Recipes – Inspirations from lunch at Mr. Wong

Recipes from Mr. Wong

In the kitchen, I am generally a “traditionalist” and certainly not a fan of the fusion genre when it comes to experimenting with ingredients and recipes.

But I can fondly recall two recent meals – at MoVida Aqui in Melbourne and Mr. Wong in Sydney that have left me with some fond memories of  their food.

Creativity in food is one thing, you would agree it has to taste good as well.

It is not often that I am inspired by a particular dish that I want to cook it at home without a recipe. Then again, there were times I have been so inspired by piano music I transcribed it note for note from listening to it over and over again.

Dining room, Mr. Wong, Sydney

Dining room, Mr. Wong, Sydney

But there were some dishes that I tasted recently that left me wanting, let alone thinking about recreating them at home.

I thought about those dishes and why it made such an impression on me. Simple, comfort-food-loving me.

I believe it comes down to using ingredients in new and exciting ways to create flavours that are unexpected and yet tasty. Refreshing yet familiar and not too far off from what we hold dear to be home-cooked food.

Most cultures where their cuisines have been popularized by migrants around the world have their own versions of bread, salad, grilled meats and preserved foods such as fish, meats and vegetables.

On this beautiful Saturday afternoon, I am preparing dinner for a few friends and have decided to replicate some memories that have really caught my imagination, not to mention my taste buds.

I really enjoyed my lunch at Mr. Wong and whist the flavours were so fresh and vibrant, I thought these dishes can’t be too difficult to replicate at home either.

So here they are, my own interpretation of three dishes from  Mr. Wong, Sydney’s exciting new modern Chinese restaurant. I am chuffed because the flavours are fresh as I expected and I wouldn’t have used the combination of ingredients had we not ordered these items at the restaurant.

Best of all, I enjoyed a Saturday afternoon cooking them up and I hope you will too!

Salad of chrysanthemum leaves, nashi pear, blue swimmer crab and ginger

Salad of chrysanthemum leaves, nashi pear, blue swimmer crab and ginger

Salad of chrysanthemum leaves, nashi pear, blue swimmer crab and ginger

This salad was my first taste of Mr. Wong and whilst there is Alaskan snow crab and salmon roe in chef Dan Hong’s recipe, I have omitted the Alaskan snow crab, salmon roe and used blue swimmer crab instead for a friendlier and more inexpensive home version.

I loved this dish because the Chinese seldom eat chrysanthemum leaves (or “tong hou” in Cantonese) raw because traditional Chinese recipes dictate this vegetable is better used in hotpots or soups.

The nutty and slightly bitter taste of the leaves is refreshing with the crunch of nashi pears and sweet blue swimmer crab meat. With a dressing that combines palm sugar, soy sauce, lemon juice and ginger, I know this salad will feature many more times during BBQs this summer.

Pan-seared mackerel cutlets with crispy curry leaves

Pan-seared mackerel cutlets with crispy curry leaves

Pan-seared mackerel cutlets with crispy curry leaves

This is not a dish from Mr. Wong but rather a dish I love to cook at home.

Mackerel can come across fishy if less than fresh but when it is on song, this is an awesome dish and one of my favourite recipes.

Tonight, I have some really fresh curry leaves from Mr. T’s garden.

“They are just sprouting out and I have already trimmed quite a few leaves” he tells me.

” No problem, I know just the recipe for doing these curry leaves some well-deserved justice” I say.

This recipe is very close to my heart because it is so simple yet so tasty. It is one of the first few recipes that I posted when we started blogging 18 months ago.

Crispy and fragrant curry leaves over golden brown mackerel cutlets are classic aromas from South East Asia.

The other reason I like this recipe is that mackerel is slightly more tolerant if overcooked. In fact, I prefer this recipe gently overcook as the mackerel’s meat is firm and falls off in beautiful flaky pieces.

Slow-cooked pork belly with green apple salad

Slow-cooked pork belly with green apple salad

Slow-cooked pork belly with green apple salad

I’m in big trouble because I am in love with this decadent and porky dish.

