The Spring Mountain strip mall that houses Kabuto and Raku is known for rarefied dining, but it’s also where you’ll find some of the most affordable and accessible food in town. At Big Wong, owner Wai Lee has created a greatest-hits menu of casual Asian food, largely based on what he and his wife Connie craved while growing up in New York City and exploring all that Manhattan’s Chinatown had to offer.
Many of the excellent Chinese, Taiwanese, Malaysian and Singaporean dishes at Big Wong are just $4.95, tax included. “It’s very tough,” Lee says about not raising prices since opening more than two years ago. “We always shop around for quality and the best prices, from [USDA] Choice ribeye to serrano chilies and potatoes. When it’s a good price, we stock up, but we never sacrifice quality. We’re here for the long term.”
Here are six Big Wong dishes that will no doubt endure.
Big Wong 5040 Spring Mountain Road #6, 368-6808. Daily, 10 a.m.-11 p.m.
“That’s my heart,” Lee says of this traditional Chinese dish. “My mom taught me that dish.” Trimmed and cubed leg meat and Chinese mushrooms are steamed for half an hour, then served with sliced Chinese sausage and choy sum (Chinese flowering cabbage). Pour the broth over your rice to soak up all the flavors of this soulful dish. $5.95.
Fried pork chop
The fried pork chop itself, which the humble Lee says former Taiwanese employees taught him how to prepare, is accompanied by a bowl of gravy with minced pork, shallots, freshly ground garlic and a little five-spice powder. There’s also a glorious egg that’s half tea egg and half runny ramen egg. Lee came up with this preparation after starting with a tea egg and listening to young customers who told him a runny yolk might work better. It does. $4.95.
Salt and pepper fish
Lee experimented with a tempura-style panko batter before deciding that a lighter Chinese-style batter better showcases the premium Vietnamese catfish (swai) he buys. “We give a good portion, about 20 ounces,” he says. $7.95.
Ribeye over pasta
You could opt for the large ribeye ($9.95), 12 ounces of steak that cost Lee well more than half the price he charges, with rice and a vegetable like garlic bok choy. “I didn’t want anything over $10,” he says. Or, choose this 4-ounce portion of Hong Kong-style, thinly sliced ribeye over pasta or rice. $4.95.
Shrimp wonton noodle soup
Each wonton is filled with 100 percent shrimp, seasoned with salt, pepper, sugar and sesame oil. “The wonton skin, you wouldn’t even believe,” the discerning Lee says. “The wrapper I buy is four times the cost of the average. It’s the same skin they use at Zine at the Palazzo.” $4.95.
Lee, who serves a savory roti pancake appetizer with chicken curry, once had a customer ask for five plain rotis. “She eats it sweet, with condensed milk and sugar, and said [another place was] charging $5 for it.” So the value-conscious Lee put the dessert on his menu for a quarter of the price. $1.25.