“This is the first non-Cantonese Chinese food I’ve had that has not been terrible”
I’m usually against quoting myself for fear of sounding ridiculous but today’s post is important as it celebrates me finally enjoying “traditional” Chinese food. What do I mean by traditional? There is an incredibly extensive write-up on Broadsheet pulled together by Nick Jordan which deep dives into a number of sub-genres of Chinese food by province. It’s an incredible read but right now, I’m going to take a giant leap right over all of his research and say that I have never really enjoyed Chinese food as I know it from the mainland.
If you ever visit Malaysia, you’ll notice that there is a huge Chinese influence due to the fact that Chinese migrants from previous generations make up a significant percentage of the population. While most of us seem to originate from Hokkien, Hakka or even Teochew parts of China, the food that we eat probably most closely resembles the Cantonese food that you would eat in Hong Kong. This is also typically the style of food you’d get at yum cha places like The Century or Marigold for instance. It’s a lot lighter on the palate, the dumpling skins are thinner and you’d be hard pressed to find 嘛辣 in any of the dishes. I love delicate food, thin broths that we call soup, lightly seasoned dishes and steamed seafood, so Cantonese cuisine is absolutely one of my favourites.
Now that I’ve roughly explained everything I love about one particular type of Chinese food, enter Spring Yunnan which is nothing like anything I’ve described. As the name indicates, it’s Yunnanese food with plenty of Sichuan peppers, fried options and both hot and cold noodles. Having seen a ‘not bad’ photo of their dishes on Pat Nourse’s Instagram, coupled with our thing of wanting to try new places that aren’t budget-breaking, myself, Sarah and Jeff make plans to reunite here after our holidaying exodus.
Beef Soup Noodles (Price unknown)
Beef noodles are high up on our collective list of food priorities. I love hot and soupy dishes, Sarah loves carbs and Jeff needs his weekly red meat intake. It’s a really savoury bowl that tastes of a broth cooked for hours and they are generous with the beef. I like the texture of the noodles and the thin tofu sheets are also a welcoming addition to the mix as is the fresh pile of shallots.
Steamed Pork Dumplings $11.80
Xiao long baos are one of Sarah’s favourites and something she tends to order on a menu if she sees it. She says the filling (both the meat and t he soup) are good but the skin was a tad too thick. See earlier reference about where to get delicate dumplings.
Deep Fried Chicken with Sichuan Peppercorns, Dried Chilli and Red Kidney Beans $26.80
I think the reason why I like Spring Yunnan isn’t because they’ve deviated from my understanding of mainland Chinese food. It’s the same stuff, just not as oily, not as heavy, not as “much”. Despite being deep fried, these nubbins of chicken didn’t taste like they were dredged up with fossil fuels. I didn’t feel like the kidney beans added much to the dish but the chilli and shallots which feature here made it all a little fresher.
Stir-fried Pak Choy with Bean Paste $15.80
Vegetables are always a must for me and tonight we’ve gone with some pak choy. Asian vegetables can be tricky to master in my opinion as people tend to cook them into oblivion. #nofilter, these were this vibrantly green in real life and still had a nice bit of crunch in the stem. Again really good that they weren’t laden with oil!
I don’t know if Spring Yunnan is a shining example of Yunnanese food as I don’t believe I’ve ever otherwise had Yunnanese cuisine. I’m also not sure if it’s generally good overall because it is tasty, or because my expectations going in were so low. But this was a really affordable Friday night option set in a restaurant that’s fairly new and had some semblance of an ambience, as far as restaurants in Chinatown go.