August 25, 1999    Los Gatos, California  Since 1881

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    Helen Li and Yi-xin Wu
    Photograph by Dai Sugano

    Helen Li and Yi-xin Wu are owners of the Yeung Shing restaurant in Los Gatos.

    Yeung Shing blends the best of Chinese cuisine

    By Suzanne Cristallo

    Helen Li remembers sitting for hours as an 8-year-old making pot stickers for her parents' restaurant. The hard part of making the little dumplings was getting her small fingers to work the dough around the ground pork stuffing. The pockets of dough had to be pinched along one side to seal them securely, or they would fall apart when dropped into boiling broth. "It took me a month to learn how," she says with a smile, recalling her childhood in Canton, China. Li, now 30, owns and manages Yeung Shing Restaurant in Los Gatos with her brother, Yi-Xin Wu, 39, who serves as chef.

    Last year, the pair bought the Chinese restaurant, which has operated in Vasona Station on Winchester Boulevard since the late 1980s. Popular with nearby hospital and business employees as a luncheon meeting place, the restaurant offers a variety of cuisines from China.

    Li and Wu have joined together to bring "the taste of real Chinese food" to the local community. According to culinary historians, the combined cuisines of China have been credited as well as those of the French as having made the greatest contributions to the world of food.

    Of the five main regions in China that offer distinct cooking styles, Li says, they specialize in two. Cantonese--from the southern city of Canton--is known for its meat roasting, grilling and milder seasonings. Szechuan-Hunan, in the west, is known for its hot and spicy dishes. The pair also offer Mandarin, which is not a regional designation but rather an aristocratic cuisine that has gleaned the best from all other regions.

    "We bring these flavors to America," Li says proudly of the heritage she wishes to share. Among her favorites are orange chicken and Szechuan chicken.

    Both are deep-fried fillets; the former dressed in a sweet and spicy hot sauce flavored with orange peel, and the latter in a spicy chili sauce. One thing Wu's parents drummed into him during his youth was that getting the fillets just right depends on a finely tuned sense of the temperature of hot oil.

    Drenching the chicken in a proper flour mix before placing it in the hot oil is crucial to taste.

    "If you don't do it right, it tastes just awful," laughs Li, who says what she and her brother learned as children has resulted in their having control of anything they cook.

    One of Li's favorites among their pork dishes is Beijing spareribs with Peking sauce. As for seafood, she recommends the lightly fried walnut prawns, made with mayonnaise to give them a creamy consistency, and served with crunchy, honey-glazed walnuts. More than 125 other items fill the menu, which also offers a variety of vegetarian dishes.

    Wu came to San Francisco 10 years ago from Canton to start his own restaurant, the Nulite Kitchen in the Mission District, which he later sold. Li and her husband, now an engineer with a San Jose firm, joined Wu four years later. A subsequent dinner out with friends brought them to Yeung Shing, which they discovered was for sale.

    Today, brother and sister commute from San Francisco to Los Gatos seven days a week--starting their day on the road at 9 a.m. and returning home after 10:30 p.m. Li says she enjoys her time with her customers. "I like to communicate with them--explain our menu--so they feel comfortable during their meal," she adds. "We try to do our best for them."

    Yeung Shing, 14107 S. Winchester Blvd., Los Gatos. Open Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m., Sun. 3-9:30 p.m. Call ahead for take-out orders. 370-2032.

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