Cantonese cuisine takes on a familiar avatar at Kung Fook

Kung Fook promises contemporary Cantonese food inspired by Chinese-Taiwanese immigrants who came to America in the late 1800s but adds elements and nuances to the dishes to make it more familiar to the Indian palate.
Kung fook is one of the most popular chinese restaurants in anjuna. Image: preeti verma lal.
Kung Fook is one of the most popular Chinese restaurants in Anjuna. Image: Preeti Verma Lal.

Have you ever, in the middle of a spiffing meal in a stylish hotel, got caught in a Kung Fu Kung Fook gab and realised that your entire life has been a Fu Fook lie? It happened to me in Shanghai (China) when the chef ladling Kung Fu soup said that Fu is actually Fook. So, a Fu is a Fook? I obviously was flummoxed. 

Yes, the Fu Chinese character (meaning good fortune or happiness) is pronounced Fook in Cantonese. As if this was not surprising enough, I learnt that Kung Fu is not merely a martial art. Several Cantonese plates are termed ‘Kung Fu’ dishes because they, like the martial art, require patience, dedication, and technical expertise. Told you, my entire life has been a Kung Fu/Fook lie. 

The non-veg american chopsuey, as served at kung fook is a marker of the varied nature of the cuisine offered.
The non-veg American Chopsuey, as served at Kung Fook, is a marker of the varied nature of the cuisine offered.

Driving to Kung Fook (Anjuna), I harked back to my Shanghai Kung Fu/Fook boo-boo and laughed. Maybe the Nepalese chef Devi Ram Pandey will serve a Kung Fu soup, I daydreamed. I pored through the menu before entering Kung Fook, the 65-cover 6-month old restaurant — the menu was magnified on a fibre-glass sign board in the restaurant’s front yard. It is such a brilliant foodie-friendly idea. No hassle of stepping in, waiting for the menu, then picking the meal. Outside Kung Fook, run through the signboard that has dish name, images, and price. You know what you are eating and how much you’ll fork out. 

The menu is numbered, too. For instance, it’s 1 for Edamame Dumpling, 8 for Pork Puff, 19 for Chicken Black Bean, 27 for Beef with Ginger and Spring Onion, 33 for Kiwi Caramel Custard and so on. So one needn’t bother with getting the pronunciation right, just the number.  

The crispy aromatic duck with pancake is one of the signature offerings at kung fook.
The Crispy aromatic Duck with pancake is one of the signature offerings at Kung Fook.

Inside, the first thing I noticed was the ubiquity of green and red. Green tiles. Red chairs with green cushions. Green and red paper boxes stacked above the kitchen counter. And in a no-escape from Chinese-restaurant cliches, red lanterns hang from the ceiling. What makes Kung Fook quirky are the large walls painted with alluring Chinese motifs.

Kung Fook describes itself as a Chinese restaurant. But the dishes are contemporary Cantonese inspired by Chinese-Taiwanese immigrants who came to America in the late 1800s. This kind of Chinese food builds from styles and food habits brought from the southern province of Guangdong. Often, it comes from the Toisan district of Taiwan, the origin of most Chinese immigrants before the closure of immigration from China in 1924.  

However, there are very few dishes on Kung Fook’s menu that are oh!so-Cantonese: Chicken Suimai (open dumpling), Savoury Turnip cake, Char Shui Pork (a Cantonese legend: Char Sui roasted pork tenderloin served with a scallion hash and toasted sesame). 

The crispy honey prawns, as served at kung fook.
The Crispy honey prawns, as served at Kung Fook.

The other dishes look familiar, so you have the Dumplings in Edamame, Crystal Vegetarian, Hargao (shrimp) and Chicken Suimai (priced: Rs 245 to Rs 295) options while Mains include Ma Po Tofu (Rs 295), Stir Fry Greens (Rs 295), Bok Choy Soy Garlic (Rs 295), Chilli Garlic Prawns (Rs 495), Black Bean Fish and Crispy Fish in Ginger Soy (both Rs 495), Kung Fook Chilli Chicken (Rs 395), Sichuan or Char Sui or Sweet & Sour Pork (all priced Rs 445), Crispy Honey Chili Sesame Beef (Rs 445).  

Kung Fook’s signature dish is Crispy Aromatic Duck (shredded duck served with Chinese vegetables, hoisin sauce and wafer-thin pancakes; Rs 995).  

Appetising as the kiwi caramel custard might be, it's just one of two desserts served at kung fook.
Appetising as the Kiwi Caramel Custard might be, it’s just one of two desserts served at Kung Fook.

On a food menu with as many as 34 dishes, there are only two desserts. There’s the Kiwi Caramel Custard (Rs 345) and Banana fritters with ice cream (Rs 345), and a lot of disappointment for the sweet-toothed.  

Kung Fook’s Cocktail menu, on the other hand, has several options. There’s the 5 Spice Rum & Cola (Chinese 5 spice infused Bacardi rum with Coke, Rs 400); Sesame Whisky Sour (sesame infused Jim Beam bourbon with lime and honey (Rs 400), Lychee Cosmopolitan (Ketel One Vodka, cranberry, lychee, lime, Rs 450), Sichuan G&T (Greater than Gin, Sichuan peppercorn, grapefruit, tonic, Rs 450). The bar menu is due for a makeover soon, so there’s a lot to look forward to there! 

The bar menu at kung fook will soon undergo a makeover. Image: preeti verma lal.
The bar menu at Kung Fook will soon undergo a makeover. Image: Preeti Verma Lal.

Chef Pandey, who hails from the Dang district of Nepal, has never been to China and has no formal training in culinary art. “Nearly 18 years ago, I left Nepal and arrived in Delhi with the dream of becoming a chef. It was not easy; for four years, I peeled potatoes and onions but gradually started running kitchens. Experience has been my only teacher and pan-Asian has always been my forte,” he says, having moved to Goa a few months ago to helm Kung Fook.  

At noon, Kung Fook was completely packed. Did they come in for Cantonese food or pan-Asian or Chinese food with Indian undertones? Having savoured Cantonese food in China, Kung Fook seemed like a close approximation of Cantonese cuisine. Not real Cantonese.  

Overall rating: ⭐⭐⭐ (Max: 5 stars) 

Food: 6/10 

Service: 6/10 

Interiors/Décor: 6/10 

Vibe: So Chinese you’d think a dragon will jump out of the ceiling.  

One dish(es) we loved: Ma po Tofu, Kung Pao Chicken, Char Sui Pork and Noodles are crowd favourites.  

One thing that didn’t work for us: Disappointment for the sweet-toothed, there are only two dessert options. 

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