- John Wong has just come off a flight from Shanghai, but doesn’t look the slightest bit pooped
John Wong has just come off a flight from Shanghai, but doesn’t look the slightest bit pooped. Instead, he is warm and vivacious, a bon vivant with charm to spare.
But Wong is used to these trips. The frequent flyer is a businessman with varied interests and each time he goes somewhere, he makes sure to tuck into some really great meals, or in his own words, “Eat lah!”.
Which is how he discovered Pang’s Kitchen in Hong Kong. The one-Michelin starred, family-run restaurant has long had a reputation for serving up impeccable Cantonese fare and Wong was hooked from his first visit.
“I go to Hong Kong a lot and I eat at Pang’s Kitchen very often, so we became friends. They are very friendly sort of people,” said Wong.
Even though the owners were aware they had a devoted Malaysian and Singaporean fan base, they weren’t all that keen on branching out of Hong Kong.
It took Wong two months to convince them to open a Pang’s Kitchen in Malaysia, in an empty lot he already had in Taman Desa, off Old Klang Road.
Once they relented, Wong sent his Malaysian chefs to Hong Kong to learn the recipes.
“I sent my chef there and the owners also came here. Even now, once in two or three months our chefs go there to make sure we are on the same track, more or less,” said Wong.
The fruit add sweetness and dimension to the Sweet & Sour Pork Ribs with Strawberry, lending itself to a slightly different incarnation of a conventional dish.
The result is a menu teeming with all sorts of Cantonese fare. Pang’s Kitchen Malaysia (Wong pays a royalty to the Hong Kong owners to use the name and recipes) prides itself on serving lighter Chinese food with no MSG.
According to Wong though, only 70% of the original menu is represented here as he had to cull dishes that wouldn’t work locally.
“They have snake soup and turtle and such stuff on the menu there. In Hong Kong, it’s very, very popular, especially in winter – people love it because it keeps them warm, but we don’t need it here lah,” he said.
There are lots of delectable possibilities on the menu, but some are so tempting, they’re just begging to be taken for a test drive.
While the dish itself may look like clumpy tofu, rest assured that the Scrambled Milk Scallop offers an unforgettable journey of tastes and textures.
The greens in the Stir-Fried Kai Lan with Shrimp Paste in Claypot are crunchy and full of flavour.
Like the Sweet & Sour Pork Ribs with Strawberry (RM33). One of the most popular dishes in the restaurant, the pork ribs have a crispy exterior and are coated in an incarnation of sweet and sour sauce that is richer and denser than traditional connotations with an enhanced sweetness from the strawberries served in the dish.
The ribs are perfectly cooked – succulent and easy to tear into, but the sweetness of the ribs can seem cloying if you eat a lot in one go.
The Crispy Chicken with Garlic (RM38 for a half portion) is another sure-fire crowd pleaser. The chicken has been fried so perfectly that it’s crispy on the outside but still juicy and tender inside (see top image).
The mountain of crispy minced garlic heaped on top is the literal icing on the cake and adds textural crunch while imparting the chicken with garlicky flavours.
It sounds – and is – simple but you’ll have to trust me on this: it tastes pretty phenomenal.
The Fried Beef Rice Noodles with Onion is cooked perfectly, so all the ingredients blend harmoniously without jostling for individual attention.
While you’re eating your chicken and pork at Pang’s Kitchen, you might want to chew on this: although Malaysian produce is often said to be inferior to imported stuff, our poultry and pork apparently got a big thumbs-up from the Michelin-starred restaurant!
“According to Mr Pang, our pork and chicken is better than theirs. The quality, he said, is better,” said Wong.
Once in a while, you’ve got to take some risks in life and in this instance, a dip into unfamiliar territory is warranted, when you dig into the Scrambled Milk with Scallop (RM38).
Milk, eggs and scallop don’t seem like the sort of ingredients that hang out together very often, but in this instance, these unlikely bedfellows make for an amazing, velvety combination of flavours.
The scallops are soft as silk and perfectly complemented by the tendrils of milky scrambled eggs. The dish comes with a side serving of vinegar and once you add that to the motley crew, every-thing makes perfect sense and you’ll go from “Huh?” to “Wah!” .
Then there is the Stir-Fried Kai Lan with Shrimp Paste in Claypot (RM25), a simple dish that has been fried so cleverly that the vegetables are still crunchy and bouncy, but are pliant enough for diners to enjoy them without having to chew each mouthful so many times that their jaws ache from the exertion.
Soft and delicate, the Steam Stuffed Bean Curd is simple and unpretentious, but packed with flavour.
The Steam Stuffed Bean Curd (RM28) is another simple dish that delivers maximum pleasure.
The homemade silken tofu is soft as a cloud and topped with prawns. The bean curd is delicious and enhanced by the sweet soy sauce that coats the bottom of the serving plate.
Although some people might find this a tad too simple, the dish’s very lightness is what makes it so appealing – an uncomplicated meal that’s still fresh and flavourful.
The Fried Sticky Rice, is as its name implies, both fried and sticky and also totally, utterly delicious.
If you’re after something from the carbohydrate clan, tuck into a plate of the Fried Sticky Rice (RM35).
It’s got lots of lap cheong (Chinese sausage) and is sticky but the stickiness is dispersed by crispy shrimp bits that crackle in the mouth and give the dish added flavour dimensions and textural contrasts.
Pang’s Kitchen also has some noodles on offer, and if you’d like a sample, try the Fried Beef Rice Noodles with Onion (RM21.80).
The noodles are fat and fluffy and complemented by loads and loads of crunchy onions and tender, well-seasoned beef pieces.
The bean sprouts stirred into the dish add bite to each mouthful. But the best thing about this dish is the homemade chilli sauce served on the side. Spoon a dollop over your noodles and you’re good to go!
Ultimately, the food at Pang’s Kitchen offers a rich repertoire of Cantonese cuisine that is sure to find fans in Chinese food lovers.
Prices are just slightly high, but then again, you are eating at an offshoot of a Michelin-starred establishment, so you can’t expect a bargain.
In any case, people are apparently willing to fork out for the food, as according to Wong, the restaurant is so packed over the weekends that reservations are essential.
Wong says there are plans to take Pang’s Kitchen into the confines of a mall by the end of the year, where spending power will be higher and he can introduce premium products like abalone.
But while he sees potential in this area, he is determined to take his time and do things right.
“We’ll see how lah. I’m not in a hurry actually,” he said.
Pang’s Kitchen is apparently very popular over the weekends, when tables are hard to find.
Ground Floor, Wisma Miramas
58100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 012-631 7971/03-7971 2748
Open daily, noon to 10.30pm