Personal Chef: Fu Wing Low's Amazing Cantonese Food! (w/ Pics)
I've always dreamed of being able to walk into a restaurant and have the head chef come out and greet me, and then enjoy the personally cooked meal made just for me, by the head chef himself. While I still have to keep dreaming of having my favorite chefs do this for me some day, I was able to experience a wonderful meal at Fountain Valley's Fu Wing Low Cantonese Restaurant.
Thanks to my fellow Chowhounders, I learned that Kenny Sue, the head chef was part of the famous old-school Chinatown restaurant known as Man Fook Low. I've never been to Man Fook Low, but there was this excitement about the place, and then thanks to CH'er Lau, he mentioned that Kenny Sue had opened up his own place in Fountain Valley, and that while the restaurant was Americanized Chinese food, he was willing to cook anything "authentic style" if asked.
Given the fact that Orange County has pretty mediocre Chinese food compared to the SGV and Taiwan, HK, China, I was anxious to see if we had finally found a true gem in OC. I called up Fu Wing Low on Friday morning, and spoke with Kenny. He was surprised but also totally accommodating, agreeing to cook some authentic specialties for us for lunch that day! I discussed the special menu I wanted to try out, he agreed and it was set! :) I gathered up my OC Chowhound group and we ventured to Fu Wing Low for lunch.
AMBIANCE / DECOR
Make no mistake about it, Fu Wing Low is an *old-school* / straight outta the 1980's Americanized Chinese restaurant. Pleather booths, simple tables, and forks & knives on every table, with not a chopstick in sight. I was worried, and I could feel my OC CH group's eyes burning a hole in my back. :)
But as soon as we stepped in, I asked for Kenny, and he came out immediately to greet us. He was an older gentleman, really amiable, and greeted us warmly, asking us to be seated. He confirmed our menu and went back into the kitchen to prepare. I was nervous, but after tasting my first bite, I realized I had nothing to worry about!
* [Dish Name (Cantonese / Mandarin)] *
* Salt & Pepper Pork Chops (Jiu Yin Pai Gwut / Jiao Yen Pai Goo) *
This is a classic standby dish of Cantonese cuisine (and a guilty pleasure of mine :). This is also the only dish we tried that is on their regular menu, but Kenny made sure to cook it "authentic style" for us. While their cut of pork chop was a little on the fatty side (but nowhere near as bad as Sam Woo), it was excellent! By far THE best Salt & Pepper Pork Chop in Orange County.
* Water Morning-Glory with Fermented Tofu (Foo Yook Ong Choy / Foo Roo Kong Hsing Tsai) *
This popular Chinese vegetable is officially known as Ipomoea Aquatica(!), and Kenny went out that morning to the local markets to buy it fresh just for us! Since it was hand-picked by the chef, we got extremely fresh, wonderfully tasty Water Morning-Glory! Depending on your luck, many Chinese restaurants in the SGV and OC may have wilted / older Water Morning-Glory, but it was perfectly cooked here! And he used the perfect amount of the Fermented Tofu to give it a touch of pungent flavor without being overpowering. Wonderful!
* Boiled Chicken with Green Onions (Tsong Yoh Gai / Tsong Yoh Jee) *
Another favorite traditional dish. Chef Kenny warned us that he stocks a leaner whole chicken, since (according to him) "Americans are more health conscious" :), so it's not as fatty / plump as he would normally like it. This dish is a Half or Whole Chicken (you can specify) boiled to just cooked-through, and then cut-up into bite-sized pieces, topped with fresh Ginger and Green Onions, and served with a wonderfully scrumptous Dipping Sauce of fresh-cut Green Onions, Ginger, Salt and Oil. One bite of this dish and it was ALL OVER! This is the best Tsong Yoh Jee I've had in the past year, in the SGV or OC! Most restaurants these days may serve you a "leftover" chicken that wasn't sold the day before; or just stock an older chicken. The chicken here was FRESH, and when combined with the dipping sauce, it was instantly our favorite dish of the day! Everyone in the group loved it (as they did everything this day :).
* Steamed Marinated Ground Pork with Salted Duck Egg (Hahm Dahn Jin Yoh Bang / Hsien Dahn Zhen Roh Bing) *
This is an extremely "homely" / rustic dish, not very fancy, and more of a comfort food for families. As a result very few HK / Cantonese restaurants serve this any more, and most of them are too oily. As with the previous dishes, Kenny personally went out that morning to buy Salted Duck Eggs from the local market to prepare this dish for us. It's basically marinated Ground Pork, topped with Salted Duck Eggs and Green Onions and steamed until cooked through. And? Seriously, the best Steamed Marinated Ground Pork w/ Salted Duck Egg in OC, easily, and on par with some of the best ones in the SGV! Tender, meaty chunks of marinated ground pork, with a great flavor combination from the saltier duck egg yolks and balanced by the green onions. Perfect with some steamed rice! :)
The personally-prepared, custom meal by the chef cost us only $15 per person (with tax & tip *included*!), which is ridiculously fair in my humble opinion. I didn't know Chef Kenny Sue nor Man Fook Low in Chinatown, but I'm so glad that I found him now. Thanks to Lau and the other CH'ers that mentioned him, we've now found THE best Authentic Cantonese Food in Orange County, on par with the better ones in the SGV!
Disclaimer: Fu Wing Low's regular menu consists of Americanized Chinese food, so I can't vouch for any of those dishes. But with Chef Kenny Sue being willing to personally cook whatever authentic dishes you ask for, I'll be coming back again and again whenever I feel like great Cantonese food in Orange County! (^_^) (pictures below)
Fu Wing Low Restaurant
16545 Brookhurst Street
Fountain Valley, CA 92708
If I recall correctly, I think Baccali and Red Ant both have a similar type of meatloaf with egg dish on the menu.
