Mr. Wong delivers a Chinese banquet to your doorstep

Become your own two-hatted chef with the Merivale at Home menu.
Become your own two-hatted chef with the Merivale at Home menu. Photo: Supplied

I could get used to this. The garlic has been peeled for me; the spring onions neatly trimmed and sectioned. I have broth ready to go, and four immaculately folded prawn wontons ready to poach. Yes, I've turned into a two-hatted chef overnight.

Doing the finishing touches to the cooking is not the hard part about ordering Merivale at Home. The hard part is deciding between Bert's in Newport (duck liver pâté, prime rib, more), Fred's in Paddington (whole roasted cauliflower, jewelled rice, more), Vinnie's Pizza from Coogee (salumi, focaccia, pizza, more), Totti's in Bondi (that wood-fired bread, burrata, pappardelle with lamb ragu, more) and the CBD's Mr. Wong (kung pao chicken, special fried rice, wontons in supreme soup, more).

In the end, I choose Dan Hong's Mr. Wong, because, dumplings. And because I want to help save a few chefs' jobs, and get some money trickling down to fishing folk, butchers and farmers. Plus, I still get the fun of cooking, so I don't feel entirely useless.

Mr. Wong's kung pao chicken.
Mr. Wong's kung pao chicken. Photo: Supplied

It's not cheap, but you can see where the costs add up – in the ingredients, prepping, packaging, wages, and delivery. The trick is in making it better value once you get it home, which brings me to more learnings from the takeaway coalface.

Tip one: Get two meals for the price of one.

If you order a fully curated meal such as this, don't just blindly serve it all. Lay it out, analyse it, and plan ahead. What won't last? What will? Are there two elements that could form a second meal tomorrow night? Is there possibly a breakfast in there somewhere?

King prawn wontons in supreme broth.
King prawn wontons in supreme broth. Photo: Supplied

I figure that wonton soup, chicken, fried rice and a few veg are more than enough for one meal, so two fat fingers of barramundi and white soy sauce and half the broccoli and snow peas go in the fridge.

Tip two: Read the instructions. (Yeah, right, as if.)

Sure, everything is ready to go, but if you want to bring this altogether in real time, you'd better know what you are doing.

Advertisement

Read the online instructions first, but don't do as they say. Bloody chefs. They'd have you boiling water for dumplings then tossing it, then boiling more water for the veg and tossing that, too. Just use the same pot for both, and the same water for moistening the fried rice. It'll be fine. You won't lose your hat.

But oh, the dumplings. The supreme broth is clean but complex, the wontons stuffed to the gills with pure prawn. Then it's back into the kitchen to stir-fry the vegetables, toss the rice, caramelise the pre-chopped chicken thigh meat in another pan and shower it with dried chillies and chilli oil.

Five or six pots and pans later, and dinner comes with a real sense of achievement. It's not the Mr. Wong of my dreams (that would be porkier, and duckier) but I'm quite taken with the kung pao chicken, glossily coated and as tender as frog's legs, with its peppery, hot and savoury sauce with a light note of black vinegar.

Steamed barramundi fillets with white soy, ginger and spring onions.
Steamed barramundi fillets with white soy, ginger and spring onions. Photo: Supplied

The rice is classy – light, white and studded with chunks of prawn, loads of omelette, and diced char siu. Green veg, fine. Ben Greeno's chocolate mousse, ridiculous. I end up eating it straight out of the Biopak carton.

Tip three: Either you, or they, will always forget something.

I forgot to add the Sichuan pepper to the chicken, they forgot to include the caramel sauce for the chocolate mousse. No matter. There has to be some give and take in this new world order, because we're all doing extraordinary things for the first time.

Ben Greeno's chocolate mousse.
Ben Greeno's chocolate mousse. Photo: Anson Smart

When restaurants eventually get back into business – tentatively, probably staggered, and with social distancing in place – this interim business model should come with them.

Because it works. Because we're supporting our producers and chefs through drastic times but still using our cooking skills and our brains. And because I bet I'm not the only one who could get used to this.

Details

Mr. Wong at Home

Five Merivale restaurants offer multi-course meals that you finish yourself at home, from $70 including delivery.

How to order Order from merivaleathome.com by midnight Monday for delivery Thursday.

Delivery Sydney metropolitan area (complete list of suburbs online).

Go-to menu Mr. Wong at Home, $95 for two.

Drinks Add on a specially matched Mr. Wong drinks pack, and get two cans of Tsing Tao beer (nice touch), a bosky, fruity red from the Yarra Valley and a white-berry sauvignon blanc from the Loire Valley, $65.

More at-home Asian food

Ho Jiak

Missing your spicy Malaysian street food? Starting from $10, Ho Jiak dishes up everything from nasi goreng to vegetarian char hor fun at their new Town Hall site. Order and pick up. 125 York Street, Sydney, 02 8065 6954, hojiak.com.au

Fei Jai

All your Cantonese classics, including Potts Point's favourite crab egg white omelette, ma po beancurd, and bouncy, sweet prawn gow gee (har gau) dumplings, starting from $12. Pick up, local delivery and Deliveroo. Thursday-Sunday, 02 8668 4424, feijai.com