Comfort, it turns out, is not relative, at least with food. No matter the cuisine or the culture that any given dish springs from, it will contain one neurological common denominator, buried in the primal place in our brains: Nostalgia
In search of Salt Lake’s best comfort food, we asked six restaurateurs and chefs what comfort food means to them. Read on for a fresh take from J Wong’s.
The People: Jordan Wong
The Restaurant: J. Wong’s Thai & Chinese Bistro
“Comfort food to me is the go-to food that you can eat all of the time and not get sick of it,” says Jordan Wong, owner of J. Wong’s Thai & Chinese Bistro. “For me, it’s simple dishes.” He knows every restaurant industry professional might not feel the same, but having been around restaurants his entire life, the more he appreciates the simple things. He believes that comfort food doesn’t have to be the most expensive or the most exotic or complex. “My mom had a restaurant before I was born, so I was born inside the business,” he explains. “I grew up around dishes like walnut shrimp or General Tso’s chicken. They may be simple, but I love them.”
After running his own restaurant for 15 years, Wong says he’s noticed the same trend in his customers. “I feel like I have a bit more understanding about food in that sense than when we first opened,” he says. Before he opened J. wong’s, he talked it over with his mother and brothers, and he planned to have the best, most technical dish on every single table. But, after being open for a while, he found even VIP customers preferred the simple, more familiar dishes. The roots of which, he says, go back to when Chinese immigrants came to America en masse to build the railroads, developing what we think of as Chinese American cuisine. “They’re the things I ate growing up every day for the first part of my life,” says Wong. While Wong’s father grew up in China, his mother grew up in Thailand, so in addition to Chinese American classics like Lo Mein and General Tso, he also found comfort in Pad Thai and Thai curries. It’s a fusion of cultures and classic dishes that he and his family wanted to share at large with J. Wong’s menu.
Of course, the menu still includes more complicated classics like the to-die-for Peking duck, but when Wong put together the items from his menu he found the most comforting, it’s no surprise that the focus was on the simple, homey dishes. He loves the Walnut Shrimp, a lightly breaded shrimp in a rich creamy sauce topped with honey-glazed walnuts, paired with traditional vegetable fried rice and spicy chicken dishes like Black Pepper or Thai Basil stir-fry. Add a side of dumplings and you’re set. It might not be the same for everyone, but when it comes to comfort, Wong’s advice is, “Try to find happiness in the simplest things and what you actually enjoy.”
If You Go…
J. Wong’s Thai & Chinese Bistro
163 W. 200 South, SLC, (801) 350-0888, , Monday-Friday open for lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m., dinner 5 p.m.-10 p.m.
Saturday open for lunch noon-3. p.m, dinner 5 p.m.-10 p.m.
Sunday open 4 p.m.-9 p.m.
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