[Photographs: David Straight]
Sometimes, the Jiale Bun Shop is so busy there isn’t time to clear the tables. The door opens and closes constantly, and there is almost always a couple of people in front of you ordering. It is shady, and it has a steamy smell. Sometimes, there is intense discussion in Chinese.
For good reason. The buns are pillowy yet strong, with simple fillings – the pork and vegetable is inspired. They are made fresh on site and they come in a bamboo basket; you tear them apart with your hands and they cost between $1.30 and $1.50. We discovered the place wandering around the wonder that is the Northcote Town Centre, a 1950s town centre mall turned Chinese with restaurants to rival Dominion Road: it was hot, and the shop was full; we couldn’t resist.
There are other things on the simple menu, too: the beef noodle soup is filling and balanced – salty beef, firm noodles and pickled greens on top ($8); the wonton soup ($7.50) is credible, with delicate house-made wontons. Comfort food of the highest order. SFG
HOURS 8am to 7.30pm, seven days.
ADDRESS 33 Pearn Place, Northcote, ph 419-5688.
IMPORTANT DETAILS No table service – order at the counter.