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Eating Sydney: Steamed Oysters and $48/kg Pippies!

Eating Sydney: Golden Century's XO Sauce PippiesSeafood is exceedingly expensive in Sydney–think $150/kg lobster sashimi (average 5-7 kg per lobster, so do your math), $88/kg mud crab, and $48/kg clams or “pippies.”

(Edited: Read the comments area)


I’m not moving to Sydney anytime soon, regardless how nice and how much closer it is to Malaysia.

(Edited: I just came back from the Sydney Fish Market today and have a much better picture about the price of seafood here. They are still more expensive compared to the US, and with the weakening US$ which is almost at par with AU$ now, it doesn’t help. But, they are acceptable to me now. So, I might move to Australia sooner than you think. *wink*)

Anyway, these big, fat, and succulent New Zealand oysters are affordable. Priced at $3 per oyster, they were delicious. Steamed oyster with ginger and scallions is something that I miss dearly since moving away from San Francisco; somehow steamed oysters are impossible to find in Chinese restaurants in LA and Orange County. I don’t know why?!

Now onto the insanely expensive pippies, but probably the best stir-fried style I’ve ever tasted, after the jump…

What a great recommendation from Grab Your Fork! Unlike the Manila clams we get in the US (which could get mushy sometimes), or Kepah/Lala in Malaysia, these pippies come in a different shape, the texture is slightly chewy and rubbery, but they taste heavenly stir-fried with the XO Sauce. (XO Sauce is a Cantonese-style sauce made of chilies, onion, garlic, and dried seafoods such as scallops, shrimp, and fish.) I just love them so much!

If you love shellfish like I do, I strongly recommend you to try them out if you are in Sydney.

Golden Century Seafood Restaurant
393-399 Sussex Street,
Sydney NSW 2000
Tel: (61) 2 9212 3902

Note: just some quick comparisons, in the Chinese seafood restaurants in the LA area, you can get live Boston lobsters for $19.95/lb. For king crab, you can get it about $39.95/lb or less, and Dungeness crab for only $9.95/lb. For manila clams, they are sold for $3.95/lb in Asian stores.

1 kg = 2.2 lbs
US$1 = AU$1.10

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42 COMMENTS... read them below or add one

  1. Dave, 'LunaPierCook'

    Mouthwatering photos here, Bee! That’s surprising info about those prices considering that Sydney is a seaside town. It would seem their prices would be lower than most but I guess not. Waiting to hear and see more!

  2. Manggy

    Oh man. That price is ridiculous. You could buy a cheaper laptop or a Playstation 3 for that money. And to think Sydney is near the coast!

  3. Anonymous

    um, isn’t australia an island? what gives with the over the stop seafood costs? over on the east coast (US) the closer you get to the water, the cheaper it gets!

  4. Indonesia-Eats

    “I’m not moving to Sydney anytime soon, regardless how nice and how much closer it is to Malaysia.”

    Agreed with this statement :)
    Even Canada is so far away from Indonesia, I still can count on Novascotia province for the lobster and PEI for the mussels

  5. Helen

    I love shellfish as much as you do, clams especially and oysters. I think I may just about be able to afford to eat them in Sydney – it’s just getting there I can’t afford ;-)

  6. Sophie

    Yummy pictures…

    I’m surprised its so expensive – we went to Sydney fish market last time we were over a couple of years ago and it was really reasonable (compared with fish in the UK anyway!)

    Sydney is just lovely though isn’t it?

  7. Bronwyn

    Surely that can’t be correct? A 5-7 kg lobster is HUGE. It would feed 10 people at least. That’s 11 – 15lb. I’ve never seen one that big.

    $39.95/lb for crab is almost the same as $88/kg; 1 kg = 2.2 lb, remember.

  8. Barbara

    It might be because there are limits on some fishing so it comes back to supply and demand. You can buy cheaper farmed seafood which is imported frozen from Asia.I only buy fresh seafood and am able to purchase prawns off the boats caught the night before for between $18 – $25 per kilo, depending on size.

  9. Zen Chef

    Never heard of those clams but they surely look delicious, i like the way you prepare them. But WOW, those are stiff prices! I just paid $49.99 lb for morels on friday but it was my boss’s money so i don’t feel as bad. haha

  10. mycookinghut

    金唐海鲜酒家!! One of my favourite Chinese restaurant in Sydney! Fabulous food!
    The clams look absolutely delicious!

  11. Wandering Chopsticks

    Have you gone to the Sydney Fish Market? Love, love it! You can get fresh oysters on the half shell or steamed shellfish. Try a Balmain bug, they’re yummy too.

    BTW, Australian lobsters cost more b/c they require lobster fishing licenses and have restrictions on what size you can catch. There’s only a limited number of licenses available to prevent the lobster population from being overfished. That’s why you can find 50 lb lobsters in Australia.

    There’s no such restrictions in the US. With no restrictions, lobsters as small as 3 lbs are being caught. Our lobsters are way overfished.

    So, you get what you pay for. Australian lobsters cost more b/c they’re bigger, and you’re paying to maintain an equilibrium in the ecosystem.

