Remember When: Richard Yee’s Served Crab Balls

Courtesy of Google Maps

I never ate at Richard Yee’s Chinese Restaurant (2617 Avenue U). I always wanted to – the place looked ancient and there must’ve been something awesome behind that longevity. But, alas, it closed up – last year I think. I figured I lost my chance, and I wouldn’t hear about Richard Yee’s again.

Then I got a Google alert. Richard Yee’s Restaurant was mentioned in – of all places – the Miami Herald. A former Sheepshead Bay resident living in Georgia wrote to the Herald’s “Cook’s Corner” column asking for a recipe for a dish he had at his old Sheepshead haunt. The columnist responds with a typed long-form version of a big fat shrug. But maybe we can help this former neighbor out with an answer of our own (which will also allow me a posthumous taste of the restaurant’s dishes).

From the Miami Herald:

Q: I look forward to reading your column, to see what recipes sound so good I have to try them. I have a request and I hope that you can fill it. While I lived in Brooklyn I would take my family to a Chinese restaurant called Richard Yees on Avenue U in Sheepshead Bay. They made the most delicious appetizers. One was Crabmeat Balls and the other was Shrimp Patties. I have looked in every recipe book I could get my hands on but am unable to find these recipes. These are the signature dishes that his father Joe Yees put out more that 50 years ago. I believe he had them printed in one of the magazines, Women’s Day or Family Circle. If any of your readers has come across these recipes I would appreciate a copy.
Sandy Thomson, Byron, Ga.
A: Alas, there no longer is a telephone listing for Richard Yee’s, and I was unable to find any published recipes in various databases I checked. Perhaps a reader will be able to help. Shrimp toasts and crab balls are from an era when Chinese restaurants were less common, and often served dishes designed for less sophisticated palates. I did find a recipe for shrimp toasts in the classic 1972 The Chinese Cookbook by Craig Claiborne and Virginia Lee (Random House); as just an example of how far we’ve come, cilantro is listed as an exotic ingredient available only in Chinese markets or by mail order. The book should be in your public library. This recipe for crab balls is better than any I’ve ever tasted in a restaurant, and is from a friend who learned to make them while stationed in the Navy in Thailand.
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