Kirra, Coolangatta and Tweed Heads

Monday 16 June 2014

Easy House

Yum Cha Secrets Revealed at Mermaid Beach

Vegan. Yum Cha. It's the first time I’ve heard these two words together in my 5-year career as a vegan so already there’s a fission of excitement.   And I’ve invited a dear friend for Saturday brunch so the morning is off to a good start as we share the drive up to Mermaid Beach laughing loudly at our respective follies of the week.

My googling suggests this is the only vegan yum cha north of Sydney.  For vegans (and omnivores alike) this means joyously unfettered access to everything on offer without the need for studied menu diligence or too many polite enquiries.

Our tea is quickly served and the yum cha dishes begin to arrive. Pan fried bean curd rolls, steamed dim sim, sticky rice with lotus leaves, deep fried taro dumplings, steamed vegetarian "chicken" buns and many “off-menu items” all make an appearance as the yum cha trays come around laden with similarly grouped dishes to choose from at each turn.

We commit the cardinal sin of yum cha novices and take too many early on leaving not enough room to try all the offerings that follow.  A quick word with the waitress and there is a happy solution: anything we cannot devour at this gathering may be packed into takeaway containers to take home with us.

The lighter steamed dishes look appealing after the deep-fried and pastry-encased options. We try the coriander dumplings and the asparagus dumplings. Both are good. But the standout dishes of the morning are quickly identified and unanimously agreed: the light fried radish in pastry is soft, seductive, subtle.  Sublime.  The roasted BBQ "pork" rolls too are a clear winner in the yum cha lottery stakes.  And the pan-fried shanghai dumplings are a lovely ginger-lilted delight that come with a “don’t attempt to eat the wrapper – you may find it too chewy” warning from our waiter.  “Steamed crystal balls” and “rice noodles with fried dough stick” and other intriguing dishes remain a mystery yet to be unravelled as our capacity to order more, and keep track of all the dishes that hit our table, wanes.

The All Day Yum Cha dishes range in price from $3.80 to $6.90 for, on average, 3 pieces.  The restaurant, now in its fifth year, serves only plant-based food with no MSG.  The service is enthusiastic and happy if somewhat haphazard.  But who’s to quibble when this place makes no pretensions at elite dining – it’s cheap and cheery and suburban with excellent food and excellent value.

Sweets, in the form of a thousand-layer cake, make an appearance and are well worth the wait.  It’s a golden “custard” sponge and is quite the treat for a cake-deprived vegan.  There are steamed sweet buns and other choices too but this seems the popular favourite.

Outside, I pick up a book called Basic Buddhism Course from the quaint little bookstand and later read with interest the stories of the life of Siddhattha Gotama and his disciples on the path of enlightenment.  Chapter 16 has me weeping with the tale of noble wealthy and beautiful Patachara who loses everything in the most awful circumstances, before gaining it all at the feet of the Buddha.  How often is that story repeated, I wonder, and how true it is that it is often a devastatingly catastrophic life event that propels us onto a path of greater joy and meaning.

I visit again on a Friday night. Yum cha dishes are available in the evening too, ordered from the menu, at $4.90 per dish.  Our choices are good and the food is excellent, but I’m eyeing off the colourful-looking wokked up dishes that regularly depart the busy kitchen scene.  A ton of ultra fresh produce is used to good effect in delivering up these clean and tasty looking mains. The lemon "chicken” regularly gets rave reviews (whether due to familiarity or culinary excellence, I cannot say). A third visit, and further gastronomical investigation, is definitely in order.

Address:  8/90 Markeri St Mermaid Waters QLD 4218

Phone: (07) 5572 8808

Facebook: EasyHouse

Hours: Open for lunch (10 am to 3pm) and dinner (5pm to 9.30pm) every day except Monday.

In a nutshell:  Yum Cha Heaven