A plate of bright red, raw tomatoes sprinkled with dried orange skin is placed on the table. Not long after, a patty of wafer-like pumpkin strands, interlocked with chunks of melon, appear. This isn't the Chinese food most of Sydney knows. As far as we can tell, Austin Wang’s restaurant, Wei Long Hakka, is the only Hakka restaurant in Sydney.
Hakka are the most diasporic of the Chinese ethnic groups; worldwide the population numbers 80 million. “There are different people living in different places, but the main traditional dishes are the same,” says Wang. The most famous are dongjiang, salt-baked chicken (ginger chicken, or rooster in this case, baked in a cake of salt) and kiu nyuk (thick pork belly slices stewed with preserved mustard greens, dark soy and sugar, which Wang serves with steamed bao).
Many people used to Australian-Cantonese food (the most common variety of Chinese food in Sydney) may be surprised by how light and simple some of the food can be. “It's quite different because Hakka food is not very sweet; we want to concentrate on the flavour of the ingredients,” he says.
This is Wang’s second restaurant. He owns another similar restaurant in Guangzhou. After living in Sydney for 10 years, and not having anywhere to eat his favourite childhood dishes, (aside from at home), he decided to bring his food here. Two of the most personal dishes for Wang are ngiong tew foo (slabs of pork-stuffed tofu sitting in a sizzling mushroom stew), something Wang says every Hakka knows, and the simple dry egg noodles. “More than 80 per cent of people in my hometown eat this. It's very traditional.”
The other thing he brought was Liantai Li, a veteran Hakka chef with several awards for his work in China. “He's been working in my hometown, Meizhou, for many years,” Wang says, visibly proud. “He is very excited. He was one of the best chefs in my home town and now he has a chance to [show his food here].”
Wei Long Hakka
Shop 330, Millennium Tower, 289–295 Sussex Street, opening on Bathurst Street, Sydney
(02) 9283 3570
Mon to Sun 11am–3pm, 5pm–11pm