Sweet Republic's Helen Yung on Phoenix's Best Chinese Restaurants, the Perfect Ice Cream and How 9/11 Changed Her Life
This is part two of my interview with Helen Yung, co-owner and ice cream designer/maker at Sweet Republic. If you missed part one, where Yung talks about growing up in Hong Kong, investment banking, and the dish she thinks is overrated, read it here.
Buchanan Helen Yung
You had a high-powered career. Did you have a Tiger Mother?: No, I had a Tiger Dad who taught math at HK University and a career-driven mother who traveled a lot when I was young, including attending Thunderbird here in Phoenix.
Did you go through culinary culture shock, moving from NYC to Phoenix?: Yes, it felt like nothing but corporate chains here. It took me a while to find independent eateries that serve food with heart. I think it's really exploded in the past few years with top-notch, chef-driven restaurants.
What you'd like to see more of in Phoenix: Authentic ethnic foods. There's no Shanghainese food in the Valley -- one of my favorite Chinese cuisines.
Name your three favorite Chinese restaurants in Phoenix and why you like each: Great Wall (dimsum), Nee House (Cantonese) and Chou's Kitchen (Northern Chinese). Great Wall and Nee House exhibit superior skills in their cooking. The ladies at Chou's have such passion and love for what they do.
I've seen you speak Chinese to Chinese restaurant owners. Does that give you street cred?: Yes, they know you'll appreciate the food. Many Chinese dishes require a lot of skill, and the differences may not be obvious to people who didn't grow up eating it.
Which languages do you speak? And is it commonplace in Hong Kong to be fluent in two or three?: Cantonese, Mandarin, and English fluently. Chinglish is common in Hong Kong, as it was an English colony and many expats live there. I went to German Swiss International School for nine years, so I also speak a little bit of German, French, and Japanese.