Woon’s Mother-Son Team on Facing Cancer, COVID-19, and Asian Hate

0
30


Julie Chen Fong and Keegan Fong are the restaurateurs behind Woon in Los Angeles. Initially it started out as a family-oriented restaurant, an outlet for Chen Fong’s culinary dream. But now with the rise in anti-Asian hate and violence, Woon has grown to become a more community-focused restaurant, raising funds for AAPI-focused organizations and inviting others in through their favorite Chinese dishes. Here the two look back on the challenges and joys of the last two years and how Woon has adapted along the way.

Keegan: Woon is a reflection of my life, but mostly it’s a reflection of my mom. Mama Fong, as everyone calls her, is the heart of the operation and our inspiration. When I was growing up in San Marino [in California], our house was always the place where you could get a hot meal and try new foods. As teenagers, my friends and I would stumble in the house, drunk or high, and she would cook us full-on meals. I feel so grateful for all those nights she fed us. Her steak was a fan favorite. Every memory reinforced what I always knew, which was that my mom was the best cook. Today, Woon’s menu embraces our household’s favorite Mama Fong recipes: Chinese comfort food like her special-occasions-only stir-fried beef noodles and the fried tofu fish cakes she made after school.

Mama Fong: These were all the foods that I experimented with at home when I wasn’t working. I was a single mom with a son and daughter, so I had to do something. If I wasn’t at work, I was in the kitchen, trying out new flavors and cuisines like a mad scientist. As a kid, I loved food and I loved cooking. I was born in Shanghai, and Shanghainese food is mainly flavored with soy sauce and sugar. Then we moved to Hong Kong, which is more Cantonese-style with steamed fish and vegetables, a lot of stir-fry, very simple. When we moved to California in my teens, my mother discovered Marie Callender’s Frozen Chicken Pot Pie, and that’s all we ate. I became so sick of it that I…