  12. Marc @ norecipes

    These look fantastic! I’ll have to look them up the next time I’m down there.

    Sometimes the price is justified. I once bought an $8 amaou strawberry. Not something I could buy all the time, but it was the first time I wasn’t disappointed by a strawberry:-)

  13. Bronwyn

    PS. I would have thought $150/kg for lobster MEAT would be about right, and perhaps 5-7 lobsters worth of meat per kg. That would be maybe 200g (or a little less) of meat per lobster, (just under 1/2 lb) which sounds much more like the price I’ve paid in Australia. And much more the size of a lobster too. I really think you must have misread it.

  14. Anonymous

    Your photo’s are always beautiful!!

    I’m from Sydney, i get my seafood from the fish markets every weekend and pippies and lobster are normally nowhere near that expensive, lobsters are normally around the $20/kg mark, and pipies are dirt cheap (because theyre often used as bait by fishermen heh)i think theyre around $12/kg

    Restaurant prices are a rip off depending where you go, espcially at Golden Century you can expect to part with a decent wad of cash…in saying that, it’s totally worth every cent, its exquisite (and the kitchen is open until 3am!) the sevice is good, and food is fresh.

    Sydney is a very expensive city unfortunately :(

  15. Bronwyn

    Further to the price of lobster in Sydney, I looked up a recent menu on the net, and for a 700g lobster mornay, in a resaurant with all trimmings, $85 for a whole lobster, $55 for a half. That sounds about right. That is weighed shell and all, is 7/10 of a kilogram, or 1.5 lb.
    Also on the menu is $35 for the grilled eye fillet steak, $38 for twice cooked duck, or $18 for 1/2 doz oysters.

  16. Rasa Malaysia

    Browyn – I wasn’t kidding about the price…it’s AU$150/kg for lobster sashimi…and then they put (5-7 kg) after the pricing, so I supposed they meant the lobster are averaging at 5-7 kg? I might be wrong, but the steep price tag did give me a heart-attack, considering this is the first time I am in Sydney. Anyway, today I went to the Sydney Fish Markets and the pricing are reasonable; it’s still more expensive compared to the pricing in the US, but I could accept it. For example, the pippies were priced at $15.95/kg at the fish markets, but at Golden Century, it was $48/kg!! That’s just the most expensive clams I’d ever had.

  17. Bronwyn

    Yes that does sound about right, lobster sashimi is just the meat, not the lobster, and $150/kg is probably about right for that. 5-7 kg IS 10-15 lb though, and you would never expect to be able to eat that much would you? 200grams (1/2 lb) of lobster sashimi would surely be enough for the largest eater, and that would be $30. It probably does mean 5-7 somethings per kg, not kg of lobster. Lobster is expensive, but a 7 kg one would cover the whole table.

    You also need to remember that Australian dollars are only about – what? – 95c US? So it is a little less than you think. Also remember that a kg is ~2 1/4 lb. Whenever I am in America I think everything in the supermarket is cheap until I remember that you are measuring in pounds not kg, then it seems quite expensive.

    If you want to try an expensive seafood in Australia, try pearl meat – it is the meat from the enormous oysters they grow pearls in in the North-West of Australia. The oysters are about a foot across. THAT is expensive seafood.

  18. Alex

    Unfortunately, you seem to be eating at the wrong end of town. Of course, most tourist places will cost an arm and a leg.

    And I don’t understand why you would choose imported New Zealand Oysters when your in Sydney. Sydney rock oysters are beautiful and fresh =P

    Also, pippies are dirt cheap. Its literally fish bait. No one in sydney pays that kinda price.

    Best to befriend a local to show you around. Sydney seafood should be fairly cheap, don’t get ripped off in big tourist restraunts. Eat where the locals eat =)

  19. Rasa Malaysia

    Alex – I didn’t choose the NZ oysters, they were the only ones available at the restaurant. I love steamed oysters so much I just had to have them. To tell you the truth, after they are steamed with ginger, scallions and soy sauce, they all taste the same, whether they are from NZ, AU, or the Pacific Northwest in the States. I think the difference can be tasted eating raw, not cooked, at least to me. Rock oysters seem too small to be steamed, but I might be wrong.

    The restaurant was recommended by Grab Your Fork, who wins the best food blog in Australia. I believe she knows her food well. The pippies were great, it’s the XO sauce that made them so great, perhaps other places don’t have that good of XO sauces? I don’t know.

  20. Bronwyn

    Also, in assessing the cost of eating out in Australia as compared to America, you must take into account that you don’t need to tip. The wait staff are paid a living wage and tips are NOT expected. Gratefully received, yes, but should be given only for exceptional service.

    The US dollar has nosedived considerably recently too – a couple of years ago things would have seemed way cheaper to you.

  21. kennymah

    Heh. My sweet Devil Wears Prada is heading to Sydney tomorrow, from Melbourne. I am so suggesting this. Thanks, dear!

  22. tigerfish

    Wow, looks at those clams! So fat and juicy! I like them done this way! Can already imagine the taste! 太鲜了!

