Sunday, 16 February 2014

Two Sticks - Yunnan China, Haymarket (16th February 2014)

Two Sticks – Yunnan China is THE hottest Chinese noodle restaurant in Chinatown! Opened merely weeks, this smallish restaurant located on George Street has attracted quite a following with crowds lining up daily to sample their popular Yunnan noodle soup. Curious to find out what Yunnan food is all about, I rounded up Ken and Su Wei for lunch today at Two Sticks around noon. The place was already quite packed when we arrived though surprisingly there wasn't any line. The wet and windy weather must have deterred some folks so we were able to get a table straightaway - score! Looking around, diners were all happily slurping and lapping up their bowls of hot noodle soup. No doubt we'll be getting one for our table :)


Two Sticks - Yunnan China on George Street, Haymarket

Diners enjoying their bowls of hot noodle soup

Yunnan is a province located in the far southwest of China bordering countries Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam. One of their best known dishes is the guòqiáo mǐxiàn (literally means “crossing the bridge noodles”), a rice noodle soup dish consisting of a bowl of boiling hot broth with soup ingredients such as thin slices of meat and raw vegetables prepared separately and added by the diner in a similar fashion to the hotpot. There are several stories of the its name origin and a popular one is this: There once was a scholar on a small island studying hard for his imperial exams. Every day, his wife would bring him food but found that by the time she crossed the bridge to the island, the soup would be cold and noodles turned soggy. To overcome this, she decided to load a large earthen pot with boiling broth and added a layer of oil on the top which would keep the soup warm, and kept the noodles and other ingredients in a separate container, mixing them into the soup only when she arrived.

Here at Two Sticks, the "crossing the bridge noodles" is listed on the menu as the Yunnan Signature Rice Noodle Soup. I was amazed at the speed of service – we had just ordered and in less than 5 minutes, our noodle soup was on the table! The waiter set the piping hot soup served in a heated gourd-shaped earthen pot on our table and proceeded to slide in a quail egg and rolls of thinly sliced beef and chicken, stirring them in with chopsticks to cook the raw ingredients.


Our waiter putting in the quail egg and sliced meats into the hot soup

“Please wait 2 minutes before putting the noodles in,” said our friendly waiter and he left us to add the other soup ingredients at our leisure. Tick, tick, tick...two minutes felt like forever...When the wait was over, Su Wei did the honours and tipped all the other soup ingredients into the pot, including the sides of Yunnan pickled vegetables, shallots, coriander and sliced chillies (you can add a bit of these sides as you eat instead of mixing them all in). A quick stir and it’s time to eat! We were given individual serving bowls (since we were sharing our meals) and though the shape was quirky and unique, it was shorter on one side which meant we couldn't put much into our bowls :/ The chicken soup was deliciously flavoursome with a slight sour taste - just a wholesome belly-warmer for a cold day. Getting to the cooked ingredients was a bit of a challenge as you have to dig them out of the tall pot with your two sticks (aka chopsticks) and the noodles were quite slippery but it was all part and parcel of the fun and enjoyment of the meal.


Yunnan Signature Rice Noodle Soup ($11.80) - thinly sliced meat and quail egg cooking in the pot with ingredients of sliced bean curd sheets, chives, bean sprouts, rice noodles, fresh chilli, Yunnan pickled vegetables, shallots and coriander served separately

Su Wei tossing everything into the pot

A quick stir and it's time to dig in!

Delicious belly-warming noodle soup in my unique slanting bowl

Many Yunnan dishes are quite spicy and we soon discovered this in the other dishes we ordered. The Braised Beef Noodle was another noodle soup from the menu packed with good flavour (and like the Yunnan Signature, it also had that distinct sourish taste in the soup) and level of spice. The dish was served in a copper pot with its noodles, meat and all mixed in. Loved the chunks of braised beef, so tender and breaks apart with an easy prod of my chopsticks.


Braised Beef Noodle ($9.80) - braised beef, chives, bean sprouts, Yunnan pickled vegetables, shallots, coriander and rice noodle

If you thought the Braised Beef Noodle was spicy, wait till you try the appetisers we sampled. The Two-flavour White Cut Chicken was a small dish with boneless sliced poached chicken that was served cool and doused in a rich chilli, ginger and shallot oil-based sauce. The Spicy Pork Tripe had thinly sliced poached tripe that was chewy to the bite and also drenched in a spicy chilli sauce. I suspected the sauce was made with Sichuan peppers as I could feel the tingly numbness on my tongue after my first few bites. My whole mouth was burning from the combined spice from both dishes and after awhile, I couldn't tell them apart - they tasted equally spicy!


Two-flavour White Cut Chicken ($4.80) - poached chicken served with ginger shallot oil and spicy chilli sauce

Spicy Pork Tripe ($4.20) - poached pork tripe, garlic, peanuts, sesame, coriander with spicy chilli dressing

I found the staff at Two Sticks very efficient and attentive - short wait times from order to serve, and tables quickly cleared once meals were finished. All the waitstaff looked very smart in their black uniforms and cap with striking yellow neck scarves, fitting in with their glossy brown-black tiles and wooden arches interior.

“Let’s get some dessert,” suggested Su Wei and we narrowed down to two of the four choices available only be to told by our waiter that they only had the Soybean-flour Rice Balls this afternoon :( Oh well, just one of that then...We continued our chit-chat and was stopped mid-sentence, heads turned as we eyed another waitstaff carrying two trays filled with what looked like bowls of the Paoluda. What the?? Our waiter must have read our minds and before we could ponder further, he was back at our table asking if we wanted the now available dessert as well. Yes please! 

The Soybean-flour Rice Balls was a pleasant surprise for none of us expected it to be warm, mochi-like soft balls coated with soybean-flour (I had expected rice balls in a sweet soup). It wasn't overly sweet but you can sweeten it further by dipping it in the brown sugar syrup that is served on the side of the plate. Want something to help cool down all the spiciness? Then try the Paoluda, a refreshing coconut sago sweet soup with black sticky rice and nata de coco. The menu mentions bread and ice cream in this dessert though neither were present - probably a good thing because the dessert was very nice as it is without the extra carbs.


Soybean-flour Rice Balls ($4.20) - soybean-flour rice balls served with brown sugar syrup

Paoluda ($4.20) - coconut sago soup, black sticky rice, bread and ice cream

Didn't find any bread nor ice cream in our dessert but we did find some nata de coco...

Total cost of our lunch was $39 which was super cheap given how much we’ve had. Highly recommend checking out Two Sticks - totally worth braving the rain for and look forward to come back for more yummy noodle soup!


Two Sticks: Yunnan China Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato