20 September 2021

Family feed: Dry-fried spicy lamb from China Tea House makes the world a better place

| David Murtagh
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Mongolian lamb from China Tea House

Mongolian lamb – sometimes you have to find comfort in the classics. Photos: David Murtagh.

No matter what they’ve done in the previous fortnight, Region Media’s David Murtagh lets bygones be bygones and splurges on dinner for the family. These are their stories.

It’s hard to beat Chinese food to keep everyone happy. It’s spectacularly diverse, even for the fussiest of eaters, and children always seem to be going through one phase or another.

But don’t worry about it. Phases pass.

Oh, you think your children are in a good place and love everything put in front of them? Not so fast. That’s also a phase. This, too, shall pass.

But Chinese food has all the bases covered so everyone should be happy enough to at least say they aren’t hungry and need drive-through on the way home.

That means the suddenly-vegan should be satisfied with a plate of steamed broccoli on oyster sauce because there’s practically no chance real oysters were harmed to make the sauce.

Wanniassa’s China Tea House, despite its austere and almost sterile decor, and lack of tablecloths – a great idea to reduce parental anxiety about messes – is near-perfect for a family dying to get out of the house (when we can again), if only for the pickup, although they also deliver.

In less-COVID-19 times, as you’re walked to your table, ask for the prawn crackers. What child doesn’t like prawn crackers?

Vegans? Like oyster sauce, surely prawns weren’t harmed in making prawn crackers.

If you order pickup or delivery and your order tops $60, they give you a bag of crackers.

Prawn crackers from China Tea House

Prawn crackers – sometimes you have to share. Photo: David Murtagh.

Dad tip: It’s a big bag so you’ll need at least a 10-minute drive to eat the evidence before you get home and say, “Damn, they forgot the crackers.”

But don’t worry, they won’t forget.

The basis of takeaway Chinese is fried rice so start with Tea House fried rice – rice with the lot. If there’s anything a fussy eater doesn’t like in the rice, they can pick it out – it’s not like Chinese restaurants try to hide vegetables.

Worst case, they’re eating fried rice for dinner. At $10, including king prawns, chicken breast and BBQ pork, it’s cheaper than some meals at the Golden Arches.

Take the ‘W’. You done good.

After the prawn crackers, and the must-have rice, hit the entrees.

Leave the dim sims and spring rolls to the kids – you’re saving space. But make sure you order a couple of sesame prawn toasts which have a satisfying crunch and a plump layer of prawns.

If you’re going to stay with Aussie-favourite Chinese orders, you’ll be comforted by the beef and black bean and Mongolian lamb. You can’t go wrong there.

Fried rice and honey prawns at China Tea House

At China Tea House, they don’t skimp on the shrimp. Photo: David Murtagh.

But splurge on the honey prawns.

Honey prawns can be hit and miss, but rest assured, your $22 is well spent here. The batter is light and the honey isn’t drowning the dish in the sickly stew of sweet we put up with as children.

Now it’s time for the piece de resistance.

Every restaurant has its specialty. At China Tea House, it has to be the dry-fried spicy lamb. At Sammy’s Kitchen and Chairman & Yip, it’s known as shantung lamb, but all three are superb. Whatever it’s called, wherever you can find it, order it. You’ll be glad you did.

Everything you love about lamb is turned to 11 in this knockout and generously portioned dish.

There’s acres of crispy skin and well-cooked succulent meat. It is mouth-wateringly spectacular. It makes vegans reconsider life decisions.

Because it’s lamb, don’t think about how much fat has been turned into another irresistible mouthful, just be thankful it has, and another mouthful can’t hurt.

Dry-fried spicy lamb from China Tea House

If you can find it, shantung lamb (dry-fried spicy lamb) is a spectacular addition to any Chinese order. This one from China Tea House is one of the best. Photo: David Murtagh.

And what if it does? Take the stairs, buy a bike, walk the dog a little longer. It’s worth it – dry-fried spicy lamb from China Tea House makes the world a better place.

Feeling more adventurous? Meet yu yuang eggplant.

Let’s start with the harsh reality. This is not a pretty dish. Don’t care. And ordinarily, having a vegetable in the title would mean it gets an instant, “How about we have that next time?”

Not today! Be bold! Eat a vegetable! Once a fortnight won’t hurt you.

For a family of four, you’ll get change from $100 for dinner (including corkage and soft drinks) but not much.

China Tea House isn’t ‘cheap’ Chinese – and while it may be located in the suburbs, it’s a step above your average suburban Chinese.

But it’s a place you can take the children knowing it is busy enough to mask the occasional indiscretion. But for that $100 you’ll also get breakfast (probably for two) – and the only thing better than Chinese the night before is Chinese the morning after.

Yu yuang eggplant dish from China Tea House

The yu yuang eggplant won’t win a beauty contest. Photo: David Murtagh.

David’s 11-year-old daughter Abi is a big fan of China Tea House. Annoyingly, she’s now also a fan of the lamb.

Tea House fried rice is so good and it lasts from dinner to the morning after, which makes it easy and quick to grab from the fridge and heat up for breakfast.

Their pork dumplings are amazing too. When I first saw them I was not so sure, but when I eat one, I cannot stop.

Their spicy fried lamb is best for kids that don’t mind their food being spicy but, even though I don’t like spicy food, their lamb will always be my first choice.

But my favourite part comes at the end when I get the fortune cookie! And then trading with my sister because her fortune is always better than mine.

China Tea House is located at 2/38 Gartside Street, Wanniassa. Phone 02 6231 1188 to place an order, and check its website for opening hours and delivery times.

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I wouldn’t go there – unfortunately I can never forget their stupid corny annoying ads on the radio.

I have to admit that I sneak out of Deakin and back to Tuggeranong to get takeaway from China Tea House.

It must be the competition for low to mid priced dining at Erindale that makes this place, the Turkish and Propaganda Vietnamese punch way above their price point.

China Tea House might technically be in Wanniassa, but it’s better to describe it as being at the top end of that restaurant and fast food strip between Erindale Shopping Centre and Erindale Drive.
I can recommend it. Food is good and so are the staff.

Capital Retro11:55 am 07 Sep 21

I have been a China Tea House customer for years – the new venue is a bit noisy for me to eat in but I regularly get takeaway home delivered and it is consistently the best around. I don’t think the prices are high considering the quality and quantity that you get.

Keep up the good work, Sam.

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