You're walking through a chaotic street food market in Shanghai. The vibe is electric, a surge of hungry people pushing you down an unsuspecting path. Everyone is on the hunt for delicious stir fries, noodles and soups. The crowd favourite though? Dumplings. Who can get to this prized stall first? You wipe the sweat from your brow, peel your shirt off your damp skin. Let the battle begin!
Although our latest Secret Foodies event wasn't set in a Chinese street food market (impressive as that might have been!), we offered the next best thing. Guests were lurred to Sydney CBD's brand new Chinese eatery, Papa Bo Min. Situated in Grosvenor Place just off George Street, this exciting new addition to the city's foodscape has two specialities, dumplings and cocktails.
Guests on both nights were sent this 'secret meeting point' at 5pm instructing them to meet at Papa Bo Min at 7pm. Upon arrival they were greeted by Ms Darlinghurst. They were then set a challenge. Attached to their signature Secret Foodies mask was a rolled up piece of paper. On it, a list of the dumplings on offer for the night. Their task was to rate their favourite dumpling of the night, with six variations to choose from. Complimenting these dumplings were four speciality cocktails.
This Secret Foodies event was different to other events we have hosted. Instead of a sit down dinner with multiple courses, the Dumpling Battle was a cocktail style event. It allowed guests to mingle, sip their delicious cocktail, feast on dumplings and repeat.
The first cocktail to leave the bar was the NV Kinda, Not Really Riesling - a combination of gin, honeydew, muscatelles and edible flowers. Served in a dainty Champagne flute, it made for a fruity and refreshing start to the night. Guests mingled, eagerly awaiting the first round of dumplings.
Before long, a long tray of pumpkin and pork dumplings left the pass. Guests let out audible 'oooos' as these plump dumplings were passed around the event. The naturally sweet flavour of the pumpkin offered a delicious contrast to the salty pork meat.
With the first round of drinks finished, it was time for cocktail number two -Trash Can Tequila Time. Served in a beer bottle was an interesting combination of coriander stem Tequila, white wine reduction, lime husk oleo saccharum and melon rind soda. You could really taste the coriendar! Guests marvelled at the complicity of flavour in this drink.
Ding ding, time for the next round of dumplings. On the menu was steamed prawn, garlic and clive dumplings. Prawns and garlic go together like fish and chips. The ones at Papa Bo Min are all made by hand, the attention to detail in each dumpling duely noted and appreciated. Offering a slight variation were the steamed prawn and calamari dumplings - another delicious mouthful. We were in dumpling heaven! Just when we thought it couldn't get any better - another round of dumplings travels around the room. This time, they're steamed chicken suimai.
Steering away from the steamed variation were the crispy pork wontons with sesame sauce and chilli. On Friday night, these were a standout crowd favourite. The crispy exterior worked well with the succulent meat. The slightly sweet, faintly spicy sauce brought everything together.
With guests starting to get a little thirsty once more - the third round of cocktails appeared. Cocktail mixologists took a darker turn, rolling out their Midnight Sour. In a large wine glass was Johnny Walker Black, yuzu, smoked coconut, finger lime, charcoal and aquafaba.
Ding ding, yes - you heard correctly. Time for another round. This time, guests were treated to the steamed BBQ duck and spinach dumplings. The lucky last savoury item of the night was the steamed BBQ pork buns. Unlike many restaurants which offer a vastly skewed bun-to-filling ratio - these ones were generously filled with a sticky pork.
The last cocktail of the evening was the Bitter and Twisted. Served in a luxurious crystal glass was a mixture of Kamm and Sons British Aperitif, Bulleit Bourbon, Carpano Antica, saffron tinture and sour cherry. The smoky, subtly bitter flavours coming from this cocktail perfectly complimented two rounds of desserts. First to leave the pass were mini coconut and sesame bars. Next was the mini firecracker macaron sandwich with lemongrass ice-cream.
This Secret Foodies cocktail-style event was such a fun event, made all the better by the hospitable crew at Papa Bo Min. If you haven't yet visited Papa Bo Min, do yourself a favour and check it out!