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Emperor’s Garden Cake & Bakery, Haymarket

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Emperor’s Garden Cake and Bakery sits behind the tiger-flanked arch­ways on Dixon Street mark­ing the entrance to Chinatown. Opened in 1979, along with the res­taur­ant next door, it’s a tra­di­tion­al Chinese bakery. A far cry from the brightly lit, organ­ised interi­orss. Judging by its con­tin­ued exist­ence in Chintatown, per­haps there’s some meth­od in that. Once you have a repu­ta­tion, that is, which they do from the Emperor’s Puff that you find people queuing for every day after noon.

I had this bakery in my sights as I was on a quest for jian dui without hav­ing to go to yum cha. Specifically, I was after the deli­ciously crunchy and chewy ses­ame encrus­ted sphere. Find it I did, only there were two sim­il­ar look­ing items under the ever help­ful sig­nage of ‘Dim Sum’. The staff mem­ber put­ting the items out didn’t speak English and merely grunted at the ques­tions posed by an Anglo-Saxon fam­ily, so I got both. After all, what’s the worse that could hap­pen? More deli­cious crunchy and chewy ses­ame dough? I’ll take those chances!

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This is the 4cm sphere is the salty egg yolk cus­tard jian dui ($1.40).

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The dough here takes on a yel­low col­our, though there’s not much of a dif­fer­ence in taste from the white dough you’d expect. More import­antly, this eas­ily sat­is­fied my require­ments for a chewy and crispy shell. While the jian dui was fried long enough for the ses­ame seeds to take on a more­ish toasti­ness, it did leave greas­i­ness. The salty egg yolk cus­tard was also thick, mak­ing the eat­ing of the jian dui a clean exper­i­ence, yet I prefer the messi­ness of a more runny cus­tard.

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This is the 6cm sphere, a red bean filled jian dui ($1.70).

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This one uses the typ­ic­al white dough in jian dui. It’s quite a big sphere, with the rice flour wrap­ping the red bean paste hav­ing detached from half of the interi­or of the same chewy and crispy shell. The red bean paste is a gen­er­ous dol­lop and per­fectly smooth in tex­ture, although it’s so thick that you can chew it like candy.

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This is the sweet mel­on cake ($1.60) or more tra­di­tion­ally known as Wife Cake.

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The pastry was hard without the fluffy flak­i­ness that I’ve come to love. Particularly, on the base, the pastry was like a cook­ie. The sweet mel­on filling lacked winter mel­on fla­vour, and so became just a sweet non­des­cript filling, although I did enjoy the addi­tion of ses­ame seeds.

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And finally, this is the cus­tard egg tart ($1.40), which is decent, although the cus­tard was very thick and stiff. I prefer a more but­tery and flaky pastry with a more wobbly egg cus­tard. Perhaps they should fill their egg tarts with the cus­tard they use to fill their cus­tard puffs?

Emperor’s Garden & Bakery is a decent Chinese bakery, although none of the items are par­tic­u­larly amaz­ing.

Emperor’s Garden Cake & Bakery is loc­ated at 96 – 100 Hay St, Haymarket NSW 2000