Red Chamber's noodles put other eateries to shame
Andre Burgener has been immersed in all things food since she took over the making of the family's lunch box sandwiches aged eight (her mom could make a mean creme brulee and a staggering souffle, but could never butter the bread all the way to the edges.
While devotion to designer sushi, pizza, macaroons and lattes reigns at Hyde Park Shopping Centre, Emma Chen's Red Chamber restaurant keeps doing what it's always done so well.
One of the few Mandarin (rather than Cantonese) restaurants in the city, it offers a lot of spice - duck cooked so perfectly you can't help but think even the duck itself must be pleased, beautiful tiny pancakes and perhaps best of all, homemade wheat noodles.
These are great, thick, ropey strands with both bounce and dignity, which put the noodles in most other establishments to shame. It's for good reason that Emma Chen remains one of Johannesburg's best loved restaurateurs, more than two decades after opening the restaurant (originally in Rosebank).
Perhaps it is because it's hidden in an upper storey corner of the centre that legions of regulars still haven't tried the place, always resting their minimally upholstered well-dressed bottoms in restaurants situated in the stream of the mall's foot traffic.
It's a pity because this is some of the best food in the area.
Ask to go onto Emma's mailing list and you'll get news of the great duck, crab and other evenings for which she's famous. Red Chamber, Hyde Park centre, Jan Smuts Avenue, 011-325-6048.
ANOTHER SORT OF HUMUS
There is not a single thing wrong with the "usual" humus.
But here is an altogether different take on it, to fill a different sort of gap. B aked humus topped with pine nuts and served hot is an Eastern Anatolian speciality (if I'm to believe the odd little book in which I found it), and has a cuttable texture. Sounds strange, I know, but it's quite wonderful.
Baked humus with pine nuts for four: 225g dried chickpeas soaked in cold water for at least 6 hours / 50ml olive oil / juice of 2 lemons / 3 garlic cloves, crushed / 2 teaspoons cumin seeds, crushed / 4 tablespoons tahini / 4 tablespoons creamy natural yoghurt / 3 tablespoons pine nuts / 3 tablespoons butter / 1 teaspoon good paprika / salt and ground black pepper to taste.
How: drain soaked chickpeas, transfer to pot, fill with water and simmer for one hour or until soft. Drain again and rinse under cold water. Remove all loose skins by rubbing in a clean kitchen towel.
Preheat oven to 200C. Pound or process the chickpeas with the oil, lemon juice, garlic and cumin till smooth. Beat in tahini and yoghurt, season to taste.
Transfer puree to ovenproof dish and smooth the top. Dry roast pine nuts in a heavy pan until golden brown. Lower heat, add butter and let it melt, then stir in paprika. Pour nuts over the humus. Bake for about 25 minutes. It should rise a bit. Serve immediately, with warm bread and salad.