Of Baba descent, Chef Tang C.G. from Tanjung Tokong has been spending his time in the kitchen since 13, learning to cook from his mum. At 16, Tang started work in a hotel and four years later, packed his bags for the bright lights of KL.
In the 24 years that he has spent in KL, he has progressed from roasted chicken rice at the Sunway food court to setting up Seri Penang at Atria shopping centre, PJ, with Chan Lyn Kam in 2006.
Professing to be a food lover who’s game for “anything good”, he frequently scours the streets of Bangkok, Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai to find good food or ingredients that he could incorporate into his dishes.
“Cooking is an art – one has to be patient and work hard,” he says.
“Stall proprietors of the old days used to get up at 3am just to boil the soup and prepare ingredients for their morning business. These days, people wake up at 6am and start selling at 7am. Of course, the quality is compromised,” he notes sadly.
But Tang stresses that his restaurant has given him the opportunity to preserve tradition. The prawn mee soup at Seri Penang, for example, takes at least six hours to prepare.
He’s also made some adaptations for the health conscious. For the delicious Penang fish head curry dish, he has replaced santan with evaporated milk, thus giving it a lighter and milder taste.
“It is also a healthier option and the milder taste makes it suitable for everyone, even kids” he says.
The curry fish head at Seri Penang.
Other things to try here include the Heh-bee butter prawn. With butter and evaporated milk as its main ingredient, the prawns are evenly coated with what is described in the menu as “butter golden sand”. And the Penang otak-otak, layered on top with daun kadok (a variation of the betel leaf) is piquant and melts in your mouth. Penang assam laksa is also another good bet.