I recently had the pleasure of being among the first to receive my COVID-19 booster vaccine at the WSLHD Sydney Super Dome Quodos Bank Arena vaccination centre, and took myself out for a nearby breakfast to celebrate. The focus of my journey, Shiweiju, was not open, and I settled on nearby iBao (i包) instead.
Similar to Shiweju, iBao (i包) serves a variety of Tianjin or Northern Chinese breakfast classics, in a no-nonsense setting. I ordered in English (much to the disappointment of the man working there) a number of dishes from my childhood.
The Soy Milk ($3), is made in the Chinese style, with a light and watery mouthfeel. It was served warm in a coffee cup, with a small amount of sugar mixed in. I don’t know whether this soy milk is made in-store or merely purchased by the jug and heated, but the uneven distribution of sugar towards the bottom of the cup implies that it is made fresh.
I was a big fan of the pancake rolled with crisp fritter ($6.80). The thin and pliable jianbing, cooked with egg, had a fresh and light taste. The tian mian jiang (sweet bean sauce) was evenly applied and not overpowering, and while the jianbing was filled with a strange fried fritter rather than the classic youtiao, it still added the same crispiness.
The pork bun ($2.50) is a classic Tianjin bun, typified by the goubuli baozi that dogs don’t care about. The exterior is soft and almost dangerously thick, but when matched bite-for-bite with the moist and pork filling the meat to carb ratio was perfectly adequate. These are quite cheap and filling, and appear to be well loved by local community, who bought them in larger quantities to take home and eat with their families.
There aren’t that many restaurants in Sydney focused on Tianjin or Northern Chinese cuisine, and I’m very grateful for the ones that do exist. My one gripe would be the staff member who went out for a cigarette just outside the restaurant’s front door, with the wind blowing some of the smoke inside. Maybe it added to the authenticity though.
iBao (i包) Kitchen Rhodes
Shop 5/7 Rider Blvd, Rhodes NSW 2138
(02) 9029 1656