Here are some of our favourites in the city and Chatswood.
Corner Dixon & Little Hay streets, Haymarket
Dixon House is the oldest of Chinatown's food courts and has a distinct decor of wood-panelling and mirrors. Among the stalls are terrific regional Chinese dishes at Shanghai Delicious Food, Sizzling and Hot Pot Kitchen and Oriental Dumpling King (which serves the bargain under $5 "Chinese burger"). There's also Indonesian at Pondok-Selera and freshly made sugarcane juice at De Juice.
Harbour Plaza, 25–29 Dixon Street, Haymarket
It's got the best name, a dingy subterranean feel, and stalls that have developed cult followings – Gumshara (for collagen-rich ramen), Singapore Shiok! (for superlative Hainanese chicken rice), and At Thai Cuisine (try the "stand up" fried whole fish). There's also Vietnamese at Phuong, Chinese grilled meat skewers at Red Charcoal and more.
The Galeries Victoria
500 George Street, Sydney
The dim lighting and swanky fitout make it seem more bar than food court. The line-up includes bite-sized versions of Chat Thai, Madame Nhu and Ichi-ban Boshi. Duck upstairs to try out the laksa at Jimmy's Recipe, too.
427–441 Victoria Avenue, Chatswood
A modest arcade with a misleadingly pastoral sounding name, the highlights here include New Shanghai – less flashy than the Chatswood Chase branch but with equally great dumplings and a bargain breakfast menu, Grape Garden for spicy dandan using egg noodles handmade in front of you, and Jang Soo for deep-fried, tofu-filled chilli.
61–65 Albert Avenue, Chatswood
A recent makeover hasn't knocked any of the charm out of this old cheap eats favourite. Among the bargains: Korean fried chicken from Chitos, deep-fried mash potato cakes, and juicy gyoza from Fujiama Noodle Bar, top beef rendang from East West Gourmet, and the newest addition Fortune Place for yum cha.
Level 3, Market City, 9–13 Hay Street, Haymarket
It's the newest food court in Chinatown, and the brightest. Come for Flavour of North India curries, great quality bargain ramen from Hakata-Maru, glistening barbecued pork from Super Chef, and one of the CBD's best pho at Bo 7 Mon Thanh Tam (where you'll also find Vietnamese drip coffee and terrific banh xeo).
Level 1, 401 Sussex Street, Haymarket
Bright and clean, this is a haven for noodle enthusiasts – from Chinese egg and rice noodles at Ma's Kitchen, Fung Shing Gourmet and Happy Chef to Vietnamese beef noodles at Saigon Pho, and terrific ramen at one of our current favourites, chef Harunobu Inukai's Ramen Ikkyu.
Level 5, 188 Pitt Street, Sydney
The glamorous fitout isn't there to distract – there's no need with top food stalls such as Din Tai Fung, Sassy's Red, and Becasse Bakery. Other favourites include The Snag Stand for "haute" dogs, and top pies at Mick's Bakehouse.
What's your favourite food court in Sydney and what's your go-to dish there? Jump on the comments and share your recommendations.
The SMH Good Food Under $30 guide will be available for $5 with The Sydney Morning Herald on March 1 from participating newsagents, while stocks last. It is also available in selected bookshops and online at smhshop.com.au for $9.99.