The Chinese restaurant Yummy House (https://yummyhouseflorida.com/orlando-menu/) has five locations: Tampa, Sarasota, Ocala, my old college town of Gainesville, and nearby Altamonte Springs, one of the small municipalities in Seminole County, directly north of Orlando. I always liked it, and I think it’s definitely the best Chinese restaurant north of the Colonial Drive area, where all the other great ones like Peter’s Kitchen, Chuan Lu Garden, and Taste of Chengdu are located.
But when I realized I hadn’t been back to Yummy House a few years, the timing seemed right to do something about that. You may have noticed there has been a lot of ignorance and intolerance leveled against the Asian-American community recently — discrimination against businesses, harassment and even horrific violence against individuals. This is inexcusable and wrong, but there are things we can do to help. You can attend a bystander intervention training to help stop anti-Asian-American and xenophobic harassment, like the ones run by the Hollaback! organization. (I’m registered for my first training next week.) If you are an ally, you can check in with your Asian friends and tell them you’re here for them, that you empathize and care, that you see them and hear them and are available for any support they need. And you can support Asian-owned restaurants and other businesses, because between the lasting pandemic and this new wave of anti-Asian hate, they could use your business more than ever. So if you weren’t already craving Chinese food, I hope you will consider placing an order at Yummy House now.
This is spicy XO beef short ribs ($16.99): sautéed baby beef short ribs with snow peas in house-made spicy XO sauce. I always love short ribs, and these were tender and tasty. I always never eat snow peas, but the crispiness offset the unctuous richness of the saucy meat. Just be careful of the bones, but you can eat all the way around them, with very little meat clinging to them.
This next dish is one of my old favorites from Yummy House: XO seafood chow fun ($12.99). These chewy rice noodles are stir-fried with shrimp, scallops, calamari, onion, and crunchy bean sprouts in lightly spicy XO sauce. They’re not quite as visible in this photo, but I assure you there were plenty of plump shrimp, sweet scallops, and tender squid, and they all tasted very fresh.
You may already be asking yourself “What the heck is XO sauce?” It is a luxurious Chinese condiment that I became obsessed with trying after first reading about it on Serious Eats and Saveur, and as far as I can tell, Yummy House is the only restaurant in Orlando that uses it in dishes (although there may be others I haven’t been to). It brings saltiness and savory umami flavor to dishes, but it is also a little spicy and a little sweet. Created in Hong Kong in the 1980s, it was named after another high-end luxury item, French XO (extra old) cognac, that receives the XO designation after it has been aged for over six years. However, there is no cognac in the sauce. These two articles taught me that it includes dried scallops (an expensive ingredient), bacon and/or ham, spicy cod roe called mentaiko, baby anchovies, fried shallots and garlic, chiles, ginger, rice wine, soy sauce, chicken stock, spices, sugar, and oil, then simmered until it takes on the thick consistency of preserves, like marmalade or jam. RESEARCH! Know it, love it.
Sounds amazing, right? It sounds really labor-intensive, for one thing. I’ve never noticed premade jars of XO sauce at any of Orlando’s fantastic Asian markets, but if any of my readers can recommend a good brand, I’d love to pick one up for kitchen experimentation. In the meantime, you can enjoy the heck out of it at Yummy House.
Anyway, this next dish was a gigantic hit with my wife, and I loved it too. I think it joins the red barbecue pork fried rice at Naradeva Thai in the pantheon of greatest rice dishes in Orlando. It is duck and dried grape fried rice ($12.99), and it is so ridiculously good. It is no secret that my wife and I both love duck in all its forms, and this jasmine rice dish also includes eggs, green onions, and fresh cilantro, in addition to the tender and juicy minced boneless roast duck. But dried grapes? Those are raisins — specifically sultanas, or golden raisins, in this dish, and they are so perfect, adding a chewy texture and a pleasant sweetness that is awe-inspiring.
There are a lot of jokes about bad cooks ruining dishes with raisins, like sneaking them into potato salad to ruin cookouts for unsuspecting family and friends. The wonderful Netflix TV series Dead to Me even had a gag about a neighbor’s “Mexican lasagna” that was full of raisins. (It was no mistake that this neighbor was named “Karen.” Seriously, watch the show. Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini are doing the best work of their careers.) And some people even hate oatmeal raisin cookies, which I don’t get because I love them, but I guess they could be disappointing if you were expecting chocolate chip. But anyway, don’t knock roast duck and golden raisins (or “dried grapes”) in your fried rice until you’ve tried it, and I sincerely hope you try it.
Anyway, that was last weekend, and it was so good, I brought Yummy House home again last night. Of course we had to get the same fried rice:
And since it was so good last time, I also had to try the BBQ pork fried rice ($9.99), also with eggs, green onions, and fresh cilantro mixed into the jasmine rice. This pork was also very tender, smoky, slightly sweet, and delightfully fatty. In case you can’t tell, these are huge portions. My wife and I were able to get several meals out of both takeout orders.
The first time we ever went to Yummy House to dine in, years ago, I ordered my favorite go-to dish at any Chinese restaurant, beef chow fun noodles ($11.99). This time my wife requested it, sans bean sprouts, and I figured she would prefer it to the spicy XO version. As usual, the noodles have that perfect chewy consistency, the sliced beef was tender, and the whole dish came together so well. I’ve waxed poetic about the wonderful beef chow fun at Peter’s Kitchen in my Top Tastes of 2017 in Orlando Weekly, and this is up there with it as one of the best I’ve had anywhere.
Finally, a friend and co-worker who also loves Yummy House recommended the salt and pepper calamari ($9.99), so I added that to last night’s takeout order too. Calamari is so different everywhere, and you never know if you’re going to get tender tubes, or a mass of Lovecraftian tentacles, and if they will be battered or breaded, greasy or rubbery, or just plain perfect. This calamari was on the perfect side, with thick and tender strips rather than tubes, and a nice batter that was crispy and firm and stayed in place, without being too greasy or heavy. I was surprised to see this much seasoning on it, including red pepper flakes, green onions, and what seemed like Szechuan peppercorns, but without the tingling, numbing heat those usually bring. It was spicier than I expected “salt and pepper” calamari to be, but also not nearly as spicy as it looks in this photo. I loved it. It was a really pleasant surprise.
So to sum all of this up, Yummy House is the best Chinese restaurant I know of in Seminole County, and it holds its own against the other best ones in Orlando. You have to come for the calamari, the chow fun, the duck and dried grape fried rice, and anything with XO sauce, trust me. But trust me on this too: we need to come together as a community to support our Asian friends and neighbors now more than ever, to let them know we care about them, value them, and welcome them, and will stand with them and stand up for them. Why not start at Yummy House, or one of the other wonderful local Asian restaurants I’ve reviewed here on The Saboscrivner? Check those categories near the top right of the page and find somewhere that looks good. I don’t think you will have to look far at all.