re big fans of foisting Peking duck pancakes and deep-fried dumplings on the table if you’re not vigilant enough to stop them, which isn’t the worst thing in the world, though it can be annoying if you have a game plan that involves steamed Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce, har gau and siu mai. If you want Peking duck pancakes, we’d suggest heading out to Beverly Hills Friendship Oriental instead and ordering a whole duck. This here is seafood town.

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Haymarket
3

Kam Fook

Must Order: Rice noodles with sesame and hoisin

This joint has a golden dragon with glowing eyes set into a feature wall. Oh, and enormous chandeliers sparkling from the ceiling. Fun. Carts do the rounds filled with silky scallop and snow-pea dumplings and plates of surprisingly light pan-fried rice noodles dusted with toasted sesame seeds and served with a side sauce of hoisin and sesame paste. These babies are often greasy when they come off the grill; here, they’re cooked hot and fast. Fresh pork mixed with prawns and stuffed into wonton wrappers make the siu mai a must-order, while the barbecue pork buns are super hot. There’s an excellent moment when we ask for said buns, and the trolley nanna pulls a sad face and says “only chicken” like she’s got the worst cart in the world. But seriously. Who orders the chicken?

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Chatswood
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2

Marigold

Must Order: Har gau (prawn dumplings)

Did you know that dumplings are double the size in Sydney that they are in Melbourne? Scout's honour - the ones in Sydney you pretty much need to bite in half, whereas Melbourne's versions generally go straight in the cake hole. You also get more variation here and the trolleys make the rounds more regularly. Best bets at Marigold are the pork knuckles, beef tendon, fried radish cakes and prawn dumplings. Banquetting it up? Expect stuffed crab claw, scallops in birds nest and all your seafood favourites.

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Haymarket
1

Dynasty Chinese

Must Order: Steamed barbecue pork buns

If you haven’t spent a lot of time in western suburbs leagues clubs, you may not have experienced the unbridled joy of finding a wonderland of air-conditioned comfort in the middle of a scorching Syd­­­­­­­­ney summer day. And Canterbury Leagues boasts a mini rainforest complete with a waterfall in the middle of their foyer. Once you’re over the initial “have I actually stepped onto the set of Blue Lagoon?”, walk over the little wooden footbridge behind the waterfall and bowls of floating lilies to Dynasty, where some of the best yum cha we’ve had in Sydney awaits. From sweet, glossy, baked barbecue pork buns to an impressive 12 folds in their prawn dumplings, there’s a level of quality and care here that really takes it to the next level. It’s a little slower than you might be used to at the generally fast-paced yum cha restaurants around town, where the food comes flying at you combined with insults, frowns and waggling fingers, depending on which trolley pusher you’ve upset by not taking their wares. But a little extra time between dishes means more time to admire the room and the fresh tanks, filled with lobsters, barramundi and baby abalone. You might order sticky, glutinous dumplings filled with pork, peanuts, coriander root and water chestnut, or you might go to the unicorn of dishes – that thing we never know how to say in Cantonese and watch as they go to other tables – the Chinese doughnut sticks wrapped in steamed rice noodles. It’s all about that combinat

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Belmore

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By: Time Out editors