Cantonese Fortune & Flavour at ChinaDina

Image source: Photographer Megan Gill

The distinctive and enchanting flavours of Cantonese fare has ignited the local food scene, as Helen Flanagan discovers.

It’s no surprise the Chinese immigrants brought their culinary secrets and traditions to Australia. In fact, it’s the Cantonese style of cooking that underpins what we’ve come to know and love as ‘Chinese’ food. Your beloved Peking Duck? Barbecued Pork Bun? Steamed Hargow Dumplings? Braised Chicken Feet? Honey Prawns with Chilli? You get the idea…

With a salute to authentic Cantonese cuisine’s subtle, uncomplicated flavours, and a nod to modern Chinese, is the cleverly named and in-tune interior designed ChinaDina. Its team of specialised chefs have sourced the best ingredients to let the inspired dishes do the talking. A wine, beer and cocktail list follows suit and overall, it’s dining that ignites all the senses.

Hong Kong-born head chef Zepher (Zeph) Yip whose first restaurant foray at 18 was followed by a move to Christchurch, New Zealand to study and work every weekend in his uncle’s busy restaurant, leads a team of six chefs at ChinaDina including Hong Kong-born wokmaster, Kit.

Zeph, who handmakes in excess of 500 dumplings every week, says the preferred way to cook seafood is to steam or shallow fry, adding small amount of mild yet flavour-boosting accompaniments like soybean, ginger, spring onion, sauces such as oyster and plum to enhance a bevy of primarily meat and seafood dishes.

“An exception is the popular and robust King Prawn Typhoon Shelter, named after a place in Hong Kong, where the Tanka people live on the boats,” Zeph says. “When a typhoon hits, they are stuck in the shelter so used what they have onboard such as garlic, dry chilli, black bean, pink Szechuan and seafood.

“Also fresh from the ocean are XO Pipis with Fried Vermicelli; Seafood Deluxe with Prawns, Scallops, Squid and Crispy Noodles; the melt-in-mouth Steamed Coral Trout; ditto Softshell Crab Curry.”

Dim Sum ranges from classic BBQ Pork Bun; Dumplings including Steamed Prawn Hargow; Steamed Pork And Prawn Shao Mai; Chinese Vegetable Green Dumpling – or a mixed selection.

For Spring Rolls choose from Prawn or Pickled Vegetables. Steamed Bao Buns with pickled vegetables are offered with Crispy Pork Belly or the decadent Crispy Softshell Crab Version; and one serve of Eggplant Prawn

‘No Toast’ is never enough, particularly perfect for those with gluten issues.

Quackers about duck? Experience a main course of duck breast Peking style, notably one of the restaurant’s highlights. It features tender slices of perfectly pink roast duck prepared fresh daily. Wrapped within a thin pancake accompanied by Hoisin sauce, slithers of spring onion and cucumber, let the taste buds sing. Or if you prefer a similar taste sensation, try a half or whole 5-Spice Roast Duck with Plum Sauce.

For pork aficionados there’s the Honey-glazed Char Sui dish, and for red meat lovers the Beef Tenderloin with Black Pepper Sauce is star quality.

Expect the unexpected with rice, side and vegetarian dishes; numerous gluten-free options and if you have a sweet tooth, do not despair, it’s Fried Ice Cream with Butterscotch Sauce, Black Sesame and Fairy Floss. Gotta love it.

Besides a la carte, the menu may be approached in a number of ways. For celebrations with a minimum of two diners, consider a banquet. Do duck in for an express lunch; yes, a kids’ menu will keep them happy; and the hottest news on Mary Street and environs is Yum Cha has been added to the menu.

What a selection to choose from, however if time is of the essence given it is lunch, take the easy option starting with the $39 menu with a pot of green tea. Sitting alfresco is a bonus.

Head chef Zepher is certainly fleet-footed around ChinaDina’s kitchen but he’s also been flooring it in ballroom dancing in Latin America since 2003. These days his passions at Perry’s Dance Academy in Brisbane are samba and waltz, with competition in ProAm adult and open ballroom, hopefully taking him to new heights. When he’s not hot-footing on the dancefloor or in the ChinaDina kitchen his favourite dish to cook at home is Hundred Flower Chicken.

“Take the skin off the chicken, air dry it and spread a prawn mince mix like peanut butter on toast; flatten the chicken and bake it in the oven until cooked to perfection,” he says. Destined for the next menu? Mmm!

About the Author /

Noosa’s sophisticated charm, vibrant food culture and the magnetism of a subtropical paradise surrounded by national parks, inveigled Helen’s manic world and flipped it on its side. She pursues the good life with gusto, instinctively understanding the joys of travel, the art of story-telling, a candid review and surviving another reno whilst thriving on the motto Live Laugh Love!

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