This week Mary Vernon asks Yuen Ming Wong, co-owner and chef at Dynasty Chinese restaurant, to choose a meal for his family from the menu
WHEN Yuen Ming Wong, known to all and sundry these days as Ming, arrived in Sydney it was 1975 and he was 19.
‘‘ Although I grew up in Hong Kong I had very little English and no qualifications,’’ he said.
‘‘ Luckily I had an uncle with a restaurant in Neutral Bay and he gave me a job as a kitchen hand and dishwasher.’’
By 1980 he was a fully qualified chef and he set out to make his way in the north.
‘‘ My friend at my uncle’s restaurant, Gordon Loggee, was the nephew of Arthur Lopun who had the Capitol restaurant in Flinders St East and he had come up here to run it. Gordon had also opened the Hong Kong in Flinders St West and it was too much for him so he asked me to come.
‘‘ I came to Townsville with my sister and brother and we bought the Capitol.’’
Townsville in 1980 seemed very quiet to young Ming after Hong Kong and Sydney.
‘‘ I thought Sydney was quiet when I went there, but then I came to Townsville,’’ he laughed.
These days, though, Townsville is just about the right speed for Ming. He wouldn’t go back to Sydney for anything.
It was slow work to get established at the Capitol. To his horror he found that almost all the vegetables used in the restaurant, as with most Townsville restaurants at the time, were frozen.
‘‘ I wanted to make everything more authentic, more Chinese,’’ he said.
‘‘ I was young and tried to do it all too fast so I had to back-track. It took about a year before I had the menu working the way I wanted it to.’’
His parents came up from Sydney too, to help out and the family got the restaurant on its feet.
He met his wife, Bridget, at a party at the Nanking restaurant and in 1982 they married and Bridget joined him in the business.
By this time he wanted to expand and he began looking for premises for his dream, a high-end restaurant. They looked at Kirwan but in those days there weren’t enough people to make it worthwhile so they turned their attention to the much-loved Stage Door
We hand cut all our own meat, we roll our own spring rolls we hardly even use a blender . . all we need is a chopping block and a knife
Theatre restaurant which was for sale and in 1984 they bought the building where Dynasty stands today.
‘‘ Over the years I have found that it takes time to accustom people to anything new or different,’’ he said. ‘‘ It took five years to establish quail as a popular dish, and even longer for crocodile.’’
His empire has grown with the Dynasty as the flagship, five Capitol restaurants in Townsville and two in Ayr.
‘‘ I would open more restaurants if I could get the staff of the standard I need,’’ he said.
‘‘ Because in our restaurants we make everything from scratch and chefs these days are not used to that. We hand-cut all our own meat, we roll our own spring rolls, we hardly even use a blender. It’s a streamlined kitchen, all we need is a chopping block and a knife, no expensive equipment.
‘‘ But people aren’t trained like that any more which makes it difficult.’’
None of his and Bridget’s children have gone into the restaurant. All three have university degrees – physiotherapy, accountancy and engineering – and this pleases Ming greatly.
‘‘ I came here from Hong Kong with no education and no English. The only way for me to get ahead was to work very hard and for long hours. For them, it’s different and things are easier. All I want for them is for them to have jobs and be self-sufficient and healthy, that’s it.’’
Planning his choice of menu as a meal for four, he pointed out that Chinese tastes differ somewhat from Australian tastes and he was choosing from a Chinese perspective.
Naturally, he selected quail as one of his entrees.
‘‘ The quail is beautiful and at last my customers have become used to it, and they like it, so I am pleased.’’
He couldn’t go past his dim sims either. He says that Dynasty’s dim sims are different from any others in town. Everything in them, including the meat, is hand-cut and they are made only when they are ordered so they are absolutely fresh.
‘‘ We have lots of fancy dishes for the main course, but Chinese people don’t really go for the fancy dishes. I would choose the steamed fish in ginger and shallot because that’s the basis of a meal for Chinese.
‘‘ And, of course, the crocodile, it’s delicious and not many people know that it’s used in Chinese herbal medicine to help with asthma. For the duck, I’d have it without the orange and Cointreau sauce, just plain roast duck. And the scallops in crabmeat sauce are a special favourite of mine.’’
When it came to dessert Ming was not so keen.
‘‘ I would just like a fruit platter, but I know that my family love the golden fried ice cream, so they can have that while I just eat the fruit.’’