The walls of one-MICHELIN-starred Chef Kang’s are lined with hundreds of photographs: happy, smiling faces of businessmen, foreign dignitaries and celebrities alike, each a satisfied diner at chef-proprietor Ang Song Kang’s Cantonese cuisine restaurant.
But what sets Chef Kang’s apart from any other upmarket Chinese restaurant is that there are just three tables in three private dining rooms, all served by a pocket-sized kitchen from which Ang personally whips up every single dish that reaches the tables.
There is an a la carte menu, of course, but restaurant regulars know that the best dining experience happens when you bring your own bottle of wine and have the chef create the dishes to go with it.
Chef Kang, as he is affectionately known, is a warm host, often taking the time to chat and have a sip of wine with his guests to get to know their preferences in creating something that suits their taste.
With more people opting for plant-based protein alternatives these days, he has also applied his mastery in Cantonese cuisine to creating two unique vegetarian dishes using the OKK Hokkaido range of plant-based seafood by Singaporean plant-based protein company Growthwell.
Founded in 1989, the Growthwell Group leads the charge in bringing meat and seafood alternatives to the Southeast Asian market. Growthwell works with food scientists, researchers, nutritionists and chefs to shine a spotlight on Asia’s food cultures and flavours with its wide product range of plant- and mushroom-based proteins. These include an innovative mutton-alternative made with meaty Lion's Mane mushroom marketed under the Su Xian Zi brand and OKK's wide range of konjac-based seafood alternatives.
Made from konjac that is derived from the root of the Asian elephant yam plant—an ingredient long prized by the Japanese for its fibrous, low-calorie properties—OKK’s seafood alternatives are 100% plant-based, cholesterol-free, fat-free and rich in soluble dietary fibre. Aside from its health benefits, the plant-based seafood such as prawn, squid and fish lends itself well to a wide variety of Asian cooking methods. The seafood-free products can be steamed, cooked in nutritious soups, added to stir-fries and deep-fried in batter, making a perfect canvas for any number of seasonings and sauces.
Refined vegetable-forward Cantonese classics
The versatility of the plant-based ingredients are a perfect fit for Chef Kang's, where the chef has a way with seafood, using laborious techniques and precise cooking methods to coax out the fresh flavours in his signature dishes like steamed crab with glutinous rice, soon hock fish soup and pumpkin salted egg sauce prawns with crispy yam strips. With OKK’s Hokkaido Prawns and Prawn Balls, Ang leverages on the fresh, natural sweetness of vegetables to bring out the texture and flavours of the plant-based seafood.
For a dish of Hokkaido Prawn Balls With Golden Pumpkin Sauce, he first gently fries the Hokkaido Prawn Balls in a wok till they develop a crisp golden exterior. He then glazes the prawn balls to a glossy shine with an umami-packed bean paste sauce. Finally, he finishes the dish with a puree of golden pumpkin. “The result is savoury and spicy, with the golden pumpkin bringing a light sweet touch,” says the chef. “And finally, when you bite into it, you get the QQ texture and flavour of the plant-based prawn balls.”
Equally mouthwatering is Ang’s second vegetable-forward seafood creation using OKK’s Hokkaido Prawns. Like the real crustacean, the plant-based prawn has an attractive red and white flesh and the bouncy texture of cooked prawn. Taking inspiration from Chinese shrimp fritters, he coats the plant-based prawn in a batter and deep-fries them till golden brown before dressing them in a jade green spinach sauce. “What you get is the earthy flavours of spinach, reminiscent of seaweed which reminds people of seafood,” shares the chef.
“Just like you would typically pair seafood with white wine, it's quite lovely to pair these vegetable-led plant-based seafood dishes with white wine,” he adds. “My customers have given me every confidence to create new dishes to complement their wines and cater to their tastes. My sense of satisfaction comes from my customers' trust in me and their final stamp of approval.”