Eat and shop your way through one of the city’s most exciting food hubs at Box Hill Central

Just 14km from the city centre, Box Hill has acted as the de facto capital of Chinese immigration in Melbourne for decades, underpinned by a detailed and regionally specific rendering of today’s Chinese foodscape. At its heart is Box Hill Central: a beacon of snacking, shopping and dining with the range and flavour to go toe-to-toe with Melbourne’s Chinatown. Sinophiles and flavour hunters can easily lose a day following their noses from noodle to nai cha at Box Hill Central; here are a few standouts you’ll want on your hitlist.

Known for its jian bing, a savoury breakfast crêpe (of sorts) with a deep-fried wonton cracker at its heart, Pancake Village offers one of several handheld ways to kick things off at Box Hill Central. Magic Cuisine 2’s zhuan bing is another hot contender – a thicker, oilier pancake curled around your choice of fillings, from stewed meats aplenty to Chinese homestyle classic tudousi, hot and sour shredded potato. Couple your bing of choice with a cup of dofu nao, which translates to tofu brain: a deeply savoury soup of silken tofu, mushroom, coriander and egg – from Pancake Village.

The hardy folk of northeastern China often start the day in equally steadfast fashion with fluffy great baozi – a sweet steamed white bun most commonly assembled with a hulking pork meatball at its core. Magic Cuisine 1’s steamers work overtime throughout the day, with flavour combinations such as pork and ginger and chicken and mushroom feeding the neighbourhood, and at $3 per hit, they represent one of the best-value handheld ways to start the day (Magic Cuisine 2, diagonally opposite, also sells frozen dumplings – don’t snooze on that).

Box Hill Central’s range of Taiwanese food is another calling card, so if it is – as often it is – a Taiwanese Maryland in a bag you seek, waste no time in making for Rainbow Chicken, where a bain marie of fried and roasted intrigue awaits.

Sweet snacking is another strong suit at Box Hill Central and might come in the form of a delicate Japanese choux pastry from Kurimu x Pafu, a baked cheese tart from Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart, or perhaps a pastry filled with red bean from Ms Bean. Then again, it might come in the form of a flaky pastry from vegan bakery, Blissful Station.

If the strength of the snack sector has been up there since the beginning, Box Hill Central’s sit-down dining game has improved significantly in recent years, with the introduction of several big hitters such as perennial tom yum favourite Dodee Paidang, hot pot restaurant Little Sichuan, Maru Korean BBQ, and Sichuan-inspired barbecuers Rising Embers. They join a cast of well-established favourites like Kunming noodle giants Colourful Yunnan, whose crossing the bridge noodles and little pot noodles offer comforting, soupy respite at any point of the shopping experience, and Kitchen Republik, a Taiwanese-leaning collection of restaurants drawn together in a way that evokes the buzzy atmosphere of a hawker centre. If beef noodles by way of Taiwan are your jam, order the Taiwanese beef brisket noodle soup here, a Tainanese classic celebrated for the clarity and subtle sweetness of its delicate beef broth as much as the abundance of fall-apart brisket that crowns it.

And for the Korean tofu stew fans in the crowd, you can’t do much better than the kimchi soon-tofu at Dooboo Korean Tofu House, where pork, kimchi, egg and silken tofu lead a fiery broth of sheer comfort served with fermented sides and delivered by an eager robot.

Grocery shopping
Box Hill Central’s Fresh Food Market is up there with the best grocery shopping in the city, and it begins at Hu Hui Supermaket, where freshness and value join hands with rare variety. For pan-Asian pantry, fridge and freezer essentials, hit Tan Hung Asian Grocer, and for something sugary – an ice-cream inspired by tang hulu, a sweet street snack of candied hawthorn berries threaded onto a stick, perhaps – head to Sweet Kingdom.

By Frank Sweet.
This piece was produced by MFWF in partnership with Box Hill Central.