Wah! Chef Wah

Award-winning Chef Wah in
Kwangchou, 2008
Meet Lee Chi Hwa, better known as Chef Wah at his restaurant simply named, Chef Wah.  Born in Ipoh, Lee, 54, who started working in the kitchen some 32 years ago, has honed his culinary skills in Chinese cuisine into a fine art as he worked with a host of master chefs in restaurants in Penang, Johor Baru, Singapore and Indonesia.  Lee’s participation in Asian and international culinary competitions between 1991 and 2008, garnered him a string of prestigious Gold and Best Chef awards and even a guest appearance with TV celebrity, Chef Yan of Yan Can Cook fame!

Armed with 18 years of culinary experience with 5-Star Chinese restaurants, Lee, now a father of 4 children, found that the time was ripe to open his own restaurant.  With a hard-earned reputation for his good food, it was easy for him to decide on a name for his restaurant that opened in Johor Baru, in December 2010.  Lee, a Cantonese, have mastered skills particularly in Sichuan and Hong Kong Cantonese specialties and is now serving his own creations in a mainly Cantonese menu at Chef Wah restaurant.

Facade of Chef Wah Restaurant in Taman Nusa Bestari, JB
“Now I am my own boss but I still have to listen to my customers,” said Lee who is prepared to receive customer comments so that he is able to make improvements and meet their tastes.  Lee, who is also adept at fruit and vegetable carving, also believes in creatively presenting his food to let diners better appreciate the dish, both visually and in a variety of tastes and textures.

To whet your appetite, nibble on pickled slivers of guava made in Chef Wah’s own recipe.  Its refreshing flavour will prepare your palate for a taste of the appetizer like an elegant serving of Three Treasures Cold Dish.  This trio of items is made up of pan-seared scallop on a ring of watermelon topped with diced mango, chopped abalone clam tossed in Thai sauce and the exotic taste of deep-fried salted egg wrapped in seaweed, coated in a crispy mesh of vermicelli.

A single serving of Three Treasures Cold Dish
Steaming hot soup is served in an individual bowl and when its lid is removed, a fragrant waft of the rich broth made with shark’s cartilage promises an equally delectable flavour. 

Chef Wah said the clear soup has been double-boiled for up to 5 hours to bring out the natural flavours of dried seafood or conpoy.  The first spoonful will keep you eager for more so don’t be surprised if you drink right up to the last delicious drop!

Steaming hot, double-boiled shark cartilage soup
with fish maw and dried seafood conpoy
Chef Wah is turning basic ingredients like fish, poultry, meats, vegetables and noodles into luscious culinary creations and presented so well that they are a treat not only for the taste-buds but also for the eyes. 

Some dishes popular with regulars include Chicken in a Golden Nest, pan-fried pork spareribs with honey and pepper sauce, brinjals with dried meat-floss and sautéed scallops and prawns with asparagus in XO sauce.  A meal is not complete without a sweet ending of interesting desserts so try something unusual like Chrysanthemum jelly with a dash of Chinese wine topped with sour plum shreds.

Signature specialty at Chef Wah, Chicken in a Golden Nest

Sauteed scallops and prawns with asparagus in spicy XO sauce

Indulge in refreshing Chrysanthemum jelly with a
dash of Chinese wine topped with sour plum shreds

Chef Wah, a non-halal restaurant, is located at No. 2 Jalan Bestari 2/2, Taman Nusa Bestari, 81300 Skudai, Johor.  Open daily from 11.30am to 2.30pm (Lunch) and from 5.30pm to 10.30pm (Dinner).  For reservations and banquet enquiries, Tel: 607 – 232 7895.

A version of this article was published in The New Straits Times, Johor Streets on 28 August 2012

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