Jiangnan Talk is a new Cantonese restaurant in the Kingston shops serving Southern Chinese delicacies and weekend yum cha.
Manager Lan Huang, who goes by Jimmy, tells me that the word Jiangnan translates to ‘south of the river’ and refers to the traditional Cantonese area south of the Yangtze River. The food from this region has travelled around the world to become a much-loved staple cuisine in many places outside of China.
One of the hallmarks of Cantonese food and culture is yum cha.
“In China, yum cha means breakfast! A lot of older people will start their day by reading the newspaper and having Chinese tea. And they have dumplings from a small bamboo steamer just like we serve here,” Jimmy explained.
“The yum cha dishes we serve are the same as you would find in China, but there’s a bit more variety there because it’s so popular.”
Jiangnan Talk serves yum cha with their Shanghai-style house-made steamed dumplings and other small dishes wheeling around the restaurant on a cart. Jimmy says their chefs (led by Cantonese Chef Tom) work hard all week to make enough of the many different dumplings for the weekend.
One of their most popular yum cha dishes is fried lobster dumplings: super crispy wrappers filled with plump, juicy lobster meat. Other popular yum cha classics include fried whitebait, Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce and a fried round savoury doughnut filled with spring onion.
Jimmy’s favourite yum cha dish is chicken feet, and he says that some of their regulars, including older Chinese people, enjoy beef tripe and tendon, so they’re also putting that on rotation. Others prefer to stick to fluffy BBQ Pork Buns. He says lots of people enjoy trying the variety of their dumplings.
Whether you’re an adventurous eater or not, wash it all down with endless top-ups of jasmine tea and this is a brilliant way to spend your Saturday or Sunday morning.
Despite the breakfast origins, Australian diners prefer their yum cha for brunch or lunch rather than first thing in the morning, so Jiangnan Talk runs their trolleys from 11 am.
Jiangnan Talk has a comprehensive menu of Cantonese classics outside yum cha hours. Chef’s specials include the very delicious deep-fried eggplant in XO sauce. Stunningly soft eggplant in a crispy batter is tossed with chilli and spring onion for a fragrant and rich dish.
“XO sauce is a classic Chinese sauce made from ingredients including dried scallops, so it’s very tasty and has a good seafood flavour,” Jimmy said.
The duck pancakes are also a delicious choice. Unlike other restaurants, they come fully wrapped, so you don’t have to worry about getting your ratio of duck to hoisin sauce just right.
Jiangnan Talk also has a list of affordable lunch specials and encourages takeaway orders. There are some regulars who even have their takeaways served in restaurant bowls rather than plastic (I am assured they always return them). Proof that Jiangnan Talk has well and truly found its crowd in Kingston!
Jiangnan Talk is located at 54 Giles St, Kingston. They are open for lunch from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm on weekdays and dinner seven days a week from 5 pm to 10 pm. They serve yum cha from 11 am to 2:30 pm on weekends (regular menu also available). Visit their website to see the menu and find out more.