Hor mok yang at Khao Pla – $8
Although the hor mok yang (grilled-fish curry in a banana-leaf parcel) appears on the starters section of Khao Pla’s menu, in Thailand this rich street-food dish is regularly eaten as a meal with a side of rice. The fish is mixed with red curry, slivers of kaffir lime leaves and coconut milk and whipped into a sort of mousse. It’s steamed in a parcel and takes on the subtly sweet flavour of the banana-leaf wrapper.
XL black-garlic tonkotsu udon at Marukame Udon – $9.90
Marukame Udon runs a canteen-style lunch with a large picture menu outside the front door to help prepare for the speedy service inside. Udon noodles made in-house comprise most of the menu; they’re served in soup, topped with egg or Wagyu beef or by themselves in a container so large it can be accurately described as a bucket.
The simple black-garlic tonkotsu udon is a standout dish. The fresh noodles have a springy texture and absorb some of the salty pork-based broth. Sweet, crunchy cabbage leaves and a spoonful of yellow corn are the only toppings, and the dish is finished with a swirl of smoky black-garlic oil.
Crispy chicken with side of green beans at Cheers Cut – $13.30
To say that Cheers Cut’s chicken is generous doesn’t do the Taiwanese-style pounded then fried chicken justice. A 12-ounce, big-as-your-face piece makes an enormous meal, but with a still-filling eight-ounce piece you can get a side of bright green beans sautéed with garlic in a pan so hot the skins blister, all for just over $10.
BBQ pork buns at Tim Ho Wan – three for $9.50
Well known as the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world, Tim Ho Wan is a Hong Kong transplant that landed in Sydney three years ago. Since the opening of two other Sydney locations, queues at the Chatswood shop have mellowed, making the wait for the unique pork buns bearable.
Rather than the usual steamed preparation, Tim Ho Wan’s pork buns are baked. Wrapped around a mixture of sticky pork is a sweet dough that’s baked to a crisp-but-not-golden finish. The result is a satisfying mixture of textures: crunchy, soft and chewy.
Karaage and kakuni bao at Hakata Maru – $5.40 each
Hakata Maru makes everything in-house: the ramen noodles, the soup broth and the Japanese-inspired bao(a Taiwanese taco-like snack made with a steamed bun).Kakuni is a braised pork belly cooked in sweet soy sauce for three hours until, as owner Hide Tsuboi says, “it has a melt-in-mouth texture.” The accompaniments are simple: crisp lettuce and Kewpie mayo.
Karaage, a soy-marinated, deep-fried chicken, is served with spicy Kewpie mayo and kimchi pickles.
Hand-ripped noodles topped with cumin lamb at Noodle Warriors – $11.30
Noodle Warriors isn’t as slick-looking as its neighbours in Hawker Lane, but the food is outstanding. Lamb is a northern-Chinese favourite, and Noodle Warriors prides itself on its delicately spiced cumin lamb. It’s served atop a steaming bed of wide, flat, hand-ripped noodles that are torn-to-order with graceful flourishes in the stall’s tiny kitchen.