Cracking into a Chinese feast

Eating mud crab is a messy task, but a fresh Chinatown catch and special XO sauce tempts bands of treasure seekers.

Australia's favourite food blogger, Not Quite Nigella, is moved to silence by a seafood feast.

It first came to me via a text on my phone. My friend Buxom Wench asked if I had tried Yummy Yummy restaurant in Riverwood. She accompanied her question with a photo from her dinner there and the tempting offer of live mud crab for $37.60 a kilo. I knew that her parents, with whom she had eaten, were the harshest of critics of Chinese food so given that they had loved it, it was surely worth a visit?

So there we were, with my own two harshest critics of Chinese food, my parents Rose and Ronald. Mr NQN was driving my father’s car and we were discussing crab. My father, hard of hearing, loves to talk about the price of crab (a real Chinese father pastime) and the idea of a bargain such as this animated him.

"So how much are mud crabs normally?” I ask him.

"How much are nightclubs?” he asks.

"He’s getting his hearing aid tomorrow. Finally” my mum answers, relieved.

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A quick 30 minutes later, we’ve arrived at Riverwood, hungry with all of this mud crab talk. Our booking it seems has gone astray but no matter, the owner finds us a table, right near the door that swings open all night. Even though eating crab is a messy task, the freezing cold weather means that coats stay on all night and crab is negotiated around sleeves. We take his recommendations for other dishes and my father orders two small crabs. They bring them out for us and there is a male and female crab. My father is immensely pleased and tells us that female mud crabs are more expensive.

It’s not long before all of the food hits our table and we watch table after table of people walk in. Those without bookings are turned away out into the cold weather outside and I feel sorry for them. The crab arrives and it is enormous.

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Interestingly, they pile the vermicelli noodles on top whereas most places put the crab on top. The crab in XO sauce is plentiful with soft and silky meat inside. The noodles have pieces of crab interspersed throughout them and the whole dish silences everyone and there is just the contented nodding of people immensely happy with a much anticipated dish.

The crispy skin chicken is a dish that they recommended repeatedly. It was an enormous serve of the crispiest skin and tender meat underneath it. There is also an aromatic salt and pepper accompaniment to dip the chicken into...

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