One of the favourite memories from my childhood was eating Zongzi at Mrs. L’s house, her voice floating out from the kitchen, musical and gentle, the scent of soy and garlic mixing with hot rice, as each leaf would be unwrapped carefully to unveil a bounty of rice and pork, the meat tender and gently smokey in flavours, the rice soft, but not terribly so, mildly smelling of soy and herbs. The Duanwu or Dragon Boat festival is an annual occassion for the Chinese, where eating Zongzi, drinking Realgar and racing dragon boats would be parts of celebrating the event, and when Yauatcha celebrated it this year, I was compelled to come over.
When a bunch of happy people sit together, the ambiance is always relaxed and pleasant. Drinks flowed, and the zongzi came, one after the other. Lotus leaf encased sticky rice with chunks of tender lamb and pine nuts which disintegrated in my mouth, or the pork and prawn with a generous hit of soy and mirin, or the caramelized pork belly with shiitake mushrooms, which was luscious and laden with the rich, umami flavour. Vegetarian options were also presented, and a rather fun combination of vegetarian duck and edamame stole the show for many.
With the sweetness of the rice, you need something sharp and tangy to cut through it all, and the Citrus Spritz, the drink specially created for this occasion, was exactly that – a splash of sparkling wine with a base of vodka, vermouth and slices of lime, stirred together with some ice, and this is a summer drink that’s simple and refreshing – perfect for those late-afternoon dates when all you want is this and a few dimsums to keep you company.
And when you realize you are filling up on the zongzi, just then more food hit the table. The Wok Fried Vegetarian chicken was a massive hit with the table – and truthfully speaking, if you ask me, this tasted like soft chicken thighs, marinated in soy, then batter fried and tossed into a spicy hoisin and soy based sauce, with a handful of string beans, chillies and onion chunks which retained their crunch.
The stir fried tofu was another hit for me – soft tofu, crunchy peppers and onions, bathed in a light soy and sugar drizzle which was simple, yet so effective. I wanted this with a big bowl of sticky jasmine rice, and a few slices of char siu pork afterwards.
On the other hand, the prawns in the Spicy Wild Curry were plump and juicy, and these were taken pretty quickly, the mildly herbal, slightly creamy sauce perfect for dunking in the prawns as much as one wanted, spear a cube of water chestnut or two, the fresh water chestnuts providing additional textural dimension to the perfectly cooked prawn. Between D and K, I could see forks moving and a frantic search for more.
R had promised me a dessert to make me happy, and it came in all its decadent glory, the wine sorbet sitting on a bed of crumbly chocolate soil, flanked by bits of wine-soaked water chestnuts and mangoes soaking in their own puree. The cake itself was more like a mousse, sitting pretty on a crunchy biscuit bed, the scent of mangoes and water chestnut light and fluffy, in contrast with the boozy, sweet hit of the sorbet. It was a fitting end to a rather glorious meal, although, may I confess that I could not resist ordering a Raspberry Delice for myself in the end? The Dragon Boat Festival at Yauatcha has started from 1st June, and it will continue till 30th June, 2016. The special menu is available to order a-la-carte with your meal.
Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee was invited to Yauatcha for a preview of the Dragon Boat Festival.