Chef Wang Fusion Kitchen is an 8-month-old private kitchen which I’d never really noticed, until a visiting foodie friend from Singapore asked to dine there. One needed to call ahead to book, and agree to a degustation menu with Chef Wang himself before actually going there. My Singaporean friend flew in and promptly made a booking for us to dine there.
But this below-the-local-foodies’-radar spot actually turned out to be much better than I’d expected - Chef Wang’s dishes used Penang-Chinese cuisine as a base, and he builds upon it with ingredients and techniques from pretty much any other type of cuisine, as long as they could blend in with the local flavours, and taste good.
50-year-old Penang-born Hainanese chef, Wu Maw Wang, had worked in quite a few well-known kitchens since the age of 19, from one of Penang’s stalwart banquet halls at Marco Polo Hotel (Anson Road) to the luxurious Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Hotel, and lastly, on the passenger liners owned by HK-based Star Cruises.
Nowadays, he creates amazing seasonal degustation menus, with an emphasis on freshwater fish, at his own little restaurant located in George Town’s rough “7-Streets Precinct” working-class neighbourhood - Penang’s answer to Sham Shui Po in HK, or the Tenderloin district in San Francisco.
Cold “kerabu” salad
The ice plant is the centrepiece of this salad - the crisp vegetable which originated in the coastal regions of South Africa, particularly around the Cape of Good Hope, and is now cultivated in the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. Here, it’s used in a spicy-sour Penang-Nyonya salad with crisp, fresh cucumber, crunchy jellyfish strips, raw slivers of purple onions and cherry tomatoes. Absolutely enjoyed this salad.
"Patin (freshwater silver catfish) braised in spicy, fermented bean-paste and ginger sauce, topped with fresh coriander leaves
“Patin” is a fatty, white-fleshed freshwater fish - the sharp tones from the salty Chinese fermented bean-paste and minced ginger cut into the richness of the fish. It was served bubbling hot in a Chinese clay casserole bowl. The fresh coriander leaves provided a pleasant, fresh lift to the otherwise rich, heavy dish.
Crisp-fried prawns wrapped in vermicelli, served with spicy-sweet Thai chili sauce - the Goong Sarong (Thai: กุ้งสร่ง), a Thai contribution to Chef Wang’s repertoire. I don’t find this retro dish that exciting, but Chef Wang produced a pretty respectable version, nonetheless.
One do need to slather the caramelly spicy-sweet Thai chili sauce on the prawn to get the classic flavour. Very fresh prawns.
Kurobuta (black pig) caramelised pork with Korean gochujang sauce, served on a bed of raw, shredded cabbage - this was one of the oft-mentioned specialty dishes produced by Chef Wang, and I was reminded of it repeatedly by my Singaporean friend. Maybe my expectations was set a bit too high - it was a pleasant-tasting dish, but a bit too sugary-sweet for my liking. The pork was very tender, but seemed obscured by the very assertive, strong-flavoured gochujang. Chef Wang himself served this dish to us tableside, and he asked that we accompany each mouthful of the slivered pork with the crisp, shredded cabbage. Good advice - the raw crunch from the cabbage complemented the strong, sweet flavours of the sauce-covered meat.
Braised shitake and king oyster mushrooms with broccoli - this is the obligatory “vegetable” dish which is present in every multi-course Chinese meal. It’s pretty well-executed, with the quality of the ingredients showing through.
Penang-Nyonya “lam mee”, using thick yellow Hokkien wheat noodles, with pork belly, shrimps, pink-tinted egg omelette strips, beansprouts, button mushrooms and baby corn - this was supposedly Chef Wang’s signature dish. It’s a traditional noodle dish served on birthdays here in Penang, hence the pink-tinted egg strips: to signify prosperity. The button mushrooms and baby corn were Chef Wang’s own unique touches. The sauce was thicker than the soupy consistency one usually associate with this dish. It was tasty, but I couldn’t help comparing it to the traditional version which I much preferred over this one.
Dessert: Yam and sago soup. Desserts have never been a strong suit in Chinese restaurants, and it’s no different here. That said, Chef Wang produced an admirable version of this deseert, served warm.
It’s a smallish restaurant - there were 4 of us at our table, and there were around 20 other diners at the other tables this evening, so the restaurant was moderately busy. A relaxed-looking Chef Wang came out to chat towards the end of the evening,
Chef Wang Fusion Kitchen
26 Presgrave Street, George Town
10300 Penang, Malaysia
Operating hours: 12noon-3pm, 6pm-10pm