by Lee Guekguezian
This week, I took on Sameh Wadi’s “Tofu Yum Yum Bowl”, a seemingly simple dish with mind-blowing, complex flavor. Wadi is the Palestinian chef/creative genius/mastermind behind World Street Kitchen, Milkjam Creamery, and Saffron Restaurant & Lounge. While Saffron recently closed, it was a groundbreaking institution in the Twin Cities restaurant scene for ten years, accomplishing the difficult task of introducing Middle Eastern fine dining to Minnesotans. A six-time James Beard finalist, Wadi opened World Street Kitchen with his brother Saed in 2012, which was followed by Milkjam Creamery in 2016 (both currently sit on Lyndale Ave. in Minneapolis.) Like Saffron, WSK and Milkjam are constantly pushing the boundaries of flavor, with dishes like Caramelized Lamb Belly tacos (jalapeno pickled cucumbers, sesame, basil, secret sauce) and “totally tubular” ice cream (sweet parsnip with maple candied hazelnuts). Each dish on both menus makes me question everything I thought I knew about food and spices, and taste so good that I often forget to take pictures first (a ritual).
While I would eat any meal cooked by the Wadi brothers, the Tofu Yum Yum Bowl is something to write home (or in The Mac Weekly) about. The bowl is described on the menu as “steamed rice with soft cooked egg, peanuts, crunchies, charred squash, shiitake, chinese broccoli, and ‘secret sauce’.” Not surprisingly, the biggest obstacle during the remake was the “secret” element of the sauce. While I had eaten at WSK just two days prior, I had a difficult time cracking the code, and resorted to a Google search of “yum yum sauce recipe.” Knowing that my end product wouldn’t come close to Wadi’s, I tried to put my own twist on my bowl in an attempt to avoid direct comparison. While WSK’s tofu is somehow glorious and crunchy, my version was marinated and baked in peanut sauce from Lotus Restaurant in Minneapolis. I also replaced the charred squash, shiitake, and chinese broccoli with broccoli stir-fried in hoisin sauce. As my cooking was coming to an end, I realized I had never poached an egg before and had to resort back to Google. My friends both laughed as my egg took on the shape of a jellyfish in the water.
After consuming my version of the Yum Yum Bowl, it was clear that I did not beat Bobby Flay (Wadi), and I will happily have to continue frequenting WSK to get my fix. However, I did get some great feedback from Stein, who said “I really like your take on the Yum Yum Bowl. While not as crunchy, the tofu had a lot of flavor that worked well with the rice and broccoli.”
Go to World Street Kitchen and Milkjam, you won’t be disappointed. If you like seeing how unhealthy your favorites condiments really are, check out this recipe for yum yum sauce: http://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/miss-yum-yum-sauce-428389#activity-feed