The pork belly is so succulent and the sauce with its gentle flavours of black vinegar, sugar and Shao Xing wine tells me I should be at home, rugged up and eating this with a bowl of steamed rice while watching my favourite movies.

Mr. Wong's red braised pork belly with fresh apple salad

Mr. Wong's red braised pork belly with fresh apple salad

There are so many different variations of pork belly and I find myself cooking this dish because of those beautiful and alternating layers of lean and fatty meat beneath that top layer of leathery pork rind.

Now that’s before it is all cut up and chucked into the cooking pot.

A couple of hours later, the aromas are heavenly and when you think about that pile of crunchy, tangy green apple matchsticks huddled over a bowl of savoury-sweet pork belly with gravy from a 2-hour slow braise, I’m sure you get the picture of what is truly a perfect comfort meal.

I thought about a healthier version of this dish, that is, perhaps a cut of pork other than the fatty albeit tasty pork belly. Just like how Godowsky has tortured Chopin music lover with some of his fifty three paraphrases of extremely more difficult version of the composer’s original works, I think this dish is tortoring me with what it means to eat it too often.

Malaysian style Chinese rojak with cuttlefish

Malayisan style Chinese rojak with cuttlefish

Malaysian style Chinese rojak with cuttlefish

Rojak is a salad with cucumber, pineapple, jicama (also known as turnip or yam bean) mixed with a shrimp paste sauce and is a very popular street foods in Malaysia.

Adding shrimp paste dressing to rojak

Adding shrimp paste dressing to rojak

Variations to this dish include using deep-fried tofu puffs, kangkong or water spinach, beansprouts, cuttlefish and diced peanuts as a crunchy garnish.

Tonight, our friends KC & Molly have brought their own delectable version and one that I love too – with lots of cuttlefish and green mango which happens to be in season at the moment.

KC made this thick, black gooey sauce from scratch, using a concoction of  shrimp paste, black caramel sauce, belachan, sugar, tamarind water, lemon juice, chilli powder and fresh chilli.

The beauty of this dish is that it is fairly portable too if you want to bring it as a BYO dish to BBQs or dinner parties. Prepare the sauce in advance in a container, cut up all the vegetables and assemble it in a big serving bowl and have the garnishes of roasted sesame seeds and peanuts on the side.

To serve, pour the sauce over the vegetables and whalla, you have an instant party hit that would rival Lady Gaga’s Ra Ra Ohh Laa Laa …. get the picture?

Malaysian style Chinese rojak

Picture perfect - Malaysian style Chinese rojak

Once the rojak sauce is poured over the vegetables, Molly sprinkles the roasted sesame seeds and it’s time to toss away.

Molly rossing her beautiful rojak salad

Ra Ra Ohh Laa Laa!!! ~ Molly tossing her beautiful rojak salad

This is one good looking rojak and the good thing about this dish is you can either eat it as a snack, entree, mid-meal or dessert or really, anytime you feel like having an explosion of sweet, sour and spicy in your mouth.

“The sauce is damn tasty even if I say so myself” KC tells everyone as we are tucking into this delicious rojak.

There is silence because everyone is too busy enjoying the rojak.

Lemon sorbet with green mango, pink grapefruit jelly and water chestnuts

Lemon sorbet with green mango, pink grapefruit jelly and water chestnuts

Lemon sorbet with green mango, pink grapefruit jelly and water chestnuts

I loved Mr. Wong‘s dessert of a green apple ice, osmanthus jelly, water chestnuts and coconut sorbet because it is not overly sweet and the flavours and textures are so refreshing.

My take on this dessert is to combine the sourish taste of green mango and lemon sorbet with a soft and sweet jelly made from Schweppes’s pink grapefruit and apple soft drink and the salty crunch of diced water chestnuts that has been soaked in chilled salt water.

I am tempted to drop some of those pink grapefruit jelly into a plain lemonade to see the contrast of the pink jelly against a bubbly soda. The “surprising and unexpected taste in this dessert is the tangy taste of the sorbet and the salty water chestnuts.

