Introducing three dishes that will change the way you think about Chinese cuisine, including authentic Xi’an-style burgers, spicy Sichuan fried chicken, and a Beijing twist on spaghetti bolognese.
A popular street food in the Shaanxi province of Northwest China, the rou jia mo is set to take the Australia burger scene by storm. This Xi’an-style hamburger features a soft, pita-style bun that’s grilled with cumin-spiced lamb or pulled pork. Some people even go so far as to call it the “world’s first hamburger”.
In the Melbourne CBD, you can get your rou jia mo fix at Xi’an Famous, where the crisped Chinese burgers come filled with stewed pork, beef or lamb, laced with cumin and chilli. At Mr Bun in Perth, order the juicy pulled pork version with refreshing cucumber. Sydney’s Xi’an Cuisine offers cut-price rou jia ma with pork, spicy beef, or a vegetarian version with egg and green chilli.
We’ve long been fans of KFC (Korean fried chicken, that is), but for a seriously spicy take on fried chicken this winter, we’re digging into Chongqing chicken.
Hailing from the streets of Chengdu, in the Sichuan province, Chongqing chicken is one of the hottest dishes going around. Nubs of golden fried chicken are hidden among a jumble of smoky, spicy dried chillies, garlic and spring onion.
You can sample this eye-popping dish at Sichuan Bang Bang, in Brisbane, where it comes with the added crunch of potato chips. In Melbourne, cross your fingers that Victor Liong’s special of Chongqing chicken skin is on the specials menu at Lee Ho Fook, or pop across the river to Spice Temple, where chef Neil Perry does a wicked version with chicken wings. And in Adelaide, From Orient offers the double whammy of Chongqing chicken and mini Chinese burgers with slow-braised pork.
It’s believed that explorer Marco Polo brought pasta to Italy, so it should come as no surprise that the Chinese have been dishing out their own take on spaghetti bolognese for centuries. In the cooler months, we can’t get enough of zha jiang mian, a Beijing specialty of thick wheat noodles (similar to an udon noodle) and pork mince in a salty-sweet soybean sauce. Add a garnish of shredded cucumber, a dollop of chilli paste and a drizzle of chinkiang (black vinegar), then toss it all together.
In our experience, the most unassuming restaurants offer the best examples of this simple dish. In Sydney’s China Town, hightail it to Chinese Noodle House for the knife-sliced noodle in pork mince sauce. The no-frills Gourmet Dumpling Restaurant in the Melbourne suburb of Malvern does a hearty version, labelled simply as ‘pork sauce with noodle’ on the menu (the spicy dan-dan version is also worth a nudge). And Kung Fu Kitchen in Perth dishes out authentic zha jiang mian alongside other Northern Chinese specialties.
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