Like so many of us during lockdown, chef Hun Loong turned to cooking at home to pass the time.
With the comfort of making some of his grandmother’s recipes and long-forgotten delicacies, he soon realised that after years of working in fine-dining kitchens (Mr Wong and Quay among them), his true passion lay in home-style cooking inspired by his Chinese-Malaysian upbringing.
Teaming up with Ho Jiak hospitality group's head chef Junda Khoo, the pair found a site at Chatswood’s District Dining precinct six months ago. With Loong’s amah (meaning grandmother in Teochew and Hokkien) falling ill and passing away during that time, Khoo suggested dedicating the restaurant to her—paying homage to her cooking.
And so Amah came into being. But don’t confuse comfort food and home-style cooking with casually whipped up dishes and simple flavours. Loong’s favourite item on the menu is his amah’s handmade mackerel fishbowl soup, which would take her an entire day to prepare. The modern version created from memory features Spanish mackerel from the Northern Territory, with pork and flounder bones flavouring the sweet and savoury broth.
Elsewhere on the menu, you’ll find dishes showcasing Loong’s refined cooking techniques like Amah’s Tau Eu Bak, a six-hour braised soy master stock pork belly, or a dry wok-fried mud crab with Sarawak black pepper, brown butter and curry leaves. Expect noodle soups like a soul-warming curry prawn noodle soup, as well as modern twists like the sweet and sour Vegemite pork ribs, and live seafood options like lobster, mud crab, or pipis in a dish of your choice.
The collaboration between the two founding chefs is the ideal combo. Loong intends to showcase his grandmother’s specialty dishes, and Khoo is looking to champion the diversity and regionality of Malaysian cuisine he says has no "standard" flavour.
Loong recalls his grandmother’s preference not to eat alongside him as she watched him eat her cooking, instead focussing on his enjoyment. “Reflecting on those times has shifted the way I view cooking,” he said. “I now realise it’s not about the enjoyment I get as a chef in creating the dishes, it’s purely about the person eating.”
Amah is the first time Loong is cooking Malaysian food in a restaurant space, and according to the seasoned chef, he’s finally comfortable. Refined simplicity done well and earnestly, rooted in family and positive memories is a recipe for success in our books. That’s what you’ll get in every bowl at Amah.
For more info on Amah, including opening hours, head over here.
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Image credit: Amah