Penne Cole's thoughts on food, travel and more
Yes it has a somewhat unpronounceable name (unless, of course, you know Chinese). But with a bowl of noodles this delicious, everything is forgiven.
Yang Guo Fu Ma La Tang hails from Northeastern China. Ma la tang literally translates to numbing spicy soup – numbing because of the Szechuan chilli peppers and their delightful tingling effect on your tongue, and spicy because of the huge quantity of chilli that you can add to the soup. If you’ve ever had a hotpot, this is very similar, except in individual portions. The concept is popular in China, but Yang Guo Fu is the only one I’ve come across in Sydney.
I am confronted with a wide array of food choices when I first enter the restaurant. First up is a large selection of vegetables, followed by four or five different types of mushrooms, including my personal favourite – the enoki mushroom. There are also various types of noodles to choose from (my favourite is the common rice noodle – I find it soaks up the soup better), thinly sliced meat that’s perfect for a hot pot, several root vegetables, including lotus root, and sweet potato, many many tofu-based options, and a wealth of different fish and meatballs.
What do you do? Simply grab a bowl and a pair of tongs, pick what you want, then hand it to the person at the counter. You will be charged based on the weight of your selection – cash only! I must confess that faced with this cornucopia of food, I tend to go a little nuts. My eyes are definitely much bigger than my tummy, and I inevitably end up with too much food in my bowl. But hey, that’s part of the fun.
The lady then hands me a little red token with a number on it that matches the number she’s snapped onto my bowl. In a few minutes, my number is announced over the loudspeaker and I head to the other counter to pick up my food. There, a different lady asks me what condiments I want on my soup. Here’s a tip – go with everything! My bowl is doused with vinegar, healthy lashings of garlic and sesame paste, some salt, and some Szechuan chilli sauce (tip: you have to tell the lady how much chilli you want, i.e. no chilli, or small/medium/large amount of chilli).
Once you’re done, take your bowl to your table (free seating – anywhere you can find a table will do, and you might even have to share), and start slurping away. The soup is a flavour sensation – rich, with an almost velvety texture thanks to the sesame and garlic paste. It’s spicy and slightly numbing and goes oh so well with my rice noodles. If you’ve never tried it before, trust me, just come on down and you won’t regret it, particularly since my giant bowl cost just under $10. Now that is cheap eats.
Originally set up in a food court in Chinatown, Yang Guo Fu has now also branched out to Burwood and the city (corner of Sussex and Liverpool).
Shop B9, Dixon House Food Court
413-415 Sussex St, Sydney
(Just look for the long lines)
125 Burwood Rd
Burwood NSW 2134
Sydney City location:
Corner of Sussex and Liverpool St
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