Chef’s choice

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

Townsville Bulletin - - NQ Life -

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.’’

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