As you pass Mamak and round the corner into Dixon Street, a red and yellow sign comes into view. In mustard block letters it shouts: E-A-T-I-N-G W-O-R-L-D.
There, through a set of sliding glass doors, is one of Sydney’s favourite food courts. As the name suggests, it is a utopia of exotic foods. On every side of the tacky white-and-orange interior, glowing storefronts invite you to taste luminescent soups and whole fried fishes.
In the don’t-let-appearances-fool-you case for the food court, Exhibit A is Gumshara. Here you’ll find possibly the best, definitely the meatiest, bowl of ramen in Sydney. The name of Japanese expat Mori Higashida’s speciality is Tonkotsu: a creamy broth made from 120 collagen-filled pork bones, which break down over days of careful cooking. This stock is ladled over a bowl of ramen noodles, topped with bamboo shoots, nori and delicate slices of chashu pork and slid across the metal counter into hungry hands.
If one dish dominates the trays of the diners at Eating World, it’s whole fish. Get it steamed and drowning in chilli sauce at Soya King or fresh out of the deep fryer from At Thai. This second option is called “stand up” fish. It looks as though it has swum through hot oil and dived straight onto the plate. The golden skin gives way to juicy flesh infused with your choice of sauce (the vinegary Thai salad of fresh vegetables, herbs and nuts is a winner) and is served with rice and soup.
Next door at Indonesian vendor Pondok Selera, load up a combination plate with spicy tomato and tamarind eggplant, Javanese fried chicken and ikan bilis (dried anchovies) with peanuts and crispy potato straws. Or go for the classic nasi lemak with extra sambal. Oily, slightly chewy pastry stacks (roti canai) with curry dipping sauce is an essential side dish.
You could spend an inordinate amount of time staring at the menu at Sydney Foodie Station. It features everything from sticky braised pork with bean sprouts to stir-fried clams with soupy garlic sauce. For the full flavor experience, start with salt-and-pepper eels and hot tea mushroom with vegetables. Then move on to hearty fried pork and whole sweet-and-sour fish.
Near the entrance, Red Charcoal BBQ is folding up foil packages of smoky, chillicoated skewers. These sticks are loaded with moist squares of fat that sit between perfectly tender squares of lamb, chicken, giblets and alligator (depending on how game you are). While you wait for your meats to char, order a Chinese pancake and watch as the batter is poured onto the grill, with an egg spread on top, to cook. Once it’s ready, coriander, fried Chinese breadstick and ham are sprinkled and parceled up in a soft golden cylinder.
On your way out, look for Phoung Special Vietnamese’s tiny sign. This lunch spot makes traditional pork rolls for less than $ 5 that are some of the most authentic bánh mì this side of Cabramatta. The crunchy, pâteé-coated buns encase pickled carrot, coriander, cucumber, spring onion, plenty of chilli and some fantastically soft pork. Wash it down with a condensed-milk iced coffee or a Vietnamese tea for an extra $ 2, and you’ve got yourself a lunch that sets you up for anything your afternoon throws at you.
25-29 Dixon Street, Haymarket