Have you heard of mo's? The Chinese-style hamburgers have been popping up on menus at Sydney restaurants and market stalls, but Café Mo'st is possibly first venue to serve them in a modern cafe setting.
At Mo'st, located in the new Barrack Place development in the Sydney CBD, the signature mo is filled with a fragrant slow-cooked chopped pork; chilli, coriander and capsicum; then stuffed into the mo; a round flatbread that's crusty on the outside, and spongy on the inside.
"This helps absorb the flavours of the pork juices so it's not dripping everywhere," says co-owner Channing Xing.
Rou jia mo – which translates to '"meat sandwich" – is a street snack that hails from the Shaanxi province in north-western China. It's said to be the world's oldest sandwich, dating back to the Zhou dynasty who ruled ancient China from 1046 BC.
For Xing, who hails from Shaanxi, they're a fondly remembered childhood snack. "I remember in primary school a cart would come by to sell them and I would buy them after school," he says.
Xing admits he didn't think traditional northern-Chinese food would appeal to western palat es, until he went to New York and saw the queues outside Xi'an Famous Foods, a popular casual chain restaurant that serves rou jia mo."As Australians, we love to eat burgers and sandwiches. It's really the same concept," says Xing.That is, with a few tweaks. Mo's are usually filled with pork belly, but Xing says, "people in Sydney don't want to be eating greasy food for lunch." Their stew combines pork belly with two other leaner pork cuts, with a combination of "secret spices" and a master stock.
Aside from the classic pork, there are other mo fillings on offer: Hainanese chicken breast with fried onion, pickles and a ginger-shallot dressing; master-stock tofu with king mushroom and lotus root; and cumin-spiked lamb patty with salad and Greek yoghurt. There's also liang pi, a popular Shaanxi dish of cold wheat noodles dressed in sesame paste, vinegar and chilli oil.
Plus, you can score a decent coffee or tea with your Shaanxi snack. Xing – who owns two other cafes in the city – recognises that Sydney diners take their coffee seriously. At Mo'st, you can order a flat white made with coffee beans by Melbourne roasters Five Senses, or high-quality Chinese tea by boutique tea label Ms. Cattea.
Judging by the lines outside Mo'st since opening in December 2018, it looks like their formula for combining coffee, tea and mos has paid off. Mo'st, Barrack Place, Shop 7, 151 Clarence Street, Mon-Fri 8am-4pm, cafemost.com