Healthy Yet Full Flavor Yunnan Cuisine at Huma

By Sophie Steiner, January 4, 2021

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The Place 

We just finished a 3-course lunch, and instead of napping at our desks immediately upon arrival, we actually feel energized and ready to tackle the rest of the afternoon. That’s never happened… before we discovered Huma.

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At Huma, the fresh, clean ingredients found in Southern Yunnan cooking are easily recognizable in every dish. Veggies and herbs are no longer an afterthought, but rather one of the main focuses. This doesn’t mean that Huma is a place just for small appetites, though – in fact, depending on which dishes you order, you could easily find yourself stuffed. The quality of the ingredients and proteins make the portions match the price. But that satisfying sense of fullness won’t weigh you down.

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Designed by Tom Yu Studio, the same architect that put Bloom on the design map, Huma joins the long list of whimsical spaces decked out by this originally London-based designer, once part of Heatherwick Studio. 

Heard of the Fosun Foundation at the Bund Finance Center – the building that features three constantly moving layers that look like the inside of a piano organ? Yup, he was one of the head designers on that project too. 

The hollowed out half spheres – made from Jingdezhen ceramic – that hang at different levels from the ceiling may seem like a random choice for a predominantly lunch-focused spot in the Jing’an Kerry Center, but when you picture them instead as bowls with the supporting metallic cords as springy noodles, the modern art interpretation of what this restaurant is all about comes through. 

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The open layout fits 70 people, but, like a well-oiled machine, service and food prep is quick, keeping the line moving so you don’t miss too much work during your lunch break. Bonus: delivery and takeaway programs will be launching soon, making it that much easier to get your Yunnan food fix.

The Food

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The restaurant’s main dishes involve Yunnan-style noodles in all forms. We opted first for the Braised Beef (RMB58), their signature noodle soup with their recommended protein. All noodle soups come with your choice of noodle: round, thin rice noodles; wide, flat rice noodles (most similar to those found in Vietnamese pho); or wheat noodles – all made fresh daily. The broth is light and herbaceous, topped with a small tree’s worth of mint and cilantro, while the thinly sliced, nearly raw beef is tender, but a bit chewy. 

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On the dry noodle front, the Chicken Noodle (RMB48) is a cold dish served with julienned carrots, shredded cabbage, crisp beansprouts, dried Yunnan mushrooms and a thick white sesame paste that coats all of the ingredients in an addicting slick, slippery sauce worth returning for.

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Cleanse your palate with the Mango Pickle (RMB15), a satisfyingly crunchy snack found throughout all of Yunnan with an ideal balance of refreshing sweetness, tart sour, and a kick of spice – if you’re lucky enough to snag a chili or two. 

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The Iceplant Salad (RMB38) is crisp and refreshing, even when coated in sticky peanut and sesame, and with a lick of chili oil and crushed peanuts for more crunch. 

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The Pork Belly (RMB48) is charred on the grill after being coated in a lighter sweet chili sauce, similar to that found in southeast Asian countries like Vietnam and Laos. The pork arrives tableside with two potential dipping options – powdered sugar, as is customary in Gejiu, Yunnan, or a grapefruit pulp and apple cider vinaigrette, which we preferred – the acidity balancing out the meat’s natural fattiness.

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Originally a Dai minority dish, the Ghost Chicken (RMB48) is a blazingly piquant cold herb salad with shredded pieces of black chicken, skin included. Citrus is also a serious component, again hugging the line between Chinese and southeast Asian flavors. 

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Each piece of delicately tender Ox Tongue (RMB60) is topped with a dollop of perilla aioli and served alongside an aromatic micro green salad, dressed with a grapefruit pulp and apple cider vinaigrette.  

DSC05259.jpgWild Rice Stem (RMB15), Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

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The crisp exterior of the grilled Chicken Thigh (RMB20) gives way to succulent dark meat inside, with a lingering kick of spice from the grill. After sampling our way around the barbecue menu, we are looking forward to Huma launching more grilled items soon, along with a natural wines and sake list, creating more of a bistro vibe for evening. 

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All sodas and juices are made in-house and fresh daily, labeled and dated in translucent cans so you know exactly what you’re getting. 

DSC05221.jpgPlum Soda (RMB22), Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

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For dessert, you can opt for the more Yunnan traditional Fermented Rice Milk (RMB20), a tangy sour bite that’s definitely an acquired taste for most, or a comfort food for those from Yunnan. The pungent mijiu rice is drowned in cold, full cream milk, an interesting temperature, flavor and textural contrast. 

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Or, choose a safer option and go for any of their homemade ice creams. We particularly love the Black Sesame (RMB10), a thick, rich scoop, similar to a frozen version of Cantonese black sesame dessert soup. Other alternatives include Peanut (RMB10) or Thai Tea (RMB15)

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The flavors of every dish on Huma’s menu compliment the rest around it. While you can easily come for lunch, order a soup or cold noodle and be content, we recommend coming with a friend and trying a few things at once, mixing and matching them bite-for-bite to really understand the cohesion and consistency across the menu. 

The Vibe 

You’re in a mall… there’s no escaping that. If you aren’t facing into the restaurant, you’re looking at an entrance to a small food court and an escalator. But, this is 21st century China, and eating in a mall doesn’t have to mean the stale pre-made pizza crust and floppy lunch meat of the iridescently lit, suburban mall food courts of our pasts. 

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The warmly lit space, clean Scandinavian-esque furniture, ceramic bowls and wooden serving utensils and efficient service are enough to make you forget that you’re in said mall. So, if you can deal with the mall rats, Huma is golden. 

Price: RMB70-120 per person
Who’s going: The Jing'an Kerry Center office contingent, mallrats, light lunch eaters
Good for: Healthy lunches, casual friend dates, fresh herb cravings


See a listing for Huma. Read more Shanghai Restaurant Reviews.

[Cover image by Sophie Steiner/That's]

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