Arthur Chu, owner of Eastwood food stall Hungry Paulie, describes his grandmother, Mama Chu, as an incredibly amazing woman. She survived World War II, left mainland China by herself and had ten children in post-war, food-scarce Taiwan. "Because of difficult times, my family knew how to put together very simple ingredients to make something that tasted amazing," he says. Take shallots, for instance – they're present in almost every dish because Chu says they're an inexpensive flavour-bomb. Chu has also learned to operate with minimal waste thanks to generations of his family doing so in Taiwan.
Hungry Paulie is Chu's homage to his family. "I want to honour my uncle, Paul, who was a mentor to me, while also making the place sound playful and childlike," says Chu, describing the name of his shop. Chu's speciality is Taiwanese street food and it's a faithful take on the food he grew up loving and mastering under his uncle (who learned from his mother, best known as the face of Mother Chu's Vegetarian Kitchen - affectionately called "Mama Chu's" by regulars - on Sydney's Pitt Street).
Chu's stall does breakfast, rice bowls, sweet snacks and other Taiwanese staples. Pick up the hand-made noodles in braised beef soup: an eight-hour broth made from pork, beef and chicken bones. After this, the bones are taken out and replaced with white radish, celery, red apple, onions and tomatoes, then mixed with a soy broth before the beef is braised in it. The process and timing is complex. "If you can do your beef right, you can cook anything," says Chu.
Come morning time, a popular treat is the you tiao (fried stick): the foot-long breakfast food is a bone-shaped fried dough snack, first prepared in memory of Yue Fei, a 12th-century Chinese general. He was a fearless military hero who was said to have fended off 500,000 enemies with his 800 men but was traitorously killed by his superior, Qin Hui. For many Chinese, the fried stick represents the idea that Qin Hui and his wife should have been fried alive for treason. Glutinous rice rolls filled with egg and congee are also a hit.
There's also a roasted peanut drink — it's a traditional energy booster and a cousin of the breakfast smoothie. It's thick, protein-packed and rich, which should be expected for a drink that consists of roasted peanuts and rice blended with a splash of water.
Customers keep returning for Paulie's pork pies: rolls packed with pork belly chunks that are marinated overnight in black pepper and other secret ingredients, which allows the flavour to fully permeate the meat. "It's important that the pepper is cracked in-house," says Chu. "This gives the pork a more fragrant flavour." Then, it's mixed in with a very precise ratio of pork fat to shallots. "I hand cut the ingredients into one-centimetre chunks every morning," he says. "This is extremely important for flavour consistency."
Sadly, Chu's uncle and grandmother have passed away, but their legacy remains in their contribution to Taiwanese food in Sydney, through Mother Chu's Vegetarian Kitchen and Hungry Paulie.
Tue - Sun 7am–9pm
Shop 1B, 182/178 Rowe Street, Eastwood, NSW
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