  23. Dany

    NZ oysters are worth it as they’re beautiful! Despite Australia having a reputation for seafood I still haven’t found seafood to be as good (or as cheap) as it is in NZ, and this is after 5 years in Melbourne. :o)

  24. Alex

    Sorry, I didn’t mean to cause any trouble!

    What I mean is that regular chinese sydney-siders would consider it a very expensive place to eat at.

    For some reason, all my family and friends are involved in restraunts in the city in one way or another.

    With pippies is quite odd, XO pippies is a common dish on chinese menus. Aussies tho, don’t use it much and consider it cheap bait. Thats why in Sydney, you shouldn’t need to pay too much for it.

    Your right about sydney rock oysters tho, best to have it raw or baked with chopped bacon and tabasco sauce. =P

  25. Nick Cowie

    I can not comment on shellfish and crustacean prices in Australia. If I can’t eat it (allergy), it does not matter to me.

    In my experience restaurant prices in the US (mind you that was when 1$AU = 0.75$US) are not that different, once you include “service fees”. Though Americans generally put more on the plate.

    Golden Century Seafood Restaurant was a good choice, spent a couple of weeks in Sydney close to Chinatown. The food and service was better at Golden Century Seafood Restaurant than anywhere else in Chinatown in my opinion. If is a little more expensive but worth it and it does stay open late.

    If you are still in Sydney, try Spice I Am a great little Thai restaurant, 5-10 minutes walk from Chinatown. Best food I had in Sydney and inexpensive.

    You can always try Perth, it is closer to Malaysia than Sydney, fish is marginally cheaper here than Sydney (I also visited the Sydney fish markets) but I have no knowledge on shellfish and crustacean prices.

    And if you do find a decent Malaysian restaurant in Sydney, please tell. The ones I found did not compare to my local favourites.

  26. sandy

    Are pippies the same as clams? Do you think we can simply stir fry the clams with XO sauce or there are other secret ingredients? They look so good. I have got to try if I can manage to buy XO sauce here.

  27. Syrie

    Bee, I LOVE GCs!! Their ginger shallot crab and crispy skin chicken is also great. Crazy prices though. Hvae a great trip.

  28. Rasa Malaysia

    Nick Cowie – I just came back trying “Spice I Am.” It was good. I ordered their signature dishes: Som Tom (Green Papaya Salad), Tom Yum Goong, and Phuket-style Hor Mok (steamed fish in banana leaf). I think the Som Tom is fantastic – salty, very spicy, sour, and just a tint of sweetness. It’s definitely the best Som Tom I have ever tasted. I didn’t like the Tom Yum Goong, they put evaporated milk into it and make it taste milky. The hor mok has really good spice balance and tasted just like Malaysian otak-otak, but there are no fish fillet pieces inside the parcel at all. So it was more like some fish paste mixed with spices.

  29. MyF

    Wow, u sure love siput huh? I love fresh oysters. And mussels. I guess no matter where – at what price – some are just nice to order and experience the taste and cooking… Have fun gal!

  30. Christie @ fig&cherry

    Oooh that makes me miss home. 3 more weeks and I’m heading straight to the fish markets – yum!

  31. Salt & Turmeric

    Yup, seafood are def expensive in OZ. and eating out is not something that ppl can afford to do everyday thus you always see ppl bringing food fr home.

    save the ‘pigging’ out session when ur back in Msia! ;)

  32. Nick Cowie

    @Rasa Malaysia I am glad you where not too disappointed with “Spice I Am”. Never been to Thailand or to a good Thai restraurant, prior to my first visit there. I will admit the quaility varied between dishes and the same dishes over two consective nights. The crispy fish was my pick, the flavours where stunning.

    @salt & turmeric eating out in OZ is not that expensive. I am fortunate to work in the middle of the restaurant district in Perth. There are a large number of cafes and restaurants, over 200 within 3 blocks of my workplace. Not all are good, actually I usually end up in one of my half a dozen favourites but always willing to try new ones. Still looking for a Thai half as good as “Spice I Am”.

    I eat out every day for lunch (that way I do not have to prepare a large meal in the evening). I generally spend under $10AUD for lunch (ok somedays it gets at high as $15AUD).

    For that price you can some decent food, the service may vary, but the food is always worth in my select few establishments.

  33. christine

    Wait! What did I miss!? What’s this ‘moving to Sidney’ business? When, why?! yay! It’s closer! haha

  34. Linda

    I’ve just moved from Sydney to New York. I miss Sydney fresh seafood especially oyster and pipis. Seafood in NY is nothing compared to Sydney.

  35. Nearly Local in Sydney

    The Pippies in XO Sauce at Golden Centuray is to die for………… For those people who have not lived in Sydney…….. you need to take into consideration the price difference between “live” seafood and “fresh” seafood. If live pippies are selling at 48/kg (I have not seen that price at the fish market, but doesn’t mean it is not right), I bought fresh ones at the flemington market for 18/kg yesterday). I am going to try to cook Pippies in XO sauce tonight, will let you know it goes. Live seafood is usually double the price of fresh ones.

    The bottom line is, Sydney Fish Market has become such a tourish attraction, prices there are above average and if you look harder, you will find cheaper seafood. They are diffinitely cheaper than Shanghai, but more expensive than Singapore.

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