OUT to LUNCH by Bethel Poston: Yum Yum appropriately named for its good food

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By Bethel Poston

Yum Yum Chinese Restaurant at 1039 Roane St. (Hwy. 27) in Harriman has been on my prospect list of “Out to Lunch” places to visit for some time.

I moved the trip to the tope of the list when I saw in the Roane County News that Yum Yum was selected as the 2012 Readers Choice for Best Chinese Food.

Knowing that Earl Duff Subaru was just across Roane Street from Yum Yum, I asked Tim Duff as we left Kingston First Baptist Church one Sunday morning when he and his dad, Earl, could meet me at Yum Yum for lunch.

Earl and I served together on the Roane County Industrial Board for several years.
Although Earl had planned to be there on the day we selected, he asked to be excused at the last moment.

Tim brought his sister, Andrea Duff Lewis, and brother, Tony, for lunch. Like many businessmen, Tony got called back to the dealership before he could order.

Andrea said her dad is at the dealership everyday and usually is the first to arrive, although he has a vision problem and has to be driven.

He received the Subaru franchise in 1973 and let his kids start running the business in 1989.

After our meal, my wife Carol, and I went across Roane Street for a short visit with Earl, since we had not seen each other in several years.

Andrea’s plate was overflowing with chicken with garlic sauce and fried rice.

Tim had a hot and spicy Kung Pao Chicken and fried rice. He took home half of his serving for a later meal.

A photo on the menu showed his chicken served with a vegetable mixture in a sauce. Wikipedia describes it a spicy stir-fry dish made with chicken, peanuts, vegetables and chili peppers.

A regular customer, Tim said he has also enjoyed the chicken with cashew nuts.

Carol chose the crabmeat and beef with mixed vegetables of broccoli, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts and onions with  fried rice.

I went for the hot and spicy beef, mixed vegetables of green pepper, onions carrots, and miniature corn on the cob with fried rice. (I don’t think Chinese meals come without rice.)

We finished all the very tasty crabmeat and beef but each left enough vegetables and rice to make another meal, or some kind of soup.

Orders are placed at the counter from an extensive menu with color photos of many of the lunch specials. The menu says, “We specialize in Cantonese, Szechuan and Hunan.”

Large photos of meals adorn the wall above the counter. Orders are then served to you in booths that can seat 16 or more customers.

Evan Chen, 6-year old son of operators Tong Chen and Jamie Liang, told me at the counter that I should have some wonton soup. Maybe on a return visit.

I approached Anthony Miller as he placed his order and began telling him about my “Out to Lunch” writing.

He stopped me.

“I know you,” he said. “You’ve already written about me at another restaurant.”

He works in the service department of Sexton Automotive and is a regular customer of Yum Yum. On the day of our visit, he placed a takeout order for General Tso’s chicken, shown in the menu photo surrounded by steamed broccoli.

Wikipedia describes General Tso’s Chicken as a sweet, deep-fried dish with chicken, cashews, water chestnuts, mushrooms and green pepper sautéed in a special hot soy sauce. It’s named after General Tso Tsung-Tang a Qing dynasty general and statesman.

Manager Tong says it is one of the most ordered items.

China is home to soy sauce, which is made from fermented soya beans and wheat.

Kevin Sellars, minister at Piney Grove Baptist Church in Harriman, told me he is a regular customer at Yum Yum. He left with a take-out order of sweet and sour chicken.

One sweet and sour recipe found by computer research says it’s battered chicken breast pieces, pineapple and snap peas with a sweet and sour sauce. Another says black rice vinegar heightens the sauce’s tartness.

Carrie Jones lives in Wartburg and Shelli Davis lives South of the River from Kingston.

Both work for The Eye Center of Midtown, across from Lowe’s. Carrie was working on chicken with mixed vegetables, while Shelli had the General Tso’s dish.

Shelli told me that for an evening dinner, she and her husband enjoy sharing one of the chef’s specialties, sesame chicken. The fried chicken breast chunks are prepared in a special sauce and sprinkled with roasted sesame seeds.

Jamie said that the house special lo mein (soft noodles) is another of the most-ordered items. Judging from a photo on the menu, it appears to have a mixture of shrimp, pork or chicken with mixed vegetables, served over lo mein.

It would be easy to confuse the house special with the happy family chef’s specialty of fresh shrimp, lobster, chicken, roast pork, beef with broccoli, baby corn, straw mushroom and mixed vegetables served in brown sauce with white rice.

A slight language barrier limited my conversation with the restaurant family. I assume the characters written on the menu to the left of the English descriptions were the Chinese description.

Tong had an electronic translator to decipher my business card and a copy of a previous “Out to Lunch” article.

He told me another favorite is the crab rangoon appetizer of beef string, shrimp toast and butterfly shrimp.

Lonnie Brown works just a few doors away at Home Rentals. He says he has take-out food from Yum Yum’s one or more times a week. He lives in Harriman, and the day of our visit he went for No. 1, General Tso’s chicken.

Seated in the booth next to us were Karen Hamby, who works for Ambulatory Care Center in Sunbright and her son, Austin, who works at nearby Food City. Her husband, Rocky, is a sales associate at Earl Duff Subaru.

Both had the orange chicken with rice and an egg roll.

The menu is full of intriguing names like chop suey, egg foo yong and chow mein.

In the special combination plates section of the menu is moo goo gai pan. When I speak the name, it make me think I’m speaking Chinese (with a country accent).

According to Wikipedia, “In Cantonese, moo goo means button mushrooms; gai means chicken; and pan means slices. It’s marinated in chicken stock, oyster sauce, sugar and cornstarch, then cooked in soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil, with bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, garlic and ginger.”

Jeremy Chesser of Rockwood previously owned the now-closed Custom Import Designs. The car accessories business was a short distance down Roane Street from Yum Yum.

He has recently started a new business called Smith Mountain Calls (do a computer web search), which makes turkey and duck calls. The name is because he lives on Smith Mountain.

On this visit he chose sweet and sour chicken, with pork-fried rice and an egg roll, plus a Mountain Dew. All beverages are bottle drinks.

As a regular customer, he said, “The food is good, affordable and filling.”

Credit card are accepted, and Yum Yum is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday; from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and from noon to 10 p.m. Sunday.

The only dessert I found on the menu was a fortune cookie. Carol’s fortune said “Have a beautiful day!” Mine said, “ Measure twice, cut once.” The fortunes were also printed on the reverse side in Spanish, and I could translate that.

We agree that the food was good, affordable and filling. We had a beautiful day visiting with the Duffs and the Chen family (who all have beautiful smiles).
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Bethel Poston is a Roane County businessman and entrepreneur who writes about places of interest in our area. E-mail suggestions and comments to postonplace@bellsouth.net.