Memorable Meals

You know how sometimes you have a life-changing meal? I don’t necessarily mean those meals at posh restaurants. I’ve had a few of those, and I’ve blogged about them here. I mean those meals which stay in your memory forever.

On the downside, I thought I was going to die from food poisoning, after eating some tiramisu at a cafe in Melbourne. I mean, seriously, I thought I was dying. But on the positive, I once had lamb with cumin at a restaurant in China, and I’ve been trying to find something nearly as good ever since.

My friend Kate was living in China when I visited her in 2010.  We were visiting a range of galleries in the 798 (arts) district, and I tasted lamb with cumin for the very first time.

Lamb chops for lunch in Beijing

Ever since then I’ve been trying to find that same meal again. There’s a terrific Sichuan restaurant in Sydney, Red Chilli, which has come close. But it has never been quite as good as the original.

Tonight, I got close at a restaurant in Chinatown called, “Dragon Phoenix Fish”.

Lamb with cumin in Sydney

Still not as good as the meal I had more than a decade ago in China, but it came close, in terms of the texture and flavour.

“You know it’s hot? Do you need a fork?” the waitress asked me. As I looked around, I was the only non-Asian face in the restaurant, and I concede the menu might have been a little “challenging” for many Australians. But I enjoyed it very much, and I didn’t need a fork.

“Hey Kate”, I messaged my friend on Facebook, telling her I’d found something nearly as good as that original meal we had.

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  1. Andrew

    Lamb with cumin? Maybe good. My brain can’t work out the taste.

    I had a bowl of pork based soup in Hoi An, Vietnam. It was to die for. Back in Australia, I could not find anything close.

    I am not a fan of goulash, but in Budapest I had a bowl of goulash soup and it was stunningly delicious. Again, I could not find it in Australia.

  2. marcellous

    Cumin (with chilli) is a standard flavour for lamb skewers typically sold throughout China by street vendors, normally Muslims from Xinjiang. Even a westerner should be able to spot the pictographic element in the third character out of these four: 羊肉串儿 – which applies to all food sold on such skewers.

    But since you’ve mention your own experience in this department, I can disclose that I had one of my worst ever food poisoning experiences after consuming some of these, bought near where I was staying in Beijing.

    Oh yes, said (Shanghai-born) D’s sisters when they heard of this. You should never eat meat street food in summer!

    A shame because they go excellently with a late night street beer (still OK to buy in summer, fortunately).

    1. James O'Brien

      The best street food in China has to be the scorpions!

      1. marcellous

        tbh I think they are a bit of a novelty item.
        I only saw them at “snack street” at Wangfujing.

  3. Justin

    Good recommendation James! I’ve walked past that restaurant a few times, but now that I know they do a good lamb with cumin I’ll definitely check it out. Agree with you, it is a delicious dish.

    I stumbled across your website after a testimonial you gave for another tour operator. I’ve recently launched a Chinatown food tour that I think you might be interested in, I’ll put the link below. Would love to have you along and show you a few more hidden gems in Chinatown.

    1. James O'Brien

      Hi Justin, great to hear from you. I LOVE a good food tour, so will check this out.

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