hawker’s cuisine – chinatown, northbridge

Chinatown. For some unbeknownst reason, those of us of Chinese origin find it necessary to congregate ourselves in a particular area for the purposes of…well…mainly eating. No matter which country you find yourself in, you will no doubt find an enclave designated specifically for Chinese people to eat Chinese cuisine amongst Chinese shops selling familiar Chinese things.

It’s remarkable! Of course as we are progressing steadily towards multiculturalism, Chinatowns these days are open to all and it’s not uncommon to find people of all backgrounds slurping away noodles and stuffing their mouths with dumplings happily next to one another. You will still find though, that the majority of patrons are of Chinese ethnicity.

With that I come to Perth’s Chinatown…of which first impressions of can often be summed up in one word…


Now before you all start yapping like small dogs on a power trip, I mean this in reference to the ‘official’ Chinatown on Roe Street whose ‘entrance’ is guarded by the very poor attempt at a Paifang. Built in the 1980s as a tourist attraction, this bit of mess provides quite the false impression (in actuality, Perth’s Chinatown really spans across Northbridge and especially down William Street). With it’s abandoned looking front strewn with overflowing skip bins, it wasn’t much of a surprise when I overheard a tourist commenting that the place looked filthy. She was from China. That’s gotta be telling you something…

In fact, the poor state of our ‘Chinatown’ was recently commented on by a local Chinese Association.

It’s for the reasons above that I haven’t really frequented the restaurants in this patch of embarrassment save for a couple 2am supper calls at Billy Lee’s after one too many dirty martinis.

However, after hearing such rave reviews from fellow bloggers on Hawker’s Cuisine, I decided to venture in for a try. Armed with S and Lily (a talented taste tester for authenticity when it comes to Chinese Malaysian food), we dropped in last Saturday night without a reservation. Bracing for the worst, we were surprised when we walked in and were ushered instantly to a table. I noticed that they had an outdoor section and an upstairs area.

I had a mild hernia when I received the menu and saw that there were over 200 choices. Not only was there every conceivable variety of cooking style, some of these were supremely adventurous and I’m ashamed to say…never heard of before on my part e.g. Spare ribs in Lychee Sauce.

After requesting for an extra 5 minutes to view the menu (twice), we eventually decided on the infamous Marmite Chicken (apparently a speciality of theirs), Fuzhou Tofu, Butter Prawns, Eggplant with Salted Fish and Crispy Pork Belly with Salad & Herbs (or something of that like, I was too distracted by the other 195 choices to remember the exact name).

I also ordered an Iced Lemon Tea as I am particularly fond of the made to order Iced Teas so often found in Chinese dining establishments.

The food arrived extremely rapidly and the eggplant was up first. Coated in a beautiful caramel coloured sauce the eggplant was deliciously tender without being too soggy. The salted fish wasn’t overpowering and there was no hint of bitterness on the aubergine’s behalf at all.

The crispy pork belly came out next to a chorus of swoons from Lily and myself. Thin slices of pork belly were fried to a perfect crisp. Coupled with pineapple, parsley, chilli, onions and covered in their own sweet chilli dressing, this was easily my favourite dish of the night. Lily was so impressed that all she said was ‘wow’….and she’s not a three-letter-word kind o’ person if you know what I mean.

Up next was the Fuzhou Tofu. The menu stated that the tofu was homemade and it certainly supported the notion that homemade is almost always better. It was soft, creamy and seductively jiggled it’s way unto my plate. My only gripe is that the sauce was a little bland and could have done with a little more salt.

Then came the much lauded about Marmite Chicken. Achieving the hugely difficult balance between sauciness and cripiness, this dish lived up to all the hype. If it’s any indication of how good it was, S, who is the only known true-blooded Austra-yaaan who despises Vegemite, stated it was his favourite dish of the night. I noticed that their penchant for Marmite is not limited to poultry and can be found in their Marmite Baked Crabs or Marmite Spare Ribs. I’m certainly keen to try the latter…

The Butter Prawns came last and satisfied all my cravings for the popular dish of Cereal Prawns that up til now I could only find in Singapore. They, however, have added a twist on the original style with the use of coconut. The prawns were big and juicy and the buttery crumbs were of course the best bit (sprinkled liberally over rice).

5 dishes between 3 people. We’re certainly ambitious…

We surprisingly got through most of it bar the prawns and much to our own amazement still had room for their House Special Ice Kachang. This crazy looking dessert may put some people off by it’s worrying resemblence to a snow cone on acid but I assure you, it is nothing but cold refreshing delight within. Under a mountain of shaved ice hides some red beans, sweet corn, grass jelly, agar agar, longans, lychees and palm seeds.Drizzled over this bizarre concoction is some condensed milk, rose syrup and gula melaka (palm sugar).

We ordered 2 to share between us as despite S’s protestations that he could not eat another morsel I knew he would wolf down the whole thing being the dessert fiend that he is.

Upon their dramatic arrival to my table I failed to supress an awkwardly loud moan of pleasure. Being the proper lady that Lily is, she shot me the look of death and snapped ‘Where did you come from? A jungle? It’s like you’ve never seen food before!’

Well I’m sorry but I just can’t help myself in the face of gushworthy food. No matter how inappropriate the situation may be.

Suffice to say, Hawker’s Cuisine has one of the best Ice Kachang I’ve had this side of Indonesia with their generous amount of ‘goodies’.

It comes with no surprise that I thoroughly recommend Hawker’s Cuisine for a fairly cheap and casual night out. I certainly will be a regular, and with their enormous menu, there is no danger of ordering the same thing twice. Bonus marks for the lack of MSG and ability to BYO.

Ps. Lily was so impressed with the food she suggested we go there again when we caught up for lunch the next day. She never does that. EVER.

4 out of 5 Golden Spoons

$$  (depending on what you order, seafood can get pretty $$$)

Hawker’s Cuisine

17/66 Roe Street


T: 08 9328 9668

Hawker's Cuisine on Urbanspoon

13 Responses to “hawker’s cuisine – chinatown, northbridge”
  1. natashalam says:

    yay i’m so glad you like to try the ‘made to order’ Iced Lemon tea as well in chinese restaurants!! I thought I was the only one! haha

    yumm..haha we order these dishes as well when we go there! they are awesome! you are making me hungry and i just had dinner =p

  2. Devan says:

    “Lily was so impressed with the food she suggested we go there again when we caught up for lunch the next day. She never does that. EVER.”

    Haha I believe that. You know why??? Because Hawker’s Cuisine doesn’t open until 5pm! Lily must have known! 😛

  3. That ice kachang does look like its on acid. It almost resembles a volcano with its red/pink top. I think I would have enjoyed it

  4. natasha – me too! theirs is awesome – not too sweet. as for the food nom nom, i’m getting hungry @ 7 in the morning

    devan – i know! we found out the hard way….thwarted 😦 had to go to regal for dim sum instead (and it was McCrappy)

    maria – volcano is an apt description! you should see some of the other ones. they use a mix of different coloured syrups on impressively towering ice. it’s a little scary.

  5. The marmite chicken and butter prawns certainly caught my eye. Seems reasonably authentic, will have to give it a go soon!

  6. Aussie Tourist says:

    Damn, another good review on Hawker’s. Looks like the queue going to be longer. Sigh….

  7. I’m ashamed. I haven’t been here. I live in Northbridge and I haven’t been here. Do you get a special T shirt or something if you make your way through all 200 dishes?

  8. Carven says:

    you should really try their sambal kangkung next time when you’re there (if you love spicy food), also try deep fried pork marinated in fermented red bean curd, they are really good.

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