The last five years have really seen Sydney’s Chinese dining establishments broaden from ubiquitous Cantonese-Australian. You can now get a reasonably authentic look at everything from Cantonese to mouth-numbing Sichuan; from Hunan cuisine at restaurants like Chairman Mao in Kensington, to Jinxiang cuisine enjoyed by Uyghurs in China’s West. If you look a bit harder, you’ll find Yunnanese dishes at restaurants like Two Sticks, the odd bit of Shandong (usually chicken) and North-Eastern Chinese dishes like malatang at Yang Gou Fu Malatang.
If you’ll head into the ‘burbs, you can also tick off Fujian cuisine, along with most of China’s eight main culinary traditions. However what you might not already be familiar with is Hakka cuisine. This cuisine is associated with the Chinese diaspora. It’s Central Plain Chinese food influenced by everywhere the Hakka were displaced to as a result of social upheaval. Many Hakka moved south, so when you visit Wei Long Hakka Cuisine, you will probably find it looks and tastes a bit like Cantonese food...
Owner Austin Wang starts our night off right by greeting my dining companion by name when we arrive for our booking. He’s clearly excited to be presenting the dishes of his childhood inside this nicely appointed, three-storey split level restaurant on Bathurst Street.
We’re a bit excited too, selecting a not entirely cohesive meal from the nicely illustrated menu.
We started with a Hakka staple – Dry Noodles ($8.80) – which arrive first as a dish rather than an accompaniment. They’re simple, savoury egg noodles, and a silky pleasure to eat.
Orange Dust Tomatoes ($11.80) arrive next – a white bowl of bright red, skinned raw tomatoes sprinkled generously with dried orange skin. They're unusual but very palate refreshing.
Pineapple Quail Eggs ($18.80) presents flash fried soft-centred quail eggs in a sweetish pineapple and capsicum sauce. It initially doesn’t appeal, but when eaten in contrast to hotter dishes like fragrant Clams in Hot Chilli Oil ($28.80), it grows on me.
As for the clams, I'm pleased to report their spicy treatment doesn’t overwhelm the juicy brine from the gently cooked bivalves.
I reset my mouth with Smashed Cucumber Salad ($9.80) between forays into the hot, oily pot of clams and bean sprouts that’s littered with dried spices. The salad is wet, juicy and dripping in garlic.
Wang explains the greens accompanying the Beef in Rice Wine Lees ($21.80) are similar to Chinese cabbage. They’re cooked with enough crispness to be texturally pleasurable against the super-soft pieces of iron-rich beef. Texture is an important part of Hakka cuisine, so you'll likely notice many toothsome pleasures across your meal. You'll enjoy Hakka food if you like dishes that are simple and honest.
Wang’s stellar hospitality continues right to the end of our meal, when he makes us a number of recommendations for next time based upon the dishes we enjoyed. The price of our meal felt reasonable; and it was further buoyed by being allowed to bring our own sake on a busy Friday night.
Wei Long Hakka Cuisine
Shop 330, Millennium Tower, 289-295 Sussex Street, Sydney (enter Bathhurst Street)
Ph: (02) 9283 3570