A new lease of life

Af­ter a 21-year hia­tus, Me­gan Wong has re­vived her par­ents’ culi­nary legacy at Pudu Chan Fatt Wan­ton Mee.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Taste - By ABIRAMI DURAI star2@thes­tar.com.my

GROW­ING up, Me­gan Wong has vivid mem­o­ries of her par­ents’ wan­tan mee shop, strate­gi­cally lo­cated near the Pudu mar­ket. Opened in 1955 by her mi­grant fa­ther Wong Poon and his wife Lee Yit Yee, the shop was the fam­ily’s stomp­ing ground dur­ing their for­ma­tive years.

“There are seven of us sib­lings and I am the youngest. At that time, all of us had to be in the shop, help­ing my par­ents – even over the week­ends, be­cause the week­ends were the busiest pe­riod. “When I was younger, I didn’t cook, but I was re­spon­si­ble for wrap­ping hun­dreds of dumplings a day. As I grew up, I learnt how to cook all the food my par­ents sold,” she says.

Wong’s fa­ther came here from China and learnt the art of mak­ing wan­tan mee from a lo­cal sifu, who taught him how to make the springy, bouncy noo­dles from scratch, knead­ing and rolling the flour with the aid of heavy bam­boo poles.

It was tough, stren­u­ous work but af­ter he met and mar­ried fruit-seller Lee, the two made a go of the busi­ness and orders kept com­ing in, es­pe­cially from the vegetable and meat sell­ers in the mar­ket, who han­kered af­ter their noo­dles and hand­made sui kow (meat dumplings).

Wong’s par­ents did well enough off their wan­tan mee busi­ness to put all seven of their chil­dren through uni­ver­sity (two of them were even sent abroad).

Even­tu­ally, all the chil­dren had their own ca­reers – Wong be­came an ac­coun­tant, while some of her broth­ers be­came en­gi­neers and busi­ness­men.

Her two sis­ters even­tu­ally set­tled in Aus­tralia.

In 1996, her par­ents – by then al­ready in their 60s, called it quits for their Pudu out­let.

Their re­tire­ment was short-lived; they didn’t en­joy sit­ting around do­ing noth­ing, so they de­cided to open a small stall sell­ing the same fare in Ta­man Se­gar, Cheras. This lasted two years, be­fore they fi­nally pulled the plug on the busi­ness and set­tled into their re­tire­ment.

Wong’s fa­ther passed away seven years ago, when he was in his 90s, but her mother (who is now 90 her­self ) continued to ca­jole her chil­dren to re­vive the fam­ily legacy. When Wong re­tired last year, her mother brought up the fam­ily busi­ness again.

“My mum said ‘Eh, since you’re re­tired al­ready, why don’t you start your own busi­ness, since you have all the fam­ily recipes?’ I came up with all sorts of ex­cuses like ‘Quite tir­ing, very com­pet­i­tive and peo­ple’s tastes have changed’. But my mum said, ‘Never mind lah, try!’ So I said ‘Okay lah, I’ll try’. That’s how I started,” says Wong.

Last month, Wong launched Pudu Chan Fatt Wan­ton Mee (named af­ter her par­ents’ orig­i­nal shop) in the pop­u­lar, highly-traf­ficked area of Da­mansara Uptown. Although it is miles away, both ge­o­graph­i­cally and aes­thet­i­cally, from the orig­i­nal out­let, Wong has re­tained and learnt all the fam­ily recipes, en­sur­ing that the her­itage fare that her par­ents pre­pared con­tin­ues to live on in the present.

To get the most cru­cial in­gre­di­ent in her restau­rant – the wan­tan noo­dles – Wong shopped around un­til she found a sup­plier whose noo­dles most closely matched the taste and tex­ture of her par­ents’ famed hand­made noo­dles, as she couldn’t find enough skilled staff to make the noo­dles ac­cord­ing to her spec­i­fi­ca­tions.

Af­ter open­ing the restau­rant, she was also forced to make some re­vi­sions to the heir­loom recipe for the wan­tan mee sauce; she says that mod­ern tastes have evolved and many cus­tomers told her they found the sauce too bland.

“I fol­lowed my mum’s recipe closely and peo­ple said they pre­fer it to be sweeter. So I changed the sauce a bit,” she says.

Wong makes her sauce with a cor­nu­copia of spices and soy sauce and

Af­ter a 21-year gap, Wong de­cided to re­vive her fam­ily’s wan­tan mee recipes in her brand new restau­rant. — Pho­tos: ART CHEN/The Star

Wong used to make lion head’s meat­balls for her chil­dren when they were grow­ing up and de­cided to add them to the menu, although they weren’t fea­tured at the orig­i­nal eatery.

The char siew rice fea­tures slightly sweet rice with the restau­rant’s famed char­siew pork.

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