Saturday, November 22, 2008

Yum yum cha - dim sum all the time

Yum Yum Cha is a small made-to-order dim sum restaurant in Rice Village. It does not serve the best dim sum in Houston -- probably not even close. But some dishes are very good. More importantly, Yum Yum Cha makes dim sum convenient.

The inconvenience of dim sum in Houston

Dim sum is a style of Chinese cuisine involving small plates served with Chinese tea. For some reason, dim sum in Houston is almost always served on weekends in giant restaurants. Servers whisk around carts with a variety of dishes for diners to choose on sight. The wait for a table can be long.

Until a few years ago, if you were craving dim sum on a Wednesday, you were out of luck. (Now one or two weekday dim sum restaurants have opened up in Chinatown.) And no restaurants serve Dim Sum at any time inside Loop 610 -- except Yum Yum Cha Cafe in Rice Village. It is open all week (except Monday after 5 and Tuesday all day) for lunch, dinner, or an afternoon snack and tea.

What is good, what is not

The quintessential dim sum dish is dumplings. Yum Yum Cha's dumplings are disappointing. The shiu mai standing dumplings are poorly constructed and did not have much flavor. Pan-fried potstickers are dry and rubbery.

But I have liked everything else.

Let's start with the strange stuff. Yum Yum Cha serves some outstanding chicken feet, cooked in a viscous, slightly sweet sauce. Despite the wierdness of the fatty feet with tiny bones, my daughter loved the dish. Beef stomach with black bean sauce is much more stomach than sauce. It has an odd texture, much like another dish on the menu called "tripe", but a better flavor. [Edit: as a commenter noted, tripe is beef stomach. I can't explain the distinction on Yum Yum Cha's menu.] The sauce adds a peppery spiciness. It is worth trying once, just to say you did. But the flavor may be odd to most Western tastes.

Gai lan is a bright green, steamed chinese vegetable that resembles broccoli stalks with spinach leaves. It is one of my favorite greens of any cuisine. Yum Yum Cha serves it with a tasty oyster sauce. Even my 10-year-old daughter, who is not big on vegetables, loves this dish.

Yum Yum Cha serves a number of dishes called "rice roll." They involve large slippery rice noodles, shaped like lasagna pasta. These are served with barbecue pork or shrimp. They are hard to pick up with chopsticks, but it is a neat sensation to feel these silk-like noodles slide through your mouth. Another savory rice noodle dish is pan fried with green onions and topped with a sauce that tastes like hoisin. It may be my favorite dish.

Other standouts are rice balls with shrimp and a custard tart dessert that will have you craving tea.

It is hard to spend more than $10 per person at Yum Yum Cha. Its customers look like they come from Rice and the Medical Center rather than nearby West U, which makes sense given the adventurous food and good prices.

Update: Where did the comments section go?

Blogger has a bug that causes the comments link to disappear when I use a third-party program, such as the slide show. I really like my slide show, but I also really like your comments. To comment, click on the link to the Yum Yum Cha post in the Archives on the upper right side. The page will reappear with the comment link.

I do this site for free, so I take whatever Blogger can give me for free.


Anonymous said...

I like Yum Yum for the same reason you do- even if it isn't the best, its very convenient for those of us who can't get out to Chinatown all that often- I think it might be a little healthier actually- I found the seasoning to be not as salty ( or lacking MSG? who knows?) compared to my usual dim sum haunts. And it covers all the basic, cherished dim sum dishes made to order (and hot!) so its not a bad deal.

Cytoworld said...

I thought beef stomach is tripe?

anonymouseater said...

Cytoworld: I thought the same thing. But Yum Yum Cha sells two different items: one it calls "tripe" and the other it calls "beef stomach." Of the two, I like beef stomach better.

Wikipedia says that tripe is made from "only the first three chambers of a cow's stomach." Perhaps the "beef stomach" on Yum Yum Cha's menu is made from something else?

If anyone else can explain the distinction, please help.

Justin said...

HK Dim Sum in the Dun Huang shopping center complex (where QQ and FuFu Cafe is) has the same setup as Yum Yum Cha, where your order the dim sum at the table and there's table service for it. It is as well, all day, every day, and I would say it's pretty good.

I've found over the last year that I don't hate yum yum cha as much as I used to, but for dim sum anytime, I think I'd rather make the drive out to Chinatown to get HK Dim Sum

Justin said...

Also, tripe is the inner lining of the stomach. So maybe beef stomach isn't the inner lining?


Anonymous said...

Anonymouseater, I've just recently found out about Yum Yum Cha but haven't been yet. I see you've reviewed dumplings and shiu mai (pork?) but how are the shrimp dumplings? I get the worst cravings for those suckers during the week.

Liang said...

In my opinion, Fung's Kitchen has the best dim sum in all of Houston. They also serve it off an order menu during weekdays at lunch hours.

Anonymous said...
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