Get up close and per­sonal with the men be­hind some of Malaysia’s top Chi­nese restau­rants

T.Dining Malaysia Tatler Best Restaurants - - Contents -

Chef Leong Weng Heng Ex­ec­u­tive Chi­nese Chef Lai Ching Yuen, Grand Mil­len­nium

When Chef Leong started his ca­reer as a line cook work­ing the steamer sec­tion, he told him­self that he will be­come a proper chef in three years. That was ex­actly what he did, and what started out as a mere hobby be­came a full fledged ca­reer that is now into its sec­ond decade. Says the 48-year-old Perak na­tive, “To­day, I still don't feel that I'm ac­tu­ally go­ing to work. It feels more like I'm do­ing what I en­joy do­ing.”

He joined Lai Ching Yuen in 1989 as Chi­nese sous chef and has not look back since. He was pro­moted in 2009 and to­day, over­sees the restau­rant as Grand Mil­len­nium’s ex­ec­u­tive Chi­nese chef.

What’s the best thing about head­ing a Chi­nese restau­rant?

For me, it is to have the chance to pass on my knowl­edge to the younger gen­er­a­tion.

Which is the hard­est skill to mas­ter in the Chi­nese kitchen?

It would have to be con­trol­ling the fire when cooking.

What areare some of the new ttech­niquesech­niques you have ex­per­i­mented with?

I like to smoke-cook—i.e. slow cooking with heat from smoke, in dishes such as rose­wood smoked lamb and Lap­sang Sou­chong teasmoked duck egg. I am also work­ing on a Chi­nese flo­ral menu, with a lots of in­fu­sion in the process… Com­ing soon!

Don’t leave Lai Ching Yuan with­out order­ing ...

Our bar­be­cued roasted pork with honey and our crispy fine egg noodles with fresh­wa­ter prawn.

Chef Wong Lian You Ex­ec­u­tive Chi­nese Chef Tao Chi­nese Cui­sine In­ter­con­ti­nen­tal Kuala Lumpur

Call him an ac­ci­den­tal chef—chef Wong Lian You stum­bled into the culi­nary world when he took on a temp job as a kitchen helper at age 19 (given his love of bikes, his first choice of ca­reer was as a mo­tor­cy­cle tech­ni­cian). To­day the 39-year-old is an award-win­ning chef who has rep­re­sented Malaysia in var­i­ous Chi­nese cui­sine culi­nary com­pe­ti­tions around the world, and the ex­ec­u­tive Chi­nese chef of Tao Chi­nese Cui­sine, In­ter­con­ti­nen­tal Kuala Lumpur’s new Chi­nese restau­rant that he helped launch in 2013.

You spear­headed the con­cep­tu­al­i­sa­tion and launch of Tao. How did you en­vi­sion Tao?

Tao’s con­tem­po­rary set­ting with bright blos­som flow­ers, clas­sic Chi­nese teapots and eye-catch­ing ceil­ing lights ex­udes a mod­ern op­u­lence. The food goes along with the feel; it is tra­di­tional heart­warm­ing Chi­nese cui­sine with a twist of mod­ern pre­sen­ta­tion.

What is the one dish by which ev­ery Chi­nese restau­rant should be judged?

Pek­ing Duck. One of the tra­di­tional Chi­nese dishes that has been pre­pared since the im­pe­rial era, it takes ex­pe­ri­ence and skill to per­fect, from the mari­nade to the roast­ing and fi­nally the carv­ing of the duck. At Tao, the chef’s rec­om­men­da­tion on this im­pe­rial dish comes with choices of lux­u­ri­ous condi­ments such as foie gras, eringi mush­rooms and truf­fles.

Com­plete the sen­tence: Don't leave Tao with­out order­ing...

The baked cod fil­let with spicy plum pomelo sauce, stirfried chicken fil­let with Szechuan pep­per, capsicum and dried chilli, Pek­ing duck, deep- fried oys­ter with mango salsa dress­ing, and the Tao seafood fried rice.

Chef Tan Tzaan Ling Chi­nese Chef 5 Senses The Westin Kuala Lumpur

His mum was a tep­pa­nyaki chef, his cousin is also a chef, and his fam­ily is in the restau­rant busi­ness. It was only nat­u­ral then that 15-year-old Tan Tzaan Ling joined the trade. He crossed the bor­der and joined Amara Ho­tel Sin­ga­pore as a lowly kitchen helper. Fast-for­ward 32 years, and the KL boy has worked his way up the ranks to be­come the Chi­nese chef at 5 Senses, The Westin Kuala Lumpur’s sleek mod­ern Can­tonese restau­rant.

What's your favourite in­gre­di­ent in the Chi­nese kitchen?

I have no spe­cific favourite. How­ever, the use of fresh in­gre­di­ents is re­ally im­por­tant to me; the price is sec­ondary. I be­lieve thatth as long as a chef cooks with his heart, the dishd will be great.

De­scribed your favourite sig­na­ture dish.

Deep-dfried spare ribs with Chi­nese black vine­ I mar­i­nate the ribs for at least two hour­sho to max­imise their flavour. The re­sult­ing tasteta is sweet and sour and very ap­petis­ing.

Whatw is the one dish by which ev­ery Chi­nese restau­rant should be judged?

Fried rice. It may be a sim­ple dish, but it is hard to per­fect. And as it is very sim­ple, popular and mod­er­ately priced, some chefs may not pay that ex­tra at­ten­tion to cooking it.

