05.02.19 - world record yum cha + sydney fish market

 

The Lunar New Year is being celebrated in full force in Sydney, with a variety of activities and parades taking place among the highly decorated city. When perusing the list of various festivities we might attend, one event in particular jumped out at me as it wasn’t the typical tour or dragon dance performance, and seemed an unusual yet memorable experience. I registered online, and marked my calendar to be at Tumbalong Park on Tuesday morning.

We woke up earlier than usual (well, Tyler did. I’m still not in a normal sleep pattern yet) and boarded the train. We walked towards the park and could see a line of people already formed along a barricaded stage. We were all there to take part in attempting to beat a Guinness World Record – to eat together in the largest collective yum cha/dim sum breakfast in history.

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We made our way through the gates and found our seats. The tables were set up with elaborate red tablecloths and Chinese lanterns, and I was amazed to see they even had put out cloth napkins. Then the waiting began. It took over an hour for everyone to make their way in and find their seats, and another hour or so for the food to be handed out and rules explained. There was quite a lot of pomp and circumstance involved, with a slew of workers milling about to ensure no one ate early or incorrectly to jeopardize the official count. Tyler and I just kept looking over at one another and laughing – this was definitely not the time commitment we had expected. After a few more minutes in the burning sun, our official countdown began, and a few minutes after eleven we helped to break the world record! We received a small token as proof, and are somewhere in the back of the photograph that should eventually make its way to the printed world record book.

After waiting patiently for our dumplings (which were delicious, but not nearly enough for a full breakfast/lunch) we decided we were starving and seeing as we were vaguely in the vicinity, decided to head over to the Sydney fish market as it had both somewhere to eat and also ticked another must-see place off our Sydney list.

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Similarly to Circular Quay, I was amazed at how packed the fish market was (on a Tuesday!) and decided all of the tourists in Sydney must hide out in just these two locations. We walked into the market, the scent thick and my sandals slipping on the slick concrete floor. The amount of people and fish was completely overwhelming. There were countless mollusks and squid, giant sections of swordfish and whole salmon, buffets of prepared lunches and sushi of all shapes and sizes. Perhaps we had picked the wrong place for someone as indecisive as myself to have lunch.

We eventually settled on raw oysters (not as good as the opera bar!), a mix of fried things and prawns from Nicholas Seafood, and grilled eel over rice. We’d go back in later for a piece of salmon for dinner. We tried to find a seat at the many picnic tables beside the water, but each was filled with a family devouring overflowing plates of seafood and shooing away seagulls. We actually saw one tricky bird swoop down and steal a piece of sashimi straight from a woman’s hand. Australian ibis waddled around the docks, trying to grab whatever crumbs they could – I’ve learned that they are sometimes fittingly called “bin chickens” here.

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We settled on a bench in the park across the road, stupidly forgetting to grab napkins on our way out and making an absolute mess. I think I still have sweet chili sauce on my phone. To an onlooker, our entire lunch must have appeared as a scene from Alfred Hitchock’s The Birds, the seagulls surrounding us, inching closer and closer. The eel was worth it.