In these terrible times, food memories keep us sane. I had been, for quite a while, thinking of a great Vietnamese meal that a young visitor had prepared for us several years ago. She had come armed with a packet of rice paper, with which she wanted to make some crepes for us. For this, I took her shopping to INA market, where we had an enjoyable time buying shrimps, ripe mangoes, fresh cucumbers and other veggies.
The shrimp (boiled), mango and cucumber (sliced) went into the rice paper, which she rolled up in such a way that the colours of the three ingredients looked like a dazzling palette. But along with this she prepared another great dish. She added veggies to a broth of chicken that was bubbling away on the stove. Into this she added some rice noodles – and I had my first bowl of pho!
The pho (pronounced phuh, as in duh) was sublime — and it came to my mind last week when I was looking at the menu of Yum Yum Cha.
Yum Yum Cha is a restaurant in Khan Market run by Varun Tuli, the man behind Noshi, which has on the menu various kinds of pan-Asian dishes. In the good old days, we had eaten at Yum Yum Cha, and greatly enjoyed the meal. So we thought we would order food from the restaurant (Ph. 9810002994).
We had been sorely missing pork, so we asked for a plate of braised pork belly from the wok. We had also been missing eating lamb, so we asked for a dish of meat with basil and chilli. Two-thirds of the family loves prawns, so we asked for prawn har gaos (a kind of dim sum). And then, to make it a balanced meal, we asked for a vegetarian pho.
We started with the har gao (₹for 385 for four pieces), and it was simply superb. The casing was light and thin, and the juicy stuffing — of chopped prawn, dill leaves and asparagus — was delicious. After that we had the pho (₹685), which was a slurpy dish of noodles in a light broth peppered with tofu, smooth mushrooms and other veggies. I loved it, and was transported back to the time when our Vietnamese friend had cooked it for us —and a roomful of friends. I moved to the lamb (₹685), which was, again, memorable. The tender pieces were thinly sliced, and the chillies and basil gave the lamb a flavour that lingered on.
What was disappointing was the pork (₹685). I though the meat was a bit too chewy, and just too sweet. I know that pork works well with sweet ingredients (apple, pineapple, brown sugar, molasses etc), and I love it with a sweet sauce (though, right now, my favourite is the Coorgi Pandi curry). But the sweetness has to be balanced with other flavours; and I think in this case, it just overpowered every other taste.
Prawn har gao Photo: Special Arrangement
A great thing about Yum Yum Cha is that they take full precautions in cooking and delivering food. All hygiene norms are maintained, and the food is delivered in tight plastic containers.
The sweetness of the pork notwithstanding, it was a happy meal that we greatly enjoyed. Yum Yum, I said, as I licked my platter clean.
The writer is a seasoned food critic