Jessica Zhan Mei Yu is a writer of fiction, non-fiction and poetry.

She holds a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Melbourne, and her writing has been published in Best Australian Poems, Overland, Yen, The Sydney Morning Herald, The White Review and more. In 2021, she was shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Prize for Literature award in the Unpublished Manuscript category. But the Girl is her first novel, and her first essay collection, All the Stain is Tender, is set to follow.

My local is KL Bunga Raya, because it’s essential for me to have a good Malaysian restaurant in my area. The Ipoh hor fun is my favourite because I love the creamy egg sauce, the fat prawns and fragrantly charred rice noodles.

I know I’m in Melbourne when I’m walking in the park with my greyhound and she gets to greet about a dozen other greyhounds on the way.

In the mornings you’ll find me at my desk writing, usually. I’ve found that early mornings are the best time for me to get some writing done.

My defining food moment in Melbourne was probably a series of moments involving things my mum made – things like chicken rice – boiled whole chicken with home-made chilli and garlic sauce, fragrant rice, sliced cucumber and tomato and cabbage broth on the side. Chicken curry with eggs floating in the sauce, which we’d have with rice, but would also mop up with supermarket bread. Or kuih, our amazing savoury steamed yam cake with dried shrimp, spring onion and chilli on top. I could go on for days.

When I want to show the city off to friends from out of town, I like to take them to both NGV Australia and NGV International. I never get sick of looking at the permanent collections and it’s always good to see what exhibitions are on.

My favourite place to stock up on supplies is KFL, because they have the best selection of Asian groceries and the gruffest butchers.

The best new thing I’ve found is not that new, but before the pandemic, my husband and I found this amazing Korean restaurant in Niddrie – Bapuri. I love the soybean paste stew and the side dishes.

When I want to go all out on a special meal, I go to Din Tai Fung in Emporium. I love the xiao long bao but also the tofu piled high with century egg and pork floss. And it’s a beautiful space – my husband took me for my birthday one year and I took my dad on his birthday another year so there are some very special memories there.

There’s no better value in Melbourne than duck noodle soup at Parrot House in Flemington. The duck skin is lacquered and crisp and the noodles are soft and springy – if it were a French restaurant the prices would be way more exorbitant. And across the road from Parrot House – M Yong Tofu. Yong tau foo is one of my favourite foods and getting to pick your noodles, soup and favourite stuffed tofu and vegetables is such a delight.

My favourite Melbourne literary moment is pretty simple and happens often. Just walking into my local bookstore and talking to my friend who runs it. Touching and looking at all the new releases and buying something for myself as a treat.

If I could change one thing about eating and drinking here it would be the price of groceries and the cost of living – it’s becoming increasingly difficult for people to afford to buy the food they need.

But the one thing I hope never changes in Melbourne is the sheer amount of support and enthusiasm for literary events and new writers that we have here. And of course, the beautiful food.

But the Girl is out now with Penguin Random House in Australia, and is available from good book stores like Hill of Content and Readings. Follow Jess on Twitter at @jessicazmyu.