Don't leave Five Senses with­out order­ing…

Deep- fried spare ribs with Chi­nese black vine­gar.

Chef Kok Chee Kin Ex­ec­u­tive Sous Chef Dy­nasty Re­nais­sance Kuala Lumpur Ho­tel

He worked his way up from the bot­tom and slowly rose through the ranks over the years. At times, it might have been tough and chal­leng­ing, but it was re­ward­ing all the same. More im­por­tantly, for Chef Kok Chee Kin, or Chef Kin as he is pop­u­larly known, be­ing a chef is a call­ing. He joined Re­nais­sance Ho­tel as a chef de cui­sine in 1996 and hasn’t look back since. To­day, he holds the role of Ex­ec­u­tive Sous Chef and helps to over­see the op­er­a­tions at Dy­nasty, the prop­erty’s Chi­nese restau­rant.

What is the one dish by which ev­ery Chi­nese restau­rant should be judged?

Def­i­nitely the soup! It's in our Chi­nese cul­ture to have some­thing to warm our stom­achs be­fore start­ing the main course.

What's the tough­est, most chal­leng­ing thing about over­see­ing a Chi­nese restau­rant?

It is cop­ing with the ev­er­chang­ing trends and de­mands of the mar­ket. The Gen Y is very dif­fer­ent from the past gen­er­a­tions in terms of their tastes, pref­er­ences and spend­ing. It's chal­leng­ing but in­ter­est­ing.

Which is the hard­est skill to mas­ter in the Chi­nese kitchen?

It's be­ing a good teacher to as­pir­ing young cooks. Cooking gets bet­ter with time but it takes nat­u­ral flair and ex­pe­ri­ence to be a good chef.

What's your favourite in­gre­di­ent in the Chi­nese kitchen? Why?

go­ing back to ba­sics.

De­scribe your favourite sig­na­ture dish.

That's quite a long list—i like all of them so it's hard to choose. One that comes to mind right now is the poached farm chicken with gin­ger cream. It’s packed full of good­ness and very yummy!

Chef Chan Choo Kean Chi­nese Chef Zuan Yuan Chi­nese Restau­rant One World Ho­tel

He has won sev­eral in­ter­na­tional awards and ac­co­lades for his cui­sine, but Chef Chan Choo Kean re­mains hum­ble as ever. Like many of his com­pa­tri­ots, the 47-yearold Ipoh na­tive started at the bot­tom in the kitchen—in his case, cut­ting veg­eta­bles— and slowly worked his way up over the years. Now with more than 25 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence in the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try un­der his belt, he helms the team at Zuan Yuan as head Chi­nese chef.

When did you de­cide to be a chef?

I have as­pired to be a chef since young.

What is the one dish by which ev­ery Chi­nese restau­rant should be judged?

Fried rice, as it re­flects highly on a chef’s cooking skills.

Which is the hard­est skill to mas­ter in the Chi­nese kitchen?

The abil­ity to man­age the "wok chi" (to bring out the flavour of the wok), heat con­trol and the hand­work for carv­ing and mak­ing dim sum.

What's your favourite in­gre­di­ent in the Chi­nese kitchen?

Duck­ling, pi­geon and lamb. They are not al­ways eas­ily avail­able and their prepa­ra­tion re­quire in­tri­cate skill.

De­scribe your favourite sig­na­ture dish.

Braised duck­ling with herbs and abalone sauce. The meat is suc­cu­lent with crispy skin and a herbal tinge, and is com­ple­mented by the flavour­some sauce.

Chef Liu Wen Bo Chi­nese Chef Dao Xiang Chi­nese Restau­rant Nexus Bangsar South City

It was a ca­reer choice that he made very early on in life, and Chef Liu Wen Bo stuck to it. From age 18, he started work as an ap­pren­tice in charge of prepa­ra­tion and clean­ing in a restau­rant in Guangzhou, China. Over the years, he cut his teeth at var­i­ous restau­rants and even­tu­ally moved to Kuala Lumpur. To­day the 40-year-old is the head chef for Dao Xiang Chi­nese restau­rant, spe­cial­is­ing in Shunde cui­sine.

What is Shunde cui­sine? Shunde cui­sine is re­garded as the ba­sis of Can­tonese cooking. Us­ing tra­di­tional Chi­nese cooking tech­niques, Shunde dishes are of­ten pre­pared with sun­dried tan­ger­ine peel and dates, which pro­duce sim­ple but strong flavours.

What is the one dish by which ev­ery Chi­nese restau­rant should be judged?

Sweet and sour pork is un­doubt­edly one of the most popular Chi­nese dishes. This dish re­quires the per­fec­tion of ba­sic tra­di­tional Chi­nese cooking tech­niques. If the chef can mas­ter th­ese and per­fectly bal­ance the strong flavours in its core in­gre­di­ents like vine­gar, you can con­fi­dently say he can cook.

Which is the hard­est skill to mas­ter in the Chi­nese kitchen?

Sea­son­ing is the most im­por­tant skill to mas­ter and pos­si­bly the hard­est too, as we have to cre­ative to bring out the best flavour to our cus­tomers.

Which is your favourite in­gre­di­ent in the Chi­nese kitchen?

Fresh seafood be­cause noth­ing can top or sub­sti­tute the nat­u­ral sweet­ness.

De­scribe Dao Xiang’s sig­na­ture dish. The seafood hot pot, which al­lows you to se­lect your favourite seafood and fresh­wa­ter items and cook them in a tra­di­tional cop­per hot pot with our spe­cialty broth.

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