Never Heard Of It is a series of stories exploring Vancouver’s many informal hole-in-the-wall eateries. These are the places that don’t get much in the way of traditional media play as they tend to avoid the typical paths of PR, seldom fiddling over tweets, posting imagery to Instagram, or playing the Facebook game.
Collingwood is one of my favourite parts of the city to explore. The area around its stretch of Kingsway all the way to Burnaby has seen a significant uptick of Mandarin-speaking Chinese immigrants in recent years, and the influx has come with many delicious gastronomic benefits, specifically the “Spicy Chinese” cuisines of Sichuan, Hunan and the lesser known (but equally tasty) Guizhou. You can get a taste of it at Yummy Mammy, the oddly named restaurant in the mansard-roofed, two storey apartment building at 4963 Joyce Street (just a block from the Joyce-Collingwood Skytrain station).
The province of Guizhou (pronounced gwee-show) is located between those of Sichuan to the northwest and Hunan to the east. Naturally, its culinary traditions are close to those of its neighbours with similar styles of preparation and presentation, not to mention a similar level of capsaicin heat from chilies. However, in contrast to Sichuan’s numbing-hot “ma la” flavour derived from Sichuan peppercorns (that cuisine’s defining ingredient) and Hunan’s “smoky dry heat” from its use of smoke-cured ingredients (such as the Hunan-cured bacon and smoked bamboo shoots), Guizhou food’s character is more “sour-hot”.
The sourness comes from the extensive use of fermented vegetables (to be precise: “lacto-fermented” vegetables). It’s the same natural biological process at work in sauerkraut and proper kosher pickles. It results in a muted tartness rather than the sharp “vinegary” flavour you typically get from pickling. (Lactic acid, which results from the process, is the same stuff that gives yogurt its tang. “Pickling” uses the sharper tasting acetic acid). One of Guizhou cuisine’s signature dishes, Miaowing Sour Fish Stew made with white-fleshed lake carp and lacto-fermented tomatoes, exemplifies this style. And you can order it at Yummy Mammy.
The eatery is run by gregarious chef-owner Lisa Yu. If prodded, she’ll give you a lesson in the basics of Guizhou cuisine. (You can even ask her to make you her favourite dish which is not on the menu – pickled chicken gizzards – but you’ll have to pre-order it.) The menu offers plenty of representative Guizhou dishes (ask Lisa for help there), as well as a number of dishes from the neighbouring Chinese provinces (eg. 1000 Chili Chicken from Sichuan and Smoked Bacon and Garlic Stem from Hunan). I’ve put together an order of recommendations – perfect for a group of eight to ten people – at the bottom of this post.
It should be noted that the restaurant is right in the midst of the massive neighbourhood development plan just approved by the City of Vancouver. The Joyce-Collingwood Precinct will change dramatically over the next few years as the city seeks to densify around its transit hubs. A high-rise condo tower right across the street from the restaurant is in the approval process now, and just down the street St. Mary’s Church is seeking to build another one on its property. The building that Yummy Mammy occupies is reportedly for sale, but Lisa says this will take time. It could be months or even years before she is forced to close. Either way, you should go soon!
A01 Special Smoked Chicken
A02 Flavoured Beef and Tripe
A05 Shredded Potato
E12 Steamed Spareribs
A09 Szechuan Pickle
E07 Shredded Pork with Vegetable
E09 Farmhouse fried bacon
E08 Pork with Bamboo
C01 Miaowing sour fish soup
G12 Green bean with Pickled Vegetable
G11 Cabbage with Pepper
H01 House Special Spicy Noodle with Spinach
Yummy Mammy | 4963 Joyce Street | 604-558-3988 | Vancouver, BC