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Yi Pin, A Restaurant in South Africa's Port Elizabeth

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Restaurant Reviews

Summer Volume: 2016 Issue: 23(2)

In a previous issue, namely Volume 22(4), we explored some Chinese eateries in South Africa. They were on pages 27 to 29 and inadvertently, we omitted a very good one we went back to because it was very good, and in PORT ELIZABETH. Nearby was a Bargain Books where we did purchase four Chinese cookbooks never before seen. This fine eatery was YI PIN in the BOARDWALK CASINO COMPLEX on MARINE DRIVE in PORT ELIZABETH; their phone: (041) 583-6688. A long walk from our hotel, so doing was well worth it as it had a very fine Fujianese chef.

On our first visit we were seated next to a Chinese couple and their twenty-something-year-old daughter. From them, we quickly learned they were born in this town, were fluent in English, and very knowledgeable about their own ethnic cuisine. They were glad to share their dishes and their Chinese food knowledge. We did arrive halfway through their dinner and were told we missed several dishes already consumed. We went back the next night to have them.

That night they had ordered Chicken in a Basket, and when it arrived, it was succulent and savory, Chinese in taste with no Chinese name. Wee were delighted to share it and their Silk Squash and Carrots. We helped polish both off, and enjoyed both of them. After they left, we ordered a West Lake Soup usually made with water shield, coriander, and scallions, that had no water shield as classically found wen having such a dish Hangzhou’s West Lake. It was good nonetheless. We also ordered Roast Duck, and a noodle dish made Taiwanese style, and had these with rice and tea.

We had arrived in Port Elizabeth a few hours earlier, took a nap as we were recuperating from a twelve-hour time change and a very long fight. When we woke up, we hustled and hiked to this touted seaside eatery. Once there, we knew immediately we were at a restaurant with a good chef, good enough to return the next night. This was a small resort town that was preparing for a big event the next day; and they were erecting large iron frames on the main street for big things. We never got to see them because we were leaving before anything took place using them.

The chef at Yi Pin hails from Fujian. That does explain the taste-connections of his noodles with Taiwan. This province is just across the Taiwan Straits and they share Min heritage. Every dish, Fujianese or not, was very good and clearly related.

No Chinese family that second night to take us under their wing. Instead, there were several Chinese families enjoying the Fujianese-Taiwanese fish and seafood dishes, many not listed on this eatery's extensive menu. Every dish we had was delicious. They included Whole Steamed Carp; matter of fact, it was outstanding. The chef’s Noodles with Mixed Seafood were terrific, too, the best we have had in a long time. I, for one, would love to have that recipe, and I did ask, but no luck.

On this second visit, all Chinese customers were young, eating lots, and enjoying even more. Must confess, I lost my notes, but the dish of scallops he made for us that came fried with squid, and his Beef with Greens, a watercress-type vegetable, were very yummy.

Here and thereafter, we learned that Chinese food in SA at sit-down places is very good, indeed. At every Chinese restaurant, most of the Chinese food was terrific; not so local chow which was overcooked, needing salt and other seasonings, and often in a soupy sauce. The good chow we had was almost all Chinese. It did help us recover from the bland long-cooked microwave glop in the air, and the mostly disappointing chow we had since disembarking. We quickly learned to opt for Chinese meals in sit-down Chinese restaurants, and we are glad we did. Therefore, if or when you go to SA, which stands for South Africa; we suggest you do, too!

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