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Yummi Yummi 

Conquer the colossal noodle bowls at Yanmi Yanmi

"Hey, amigo," the slim, smiling young cashier says to a shy Latino man stationed at the side of Yanmi Yanmi's counter. She gestures with a friendly nod for him to pick up the vat of seafood noodle soup he ordered minutes ago. His friends are still rifling through a book of color photos that illustrate available dishes. But one by one they settle on the same vast vessel of broth teeming with thick udon noodles and chock-a-block with shrimp, squid and scallops.

Asian melting pot: Yanmi Yanmi labels itself as "Japanese fast food," but the eatery is a owned by a Chinese family, and its menu consists mostly of rice combinations cribbed from a typical Chinese restaurant. The noodle bowls may feature Japanese noodles (hefty udon or fine, dainty soba), but the flavorings are straight from the Chinese tradition: Dark, intense chicken stock is used instead of dashi and sesame oil replaces mirin. The food comes out fast, fresh and boiling hot. So pay authenticity no mind and slurp away.

Summer me, winter me: When it's far too hot for soup, Zaru soba ($5) soothes and satisfies. Cold buckwheat noodles dressed with soy, mirin and sesame oil topped with a tuft of sautéed spinach, toasted sesame seeds and green onions, the zaru soba is as light and refreshing as a salad. The tempura snack, on the other hand, is a meal-sized offering of battered sweet potato, eggplant, broccoli and seven plump shrimp ($7.50). A bit on the heavy side, the tempura is nonetheless admirably ungreasy.

Chop, chop: The noodle soup part of the pork chop-noodle soup combination ($6.50) is definitively Chinese, but the pork chop is the straight-up Japanese favorite Tonkatsu. Paper-thin slices of carrot, tender leaves of spinach and slippery, substantial udon are beautifully composed in a clear broth with an assertive chicken flavor and a dash of sesame oil. Two pork cutlets crusted in panko and fried to a crispness you might imagine doesn't exist outside of KFC ads accompany the noodle bowl and come with their own soy-based dipping sauce.

Soup for supper: Yanmi Yanmi's tomato and egg noodle soup is custardy with flowery swirls of egg and chunky with fresh tomato. Rich and tart, it's perhaps the largest quantity of food $5.50 will buy. Yanmi Yanmi's hearty offerings stray far away from delicate Japanese cuisine, but they're undeniably delicious and Chinese cheap, a delight to people of all cultures.

cynthia.wong@creativeloafing.com

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