I love this dessert and rather than a sweet ending, mine is tangy and salty. I hope my friends would approve.


The Recipes

Here are the recipes from a dinner inspired by our lunch at Mr. Wong. I hope you would enjoy them and happy cooking!

Salad of chrysanthemum leaves, nashi pear, blue swimmer crab & ginger

Pan-seared mackerel cutlets with crispy curry leaves

Searing mackerel in hot pan

Searing mackerel in hot pan

This is one of the simplest and tasties recipes.

Heat some oil in a small saucepan until almost simmering then add the fresh curry leaves into the oil.

(Caution: The oil WILL splatter when curry leaves are added so be very careful to stand clear and remove any flammable items around the stove).

Once the leaves curl up after about 30 seconds, remove and set aside on some kitchen paper to drain excess oil.

Coat the fish cutlets with a sprinkling of salt and curry powder on both sides and sear in a hot pan with the same cooking oil used for frying the curry leaves until it is golden brown one side.

Flip mackerel cutlets over when golden brown on one side

Flip mackerel cutlets over when golden brown on one side

Flip the cutlets over and sear the other side until it is cooked.

For more details of this recipe, please click here.

Slow-cooked pork belly with green apple salad

This recipe has become one of my favourites after trying it out untested for the first time tonight. Thanks everyone for being my guinea pig.

Lemon sorbet with green mango, pink grapefruit jelly and water chestnuts

So dear readers, have you tried to replicate any restaurants recipes and home and if so which are your favourite? 

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13 Responses to Recipes – Inspirations from lunch at Mr. Wong

  1. Everything looks so yum!! Especially the mackerel. And oh, Malaysian rojak!!! I want 😀

  2. I love rojak-salad with sauce is one of my favourite meals and I like being inspired by eating out.

  3. bams Kitchen says:

    Great little salad! I am sure it is very peppery with the rocket and sweet with the nashi pear and a little savory with the dressing. Delightful! Take care, BAM

  4. Jana Horton says:

    I love all the dishes and will replicate the dishes in my next dinner party! Please let me know where can I get the special soaked cuttlefish for the rojak. Enjoy your blog always!

    • Chopinand says:

      Dear Jana,

      You can buy the cuttlefish in most Asian grocery stores. They come in dehydrated form and you need to re-hydrate the cuttlefish using lye water which is also available at Asian grocery stores.

  5. Love all these inspired recipes! Very impressive:)

  6. Juliana says:

    Oh! I just got confused (which is not hard) with the comments and end up posting on facebook…

  7. Good on you for giving this flavour sensation a go at home!!! It looks amazing! I loved you image of Mr wongs dining room too, it really gave the feel of the place :)

  8. Not sure if you got my comment! The dish looks awesome, good on you for trying it at home.

  9. msihua says:

    Woah! I love rojak! I can’t wait to go home in December and load up on Sotong Kang Kung :)

  10. Kimby says:

    This post induced a Chopin fest! I re-read and listened to all of the wonderful thoughts and music you provided in the links, including your own interpretation of the piece in Picnic At Cremorne Point (had to search for that one, but found it!) — a loving illustration of your header photo! What a musically blessed morning. Thank you!

    Then there’s your food… cooking is so closely related to musical expression, as you pointed out, and the infinite variations bring joy to the heart and palate! I love replicating flavors and textures discovered elsewhere (water chestnuts in a dessert… I like that idea!) and yes, sometimes our guests are my guinea pigs, too — but they never seem to mind. 😉 Thanks again for an inspiring post!

  11. BOTH of pork and nashi pear dish were my favorite from your visit to Mr. Wong too! For those of us who cannot visit the restaurant, we don’t know how it tastes like… however you made your version and we can recreate using your recipes. 😀 How nice! Thank you for sharing these recipes and I am too a big pork fan and hard to resist no to pork dish. :)

  12. celia says:

    That pork dish looks mouthwatering! Thank you for the pointer! :)

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