And I know I've had meatloaf (although not with salte duck egg) at Ding's.
Steamed meatloaf used to be one of my favorite comfort foods growing up. Mom would always mix in a good amount of diced-up Chinese pickled cucumbers to give it that extra kick. Chinese meatloaf topped over some steamed rice and accompanied by some pickled mustard greens and drizzled all over with the pork juices from the steaming process ... you've got yourself a meal fit for a king.
i mean i guess the point is that it's definitely not very common in the OC (go to Irvine and there are like 2 or 3 cantonese restaurants and a similar amt of taiwanese restaurants, none of which are very good)...i'm sure you can find plenty of places in SGV that serve it or something similar...plus i'm sure any cantonese place serving bo zai fan will have it (i love it with salted fish)
The steamed meatloaf cantonese style is usually not in a loaf form but more of a saucer shape like a pizza. The dish is not always offered as it is more of a homestyle cooking as well time consuming. The picky chef will usually chop a combination of lean and fatty pork together to come out with the right texture after steaming. Mixed into the pork can be shitake dry mushrooms, preserved vegetables, fresh water chestnuts, fresh bamboos to impart a sweetness and texture to the mixture. Toppings may be salted duck eggs, chinese anchovies, chineses sausages, ginger, green onions etc. Best served with a large bowl of hot white rice and spoon the juices from the meatloaf and you have a very comforting meal. The steaming process takes some time and some restaurants find it too tedious to do on a regular basis. Enjoy.
I was commenting on the fact that in *Orange County*, it's a very nice find to have these comfort dishes done so well (on par or better than many of the restaurants in the SGV). The only dish I was mentioning was not often found was the Steamed Marinated Pork dish. :)
For the Steamed Marinated Ground Pork w/ Salted Duck Egg, yes, a few places have it (like Phoenix), but it's "rare" when you compare it to the totality of ALL HK / Cantonese restaurants in the SGV. It's just not very prevalent (and not done that well).
I've had the Phoenix version in the SGV a few times and it's average. The one prepared by Chef Kenny was better in texture, quality of meat, and taste. :)
A lot of old Cantonese restaurants serve pork hash topped with preserved salted fish (hahm yuk) instead of salted duck eggs. This is old time comfort food which many of us Chinese enjoy at home. Your review was excellent and made my mouth water. We used to get special service like you at the old Golden Pheasant in Torrance which was previously owned by Michelle Kwan's family many years ago. Glad you enjoyed the food there. I miss the old Man Fook Low back in the 60s.
Thank you for writing this terrific review and description. We are from out of the area and on a search for Cantonese, we got your review. It was exactly what we were looking for, and your review was spot on. It was great food (no, it was awesome food), and the atmosphere is exactly what we love in a Chinese restaurant (simple and welcoming). The proprietors were delightful people, and it is such a great little place. We plan to go back tomorrow night and probably drive down (from West LA) some Saturday just to eat there. They've been open for 25 years, and I hope they never close.
So, my OC Chowhound Extended Group wanted to see what the fuss was about for Fu Wing Low (after last week's journey), so today I took another group to try out more dishes. (Attached 4 New Photos Below)
I contacted Chef Kenny Sue again and we discussed another personalized menu for today of Authentic HK / Cantonese cuisine. He was as warm and accommodating as last time, and went out to prep all the ingredients for our lunch reservation. We had:
* [Name of Dish] (Cantonese / Mandarin)
* Spicy Salt & Pepper Squid
We had some seafood lovers today, and this is another classic HK / Cantonese dish, similar in preparation to the Spicy Salt & Pepper Pork Chops, but with slightly different breading and Squid instead. The Squid was perfectly cooked through, tender, great texture, and flavor! The breading was a little too thick for my tastes, but only slightly so. Everyone else at the table loved it!
* Braised Pork Belly with Tsai Dahn Vegetables (Koh Yoh Tsoi Dahn / Koh Roh Tsai Dahn)
Chef Kenny cooked thick, meaty slices of Pork Belly (slow-braised style), over a bed of Tsai Dahn Vegetables. The Pork Belly was a little tougher / firmer than what it should've been, but given that he had only a couple hours to prepare our lunch, it's understandable that he didn't have enough time to slow-braise it until ideal tenderness. Flavor-wise, it was spot-on and very tasty, and the Tsai Dahn vegetables were the perfect complement to the Pork Belly with a rich, woodsy flavor.
* Tofu, Vermicelli, and Vegetable Stir-Fry
I requested a light, traditional Tofu dish to serve as foil and balance to the other meat-heavy dishes, and this was his creation. He took Fried Tofu and sauteed it with Vermicelli, Water Chestnuts, Shiitake Mushrooms and Snow Peas. It was nice and light, and a great complement to the other dishes.
* Steamed Grey Sole with Sliced Green Onions & Ginger (Jin Lohng Lei / Ching Juhn Lohng Li)
Chef Kenny took boneless filets of Grey Sole fish and prepared them in my favorite Hong Kong style: Steamed with fresh Green Onions, Ginger, and a Soy Sauce-based house sauce. The fish was perfectly steamed (not overcooked), and the combination of the Green Onions and Ginger was mouth-watering and wonderful!
Overall, another wonderful outing to Fu Wing Low and Chef Kenny's personalized menu! This second time put to rest any worries I had that it might've been a "fluke," and with their personalized "authentic" menu, Fu Wing Low & Chef Kenny Sue represent Orange County's best Cantonese food by far!