Not long after I returned from my London/Paris trip, I convinced (coerced) my parents to go to Tian Ci, a vegan yum cha restaurant I’ve been meaning to visit for ages. I wouldn’t compare it to Bodhi, simply because it’s not a flashy café/restaurant in the heart of the city but a rather authentic Chinese eatery offering the same yum cha experience I grew up loving.
Driving along the bustling Victoria Road, it’s a glass-fronted shop that’s easily missed if you don’t know what you’re looking for. I had one of those “… is that it?!” moments when we walked up to the shop, but fought the urge to judge this restaurant by it’s shopfront.
Either way, once you know what you’re looking for, this bright neon sign is pretty hard to miss – even in broad daylight.
Quick disclaimer, please forgive me for the half-assed food photos. Yum cha is a very ordinary occurrence to my parents so I didn’t want to take up too much of their time getting the perfect shot of each dish. These photos don’t quite do the dishes justice! A lot of the items looked so legit, even my omnivorous parents were intrigued by the presentation.
Yum Cha Must-Have #1: 蝦餃 (har gao) or prawn dumplings
Yum Cha Must-Have #2: 燒賣 (shāo mài) or … don’t know what these are called in English 🙁
Yes, okay I’m sorry I didn’t take a photo of the innards of these glorious glutinous rice things wrapped inside lotus leaves! But let me tell you, they were delicious! Chinese mushrooms did well to give it that authentic flavour.
鮮竹卷 or fried tofu skin rolls. These left a bit to be desired, especially if this is/was your favourite meaty dish at yum cha. I don’t think they had enough filling and was a bit oilier than it should be.
Another item we wouldn’t get again, this rice noodle roll was very plain and maybe a bit too oily for my liking. These were also meant to be slightly pan-fried to give it that crusty, chewiness on the outside but it wasn’t.
These vegan BBQ pork buns (aka cha siu bao) were one of my top choices. Fluffy, sweet bun on the outside to go with its hearty BBQ pork filling, this was a hit with my meat-loving parents too!
I was curious about these seafood rolls even though I’ve never had them at ‘normal’ yum cha. Mum told me they’re usually made of imitation crab sticks and wrapped the same way with nori sheet so these weren’t too far off. I really enjoyed these fried, crispy rolls of konjac (?) – I’m not sure what they were made of but I sure as hell would order them again.
Ooo.. check out that steamy goodness! At mum’s request, we ordered this vegan 千層糕 which literally translates to “1000 layer cake”. By the time this came out, I was already pretty full so I only had a tiny bit. I think mum liked this one, I’d ask her right now but she’s in Hong Kong probably devouring the real thing.
So did I like it? Absolutely.
Would I come back? Not any time soon.
Do I recommend it? Hellz yeah! Vegan restaurants are still scarce in Sydney so why not branch out a bit and try the variety that’s available!