Previously of Pidgin and Bambudda, Chef Mah is a self-described "food nerd" who found a passion for the culinary arts in his grandmothers' kitchens. For over twenty years he has studied, traveled and cooked in search of food perfection. Sai Woo's menu is representative of this passion and highlights Mah's Malaysian roots and French training. With fresh, local and seasonal ingredients combined with inspiring finds from Chinatown's inexhaustible pantry, Sai Woo creates a cuisine that speaks firmly of Vancouver's history and people.
What inspires your cooking?
Food memories from my childhood growing up in a large Chinese immigrant family in Malaysia inspire my cooking (i.e. my grandma's homemade meals). I find inspiration in travelling, meeting people and eating like the locals. I'm also inspired by fresh ingredients from the local market.
What is an absolute must try on your menu for the upcoming Festival?
The Beef & Broccoli Carpaccio and Ling Cod Fish & Chips are creative, beautiful and delicious.
How would you describe your cuisine?
Contemporary. Asian. Comfort Food.
What is your guilty food pleasure?
Butter: on toast, in a croissant, with a pineapple bun, with pasta, on top of grilled meats... Butter!
Kitchen quirks - do you have any?
I probably have a few. When I am trying to create a new dish, I never repeat the exact same method from the first time. I always try a different technique the second time around and compare the results.
The one culinary trend you wish would end?
Synthetic truffle oil. Synthetic perfumed 'truffle' oil is deceiving and an offensive representation of the real thing. Though it can be cleverly used, it should not be sold as an actual truffle product.
What do you think is the next big food trend?
Restaurants and chefs dedicated to specific styles of food and cooking. Through travel media, the world has a better understanding of ethnic food history and culture. Having a menu that is focused, specialized and properly executed is a very good thing. I'd much rather dine in a restaurant that specializes in robata cheese than a restaurant that has 80 other items on their menu which may include robata as an option.