I first noticed Yummy Tummy Asian Bistro back in the fall. I was slightly bemused to see such Singaporean classics as chili crab and Hainanese chicken alongside seafood pasta in butter lemon sauce and kimchi fried rice with bacon and Polska kielbasa on the menu of a restaurant in the heart of a neighborhood better known for Korean food than Southeast Asian cuisine.
I forgot all about Yummy Tummy until a friend raved to me about the Hainanese chicken last month. “It’s the best in New York City,” he crowed. “They do it the right way, the skin is so supple.”
So just after New Year’s I trekked down Northern Boulevard to try the chicken and a few other dishes with a friend. The bird was lovely, silky of skin, the tender meat was full of flavor. The accompanying chili sauce and pesto were great, but the bird was better on its own. That’s because Singaporean Chef Richard Chan takes great care and pride in its preparation, starting with the fact that the fresh killed bird doesn’t get chilled until an hour-long ice bath, which is preceded by a leisurely 45-minute simmer in chicken broth whilst stuffed with ginger, garlic, and spring onion. There are also two massages involved, one with salt before cooking and another with salt and sesame oil after the ice bath.
The Singapore oyster omelette was a study in brininess and the art of frying. The golden brown eggs and plump baby oysters married so well with the house made sambal that we asked for seconds. Belachan fried rice was suffused with the funky shrimp paste and plenty of chili and studded with seafood and pleasantly salty cubes of luncheon meat.
We rounded out our meal with “Authentic Singapore Bah Kut Teh,” a dish whose Hokkien name means, “meat bone tea.” Having never been to Singapore, I can’t speak to its authenticity, but the murky black soup featuring several meaty pork ribs, mushrooms, lettuce, and tofu puffs in a broth flavored with Chinese herbs sure tastes like good medicine. So good I’ve had it on every subsequent visit to Yummy Tummy.
Subsequent visits with fellow food nerds eager to try the only Singaporean spot in Queens included the Singapore chili crab, albeit a soft-shelled version, and otah otah, a mousse of of fish and shrimp paste with chilies grilled in a banana leaf. While the soft-shelled crabs were lovely and it was fun to mop up the rich spicy sweet sauce with the pillowy mantou, I must thank my most recent Yummy Tummy dining companion for suggesting the chili prawns. This version of the dish has all the benefits of the other, i.e. a wonderful seafood-enriched sauce, plus the bonus of plump sweet prawns along with their fatty head meat and brains.
In case you’re wondering, Yummy Tummy’s Chinese signage is as non-Singaporean as its English name. The English name rendered in red sits above shi, the character for food. Below that the characters read “zai you yi si,”a phrase that my good friend Stanford tells me can mean “enjoyable, meaningful, or interesting.” I’m going with the latter. Heck, I might even try a seafood pasta when I return, not the lemon butter version though, but a decidedly Singaporean fettucine featuring chili crab and jumbo shrimp. Now that’s what I call truly interesting Asian bistro fare!
Yummy Tummy Asian Bistro, 161-16 Northern Blvd., Flushing, 718-888-0220