On any given night, you’ll find a tableful of chefs and servers sharing after-midnight off-menu dinners at Taste of China. Owner-chef Ping Cham Yeung, who immigrated here from the Guangdong province 30 years ago, talks about why he’s so popular with the city’s foodies.
› There are more than 100 dishes on the menu. How do you keep track of them?
It’s the Chinese way of cooking where one ingredient can make many things. You can just switch out just one thing like a sauce or meat to make sweet and sour chicken instead of pork. With beef, for example, you can make ginger-scallion beef, Szechuan beef, beef with Chinese broccoli.
› What’s the most popular thing on the menu?
General Tsao’s chicken. The fried rice and noodle dishes sell particularly well, too.
› What’s the least popular?
Everything on the menu gets ordered at least once a week. If no one ordered it, it wouldn’t be on the menu.
› What’s a tough dish to cook?
Lobster. It’s not hard, but it just takes more time and effort. Most people like it fried with a combination of ginger and scallions. If you’re drinking beer, deep-fried with salt and pepper probably works better.
› How many people are in the kitchen?
Including me, there are seven cooks at the woks and stoves when we’re at our busiest. They’re mostly from restaurants around here and know what downtowners want to eat as opposed to diners in Markham.
› What’s the difference?
There’s a larger Chinese population in Markham, and they prefer things that are lighter-tasting. Diners down here prefer more spice and heavier flavours.
› Why do you think so many cooks eat here?
We put a lot of our heart into the dishes and the ingredients are fresh. Also, they’re always greeted by Ling [the server out front], so they always feel at home.
› Do you say hi to the chefs who eat here?
No, I stay in the kitchen. I rarely come out. My responsibility is to cook.