THIS time of year, post-Christmas, I always feel boracic. That’s skint, as in boracic lint.
Yet I still have to eat. And when it comes to nosh I, like many others, have to watch my dosh, which means spending pennies wisely.
Which is why tonight we are at Yummy’s on Devonshire Street, Sheffield, where you can blow yourself out eating two courses washed down with a pot of green tea and still have change (just) for the two of you from a £20 note.
And if you don’t finish all your grub – they do big plates here – they wrap it up in a doggy bag to take home.
You could easily miss Yummy’s, overlooking Devonshire Green, because the Grade II listed front is just four strides wide. Blink and you’re outside the fellow Chinese business Cake R Us (but despite the singular there’s more than one cake in the shop).
Yummy’s is one of the enterprises which have sprung up in this ad hoc new Chinatown to cater for the thousands of Chinese students now in Sheffield.
Owner Lisa Wuong, who opened at the back end of 2009, reckons she was among the first as there were only two or three others at the time.
Now, as I’ve said here before, there are about a dozen Chinese and other oriental shops and restaurants within a few hundred yards.
According to ChiSoc, the Sheffield University’s Chinese Society, Yummy’s is a “convenient Hong Kong style café ideal “if you crave the taste of home.”
As well as fried rice, stir-fry and noodle dishes it seems the taste of home also runs to Chinese-style spaghetti Bolognese, pork chops and pineapple in tomato sauce and ham in creamy white sauce, all with oven-baked rice or spaghetti.
Most of the almost 100 dishes are main courses, ranging between £6 and £8. If you want a starter it will have to be a soup or you can rummage through the ‘extras’ section, as we did, to find the spring rolls.
If it’s small outside it’s equally tiny inside. There is seating for 18 then you go up some steps to counter where there are another six seats.
While the menu comes in two languages, Chinese and English, all the posters are in Chinese for, as Mrs Wuong points out, that’s what 80 per cent of her customers are.
Service is laid back. A smiling waiter tells us the ropes: decide what to eat, come to the counter, pay before you eat, get your own cutlery, forks and spoons or chopsticks (knives are on the next shelf down), serviettes and wait for the food to come to you.
All Yummy’s walls are white, broken up by pictures and posters. A blackboard shows today’s specials in English and Chinese: scrambled egg and tomato or sweet and sour chicken with rice.
There are 10 soups listed and I go for the hot and sour (£2.20), a fearsome looking broth with tofu, seaweed, prawns, chilli and shredded vegetables and meat (a sort of compendium of all the other soup ingredients) in one of those slightly gloopy stocks which the Chinese do so well.
It is hot and strong. If I’d wanted it any more aggressive I could have stirred in a spoonful of the chilli paste on every tables, along with the soy sauce.
My wife has the vegetable spring rolls at £2.80. She sees there are eight of them and warns me I’ll have to help her out. But they’re so small I only get one, pleasantly crunchy with a sweet chiili dip.
A previous diner on TripAdvisor (which also warns against taking too much chilli paste) had enjoyed the fried rice dishes so I opt for salted fish and pork for £6.80.
Dishes here arrive when they are ready so I get mine a few minutes before my wife. It’s a small mountain. At first I try to use chopsticks (I’ve left my trusty hinged ones at home) but make heavy work of it.
The Chinese girl at the next table is having much the same sort of dish and she’s scorned chopsticks for a spoon. Well, if it’s all right for her it’s all right for me but I use a fork.
The pork is finely minced and the dish, which also has plenty of scrambled egg and a few shredded Chinese leaves, is mostly appealing because every mouthful or so brings a little burst of saltiness from a tiny morsel of fish.
This is robust, rib-sticking, fill-you-up cheaply kind of food, and none the worse for it, although I do need lots of soya sauce and, very gingerly, a bit of chilli paste.
My wife has gone for one of those DIY dishes where you combine ingredients with rice or noodles and sauce and has come up with fish fillet with crispy noodles in black bean sauce for £7. There is plenty of fish, which has been lightly floured, with chunky pieces of onion and green pepper. If we were students this would pretty much last all day.
Neither of us quite finished our food.
“We always serve big portions,” says Mrs Wuong when we make our introductions afterwards. “(Students) do miss their home cooking.”
We wonder whether the added competition has made things a little harder for Yummy’s. Mrs Wuong considers the prospect. “We are not bringing our prices down like some.”
With a pot of green tea the bill comes to £19.90 and it’s been, well, very yummy and very good value.
The Dawes verdict
140 Devonshire Street, City Centre, Sheffield, S37SF.
Tel: 0114 2755060.
Open Mon-Sat 11am-10.30pm, Sun 12-10pm.
Vegetarian dishes. Cash only. Street parking.