Though expanding up in a family of cooks in Penang experienced an affect on his conclusion to turn out to be a cook, Igor Ang didn’t program on getting “in the family members business”.

Nonetheless, three yrs ago, his (late) mom advised that they pool their means and begin their own family restaurant. And that was how Madam Leow Restaurant, named following his late mother, Leow Lengthy Choo, 71, arrived about.

Located in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, the restaurant specialises in Penang-fashion avenue food this sort of as kway chap, char kuay teow and nasi lemak, as very well as dishes like curry rooster, pork rendang, black vinegar pork trotters, angelica root (dong gui) pork trotters, rooster in chinese wine and garlic, ginger duck, and bittergourd hen, which are served with rice.

All in the family members: Ang (remaining) with his father, Peter, and brother, Philippe, in front of their cafe. Photograph: The Star/Azman Ghani

Like lots of other restaurants, small business has been impacted for the duration of the pandemic.

“Business dropped by 80% for the duration of the (first) MCO and we didn’t earn significantly for about 3 months,” claims Ang.

“We were being surviving on our savings – jimat jimat pakai duit, ikat perut kau kau (help save income and tighten our belts). It was a rough time for all of us, but life has to go on,” he suggests stoically.

“Even nevertheless we still had our normal prospects from all-around the vicinity but not as several as before because most people are afraid of going out during the pandemic. Also, those people from additional absent are not able to get right here simply because of the movement constraints,” he adds.

Ang reveals that the restaurant survives only on takeaways simply because they will not do deliveries due to the fact the percentage taken by meals supply businesses is very higher.

“It would indicate owning to boost our rates and we weren’t eager to do that. Our financial gain margin is small and we want our foodstuff to be reasonably priced for all,” states the 38-year-aged previous western meals stall owner and non-public home chef who life in Petaling Jaya with his spouse.

A household affair

Ang comes from a family of cooks. Photo: The Star/Azman GhaniAng comes from a loved ones of cooks. Picture: The Star/Azman Ghani“My mum and dad have normally been in the food business. They operated a Chinese cafe known as Tang Dynasty for 18 years in Georgetown, Penang, lots of several years in the past,” shares Ang.

Likened by some to American actor and former wrestler Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, because of his buff physique and design (he athletics the very same hairdo and very similar preferences in tattoos and components), the adventurous Ang who enjoys “dangerous sports such as climbing in the wild jungle, caving and (motor)bike racing”, was born in Paris, France, the place his moms and dads utilised to live and perform, but the entire household returned to Malaysia when he was 3.

“As I was increasing up, I would typically go into the kitchen to play, and notice and learn from them,” he states, incorporating that he later started out assisting his dad and mom just after college and during holiday seasons. This was when he was about 10 years old.

Then, when he was in his 20s, he lived and labored in New York in the United States for 6 decades, where by he explored and identified the entire world of western and other cuisines.

Right after returning to Malaysia, the household moved from Penang to Kuala Lumpur and Ang subsequently commenced his personal western foods stall in Damansara Utama and available personal dwelling chef products and services, though his dad and mom ran a foods stall selling kway chap in Kota Damansara.

“My family and I had distinct channels in cooking – when they had been doing Asian meals, I was a lot more targeted on western food stuff at that time,” he states.

Ang reveals that he enjoys cooking western foods, specifically pasta and grilled foods.

Igor Ang during his private home chef days. Photo: Igor AngIgor Ang during his personal house chef times. Photo: Igor Ang“I enjoy to cook western food because there is a correct method, each individual single form of meals has its very own specific pots and pans – these types of as sauce pan, grill pan, and other individuals – whilst for Chinese food items, there’s just one wok and every little thing goes into the similar wok,” he claims.

Although he was managing his western foodstuff stall, he also made available personal house chef solutions which included cooking for consumers at private events generally held at their personal dwelling.

But rising expenses – of ingredients for western food stuff and also for stall rental – designed it complicated for him to continue running his business, and he made a decision to move on and get started his possess char kuay teow stall in Damansara Perdana.

“It was then that my mum prompt we a start a relatives cafe of our own simply because the rental of both of those our stalls presently arrived up to the rental of a shop – and we would also have a lot more liberty that way,” he recalls.

Ang suggests that a large amount of their household solution recipes have been designed by his mom by way of “experimentation”.

“Some hawkers will buy pre-combined char kuay teow sauce in a bottle but we make our have unique sauce,” he reveals.

“My mum experimented, mixing all sorts of sauces – soya sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce and other people – until eventually it tasted just ideal.

“Then she commenced to gradually enhance on it, functioning out the measurements. Eventually, she arrived up with her very own exclusive mix of char kuay teow sauce – it’s our family’s mystery recipe,” he says, adding that they also mix their very own chili for the char kuay teow.

To Ang, cooking Asian fare isn’t tough to master, even while there aren’t ordinarily unique published-down recipes or measurement, as long as a person has a want to discover.

While most could say that these kinds of standard Chinese cooking is all about “agak-agak” or “what feels appropriate as a result of experience” and “there’s no established measurements for the ingredients”, Ang has an attention-grabbing way of describing it.

“It’s like getting a sixth feeling or our ‘cooking ancestors’ whispering in our ears, telling us when it is enough, when we’re incorporating the seasonings,” he says.

“But seriously, it isn’t hard to study to cook Asian foods when you understand the principles at the rear of it,” he adds.

Ang frying char kuay teow in the kitchen. Photo: The Star/Azman GhaniAng frying char kuay teow in the kitchen. Image: The Star/Azman Ghani

Even although he has mostly been making western food stuff previously, Ang has pivoted and properly trained himself to cook Asian foodstuff.

“When you have a passion and interest to discover, and you place an energy into it, then it becomes simple,” he states.

“Our tongue also has to be sensitive to style in buy to be able to make food that a shopper will like,” he provides.

He reveals that his late mother was the mastermind guiding the cafe and all the recipes came from her.

“She passed the expertise down to me so that we could continue creating all these dishes,” he says.

In actuality, his prospects have often informed him that he “cooks like (their) mother”, he suggests laughingly, including that there are a large amount of regulars, many of whom are initially from outstation and pass up their hometown food after relocating to the city, so they generally come to get “a flavor of home”.

Running a family restaurant is all about teamwork, and while it’s fun and enjoyable, it can also be tiring, says Ang. Photo: The Star/Azman GhaniManaging a relatives restaurant is all about teamwork, and even though it is pleasurable and enjoyable, it can also be tiring, claims Ang. Image: The Star/Azman Ghani

Performing as a staff

“Running a spouse and children cafe is all about teamwork, and whilst it is pleasurable and pleasurable, it can also be tiring,” he states.

The restaurant opens at 10am but Ang is by now there early in the early morning at 7.30am to prepare every little thing.

They run from 10am to 2.30pm for breakfast and lunch, and from 5.30pm to 9pm for dinner, except on Mondays, and are shut on Thursdays.

“It’s my accountability due to the fact I want to aid my family, specially my father who is having on in age,” states Ang.

He adds that the most vital issue to recall in a spouse and children enterprise is to be client with each individual other and to operate together as a crew. But though doing work hard is superior, he thinks it is also critical to lead a balanced life.

“It’s not all just about doing work and running the relatives enterprise,” he states, incorporating that, like his dad and mom, he also enjoys fishing.

“In daily life, it’s crucial to be adaptable and to do what it can take to endure, so we’re taking it one particular day at a time, and hopefully matters will be better shortly,” he concludes.