Spotlight On: Hui Wei
Contemporary Chinese restaurant Hui Wei on Glossop Road have expanded their gluten-free menu so we had a chat with head chef, Legan Ng, who talks about the gluten-free trend and why people with dietary requirements tend to avoid Chinese cuisine.
Hi Legan, how’s it going? Tell us a bit about how Hui Wei started.
Hello! So the building itself used to be the Glossop Road Baths which housed Turkish baths and a public swimming pool for people back in 1877. My wife Sarah and her brother Tak purchased the restaurant in 2007 and even back then we catered for gluten-free and vegan diets. Our customers can order whatever meal they want gluten-free and 99% of the time it can be done using substitutes. Fancy some rice? Well our fried rice doesn’t contain gluten to begin with anyway! Noodles? We’ll replace chow mein with vermicelli and use gluten-free soy sauce.
And what about you? Give us a little background about yourself as a chef.
I’m a Cantonese cuisine and dim sum chef, I was born in England and when I was 16 my first job was training as a chef in a family-run Chinese restaurant called Capital Cantonese Cuisine. Starting in 1986, I worked there for 3 years and during that time I was trained by renowned roast duck chef Mr.Chan Fei of the legendary Golden Dragon restaurant. So that was 32 years ago and since then I started up a sign company in the year 2000 called Imperial Signs (formerly called Auto Plates) and I’ve worked in various takeaways and restaurants across South Yorkshire including Bonaparte’s Casino, The Canton in Dinnington and The China Rose in Bawtry. I’d say my specialty is Western Chinese cuisine whereas our other chef Mr.Zhen specialises in the more traditional-style dishes, he’s from the Sichuan province and he’s the bee’s knees when it comes to cooking up meals that pack a bit of heat.
So when did you first become aware of the need for gluten-free options?
It came to light back in 2007 when we first took over but the trend has grown massively recently as more and more people are being diagnosed with coeliac disease and others are choosing to eat gluten-free for a healthier lifestyle. The way that this world is going, I truly believe in twenty years time all menus will be gluten-free.
Around what percentage of your customers would you say eat gluten-free at the moment?
At the moment I would say around 40%, we get a lot of takeaway orders too – delivery and collection. Sometimes we get people calling up for a delivery from miles away!
That must be flattering, coming to you for food when there are probably plenty of other options closer to them!
Well we get a lot of people saying “Since I’ve been diagnosed I’ve not dared to have a Chinese, now I’ve finally found somewhere that serves gluten-free Chinese food.” It can be stressful dining out when you eat gluten-free and we want to make everyone feel at ease here. Any trace of gluten can lead to severe reactions so to avoid cross contamination in the kitchen, we use separate pans and fryers using 100% vegetable oil. The problem with other Chinese restaurants is, many of the staff don’t fully understand what gluten is, there can be miscommunication issues with the language barrier and some places don’t take dietary requirements as seriously as they should. All of our staff are fluent in English whether they’re Caucasian or not and they’re trained to know everything about the food we serve. We also like to hire young energetic people to create a bit of a buzz when guests dine here. The food & service is only as good as the staff that are working on that shift so it’s important that we hire the right people.
Do you eat gluten-free yourself?
I do however I’m not a coeliac, I suffer from an overactive thyroid problem and the docs advised me to cut gluten out of my diet. It’s called Graves’ Disease!
Not the most reassuring of disease names! Any gluten-free drinks and desserts?
We do yes. We have Peroni gluten-free beer and local craft beers. We’re proud to say we like to help independent local businesses for example we get our meat from Hadfield Butchers. Dessert wise we have gluten-free ice cream by Yee Kwan, banana or pineapple fritters using gluten-free batter and our latest addition to our dessert range gluten-free chocolate brownie slices.
Do you think more Chinese restaurants should follow in your footsteps?
Yes and no. No because we want to be special! But more importantly, yes because the society needs it and the more restaurants heading towards that way the better.
Anything lined up for the future of Hui Wei?
Sometimes we host events for brands like Shiseido and we did an event with Howard Middleton from the Great British Bake Off before where we served a gluten-free banquet meal. We also have two private function rooms with projectors so they’re great for conference meetings and private parties. We’re also a licensed bar so people are more than welcome to pop in for a few drinks and a chat, we have a great live pianist that comes in every Saturday evening too who is available by request for special occasions like anniversaries/weddings/birthdays/graduations etc.
For more information about Hui Wei, click here and to view the menus click here. They offer student discount and be sure to pop in from noon on weekdays to check out their lunch deals and bento boxes. For any further questions you can reach Legan direct on 07525008080.