A Taste of Home: Chef Ho Wai-Kong On His Top Dishes And Dining Destinations Back Home In Johor
A blend of cultures and a proliferation of spices, techniques and flavours––it’s all there on the plates at Hong Kong restaurant Bibi & Baba, where Singaporean and Malay traditions come together. And it’s here that head chef Ho Wai-Kong brings his own experience to the table.
Born and raised in Malaysia, Ho learned to cook early on, joining his mother in the kitchen before kicking off a professional culinary career at a Chinese restaurant in Kuala Lumpur. Later, he would cross into Singapore where he added experience in Western cuisine to his repertoire. It was not until he worked at the Singapore Polo Club though that he drew on his roots and was recognised for his talent in creating authentic Nyonya dishes.
The chef recently joined Bibi & Baba in Hong Kong where diners will recognise flavours and techniques from Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Ho hopes that diners can enjoy “authentic Malaysian-Peranakan cuisine” at the restaurant, where signature dishes include Nyonya laksa lemak, richer in coconut milk than other laksa and made with thick rice noodles; special prawn mee, or Hokkien mee, with a rich soup and the added depth delivered by dried prawn sambal paste; and ngor hiang, five-spice meat rolls wrapped in dried bean curd sheets, among other dishes.
Ho says that his food draws on his Chinese background and combines “the use of spices, the flavours and the stimulation to your taste buds to deliver surprises and, with its colourful dishes, to bring delight to your day, too.” Here he shares some of the dishes that delight him whenever he has the chance to head home to Malaysia.
What do you miss most on the food/drink front when you are away from Malaysia or haven’t been back for a while?
A good char kway teow. It’s a taste that you rarely find anywhere else other than Malaysia.
What is the first dish you eat when you return and where do you go for it?
Shoon Huat in Johor for the famous Malaysian bak kut teh. They don’t have a branch in Hong Kong and this is what I always crave; it’s a comforting, all-time favourite.
Do you have a favourite restaurant in Malaysia? For fine dining/special occasions and for more casual experiences?
There is a Japanese restaurant named Kinsahi in Johor. Working in the industry we don’t usually have much time to visit many other restaurants, but this is my go-to place for special occasions.
If you have visitors/guests with you, where do you ensure you always go to give them a real taste of Malaysia?
Cooking for my guests would be my honour to show what Malaysian food is, and to deliver the true taste of home.
Where do you like to meet up with old friends for food and drinks?
There are Indian-styled cha chaan teng, which we call makmak shops, and they are open 24 hours. So, whenever we have a gathering we will meet up at these makmak shops and hang out there until dawn.
Is there anywhere else that you never miss visiting when you are back?
Ipoh––the lifestyle and the food are the most suited to a Chinese background with a large community of Chinese living there.