All photos by Sarahlianhan
We’re back at Yang & Co, almost a year later. It is a little far, clocking in just over an hour from where I live via public transport. But on this occasion, we’ve all piled into Jeff’s car, like the happy family we are, for our over the bridge road trip.
The adjective ‘unassuming’ is as exhausting to read as it is to spell out, from overuse, but that’s really what Yang & Co is. There is nothing in its name, in a side door that serves as its main door, in its locale, that would indicate Asian food of this calibre is being fished out of the humble neighbourhood of Castlecrag. I say ‘Asian’ not in ignorance but because Alex, chef and proprietor of Yang & Co, has borrowed influences from his Malaysian heritage and also from across various ponds.
Moreton Bay Bugs, Singapore Chilli Sauce, Man Tao $28
Australians and Singaporeans have joint custody of this Singapore Chilli Moreton Bug. This rendition replaces Alex’s earlier classic style that used crabs. Served with golden mantou, you could close your eyes and feel transported back to South East Asia, minus the humidity. The bug was meaty and plump, as you’d expect from well cooked shellfish. However, and this might be the purist in me, but I like crab a lot and found myself preferring the original, also because I found the sauce to be more balanced. Speaking with Alex, we find out that the Yang & Co kitchen has stopped using castor sugar, opting instead for palm sugar. This tweak to the cooking process could be the reason for it was a tad more tangy/sweet than it was previously, but he says it’s steadily getting better!
Flame tail snapper fillet $37
The snapper is utterly delightful and pleases the cherry arm of the dining crew that night for being a) steamed fish b) no bones. The clear broth it swims in does nothing to giveaway the mild notes of green szechuan peppercorn oil that we had actually forgot was part of the dish. I’m usually vehemently opposed to numbing spices but when paired oh so delicately with a steamed fish, it was the perfect kick.
Kung Pow King Brown Mushrooms $17
A dish based solely around mushrooms probably don’t excite many but it’s one of the few dishes that both Sarah and I zoned in on from the start. These were truly earthy, with a pleasing bite that carried the fried chilli pepper taste. Unsurprisingly, the chicken skin is a hit with almost every one, evidenced in yours truly trying to nonchalantly steal pieces when no one was looking.
Stir Fried Pumpkin, Snow Peas, Baby Corn, Tofu, Radish, Fermented Black Bean Sauce $20
The pumpkin is perhaps the only minor bump on our journey to utter food coma. Flavour-wise it tastes like a pad kee mao with a strong basil profile that is persistent in each bite. A tad sweet, it’s by no means a ‘bad’ dish, and would very much be appreciated by Thai cuisine aficionados. It’s just purely in comparison to the other dishes that we like it a little less.
Yang’s Fried Rice $16
I keep my relationship with fried rice on a hard leash, mostly because I know if left to frolic on its own, I’d be three bowls deep in a carb coma, blacked out while clutching onto a Chinese white porcelain spoon. Yang’s Fried Rice is one powerful enough to shred said leash and whatever other restrains you might have put on yourself as you work towards a slightly healthier waistline. The nubbins of house smoked pastrami is an absolute game changer, salty but aromatic and substantially meaty enough to switch up the rice from becoming too same-y. It reminds me of my grandma’s signature bacon fried rice and the way some fried rice has bits of salted fish mixed through. The potato chips do a similar thing, except it’s about introducing crunch into the game. It’s little surprises like the pastrami and the chips, powerful pocket rockets, that can make bring even the most discerning food enthusiast to his knees, salivating.
Pipis Chinese Omelette, Pan Fried Vermicelli, Housemade XO Sauce $38
The pipis dish looks like nothing we’ve ever seen before, surprising when we were expecting a rendition of Golden Century’s famed dish. The eggs are fluffy like a Thai style omelette and the sauce is light in consistency but heavy on that XO sauce flavour that everyone loves. Underneath is the vermicelli that’s been fried to a smokey ‘wok hei’ point, another unforgiving carb that I could really have had more of. The closest comparison I can make is that it tastes like something my grandma could whip up out of leftover ingredients from a previous night of feasting. Possibly my favourite dish of the night, and truly one worth the journey to
Mordor Castlecrag alone.
For the finale, we order a token dessert to tip us just over the edge. I can’t remember what this dessert is called (Alex, if you’re reading this, let me know!) but it’s a mixture of sago, coconut, meringue, strawberries, chocolate and coconut ice cream. A little bit eton mess, and a little bit of home for me, our dessert is the right amount of not-too-sweet to end the night on.
It is here that the penny finally drops. Yang & Co isn’t just ‘Asian’ cuisine, it’s the cuisine of ah ma, 婆婆, おばあさん, and every affectionate maternal figure in your family that cooks from the heart, not the mind and measures in finger lengths rather than measuring cups. This is the kind of meal that sends me to a blissful sleep, dreaming about a place that’s the perfect mix of Australia and Malaysia, a fictional island where Yang & Co is the national cuisine.