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September 25, 2017 | by  | in Food |
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Taste Of Home

128a Vivian Street, Te Aro

 

For a creative exercise to succeed, it often requires equal parts hard work and dexterity. Add to that more than a mere suggestion of originality, and the ability to challenge the audience, without marooning them all together. This equation is close to being balanced at Taste of Home. Some of us may have noticed this distinctive shop in passing, located right across from the VUW Architecture School. This takeaway joint opened as recently as mid-July and has since developed a legion of regulars. Taste of Home serves up a cordial array of Chinese street food, and affordably too, with the most expensive item on their menu being $12.  

With wet shoes and my ears ringing from cold, I stepped in for the first time unsure of what was before me. With lilac walls matching warm wood, the small shop space stuck me as succinctly modern and decisively Asian (whatever that means); I was relieved and cosy inside. I ordered two Youtiaos (freshly fried bread sticks) and a glass of freshly pressed warm sweet soy milk. Dipping the long golden sticks (effectively Chinese churros) into warm milky comfort, I understood very quickly how this remains a breakfast favourite in China and beyond.

The couple behind this labour of love are both chefs. Having spent enough time in commercial kitchens, both of them felt the impulse, or perhaps burden, of taking their craft to the next level. They wanted to bring something fresh to the scene that retained a clear mark of finesse. As a friend from the architecture campus explained to me, “these guys have effectively deconstructed the vibrancy of Taiwanese street food culture, and what makes it tick, and then applied it to Chinese favourites.” Hence the breadth of the menu, while drawing firmly from the Xi’an province where one of the owners originates, is in fact a reflection of the culinary ongoings throughout the country. The YouPo Mian, for example, consisting of hand pulled flat noodles, is a slippery flavour bomb nourished with bok choy and tangy chili oils. A similar classic, that is instead served cold and known as Liang Pi, is also offered, but only in small batches and is kept off the official menu — this article is the first to reveal the secret.

The small menu, while slightly pork-heavy for some, offers a breadth of options including crispy snacks and desserts. A particular highlight for me were the crispy squid tentacles with chili seasoning. Simply put, the juicy and crispy squid legs were undeniable. Another highlight was the dessert concoction of fried taro and kumara balls, which is dolloped with crushed peanuts and condensed milk, again undeniable. To be sure, fan favourites such as the Jianbing (Chinese crêpe) are also found on the menu and can be loaded up with many add-ons, including the above-mentioned crispy squid tentacles.

Reflecting on the large line of Chinese students queuing for these favourites, the bosses suggest that this menu especially rewards those with an open mind and also a proclivity towards a subjective Asian flavour palette. This is precisely why this new joint is an important addition to the self-proclaimed “diversity” of the Wellington food scene. Fresh and relevant as ever, this typically unorthodox joint has got me on a warm buzz.

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