By Sophia Hsu
Photos by Amit Chaffee
Chef Medwin Pang had recently returned from the Around the World in 10,000 Bites event in Houston, Texas benefiting the James Beard Foundation when I got the chance to sit down with him to chat about what got him to this very place at this very moment. On October 15, 2019, Hunger Pang celebrated its fifth anniversary on Church Ave in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn. He is a local boy who came back to make good. Growing up just a few blocks away, he is proud to be a part of the community. Other small business owners within a five block radius are also fellow neighborhood elementary schoolmates of Chef Pang’s.
Sitting at the bar while Chef Pang zoomed around taking care of customers, orders, and the phone, I asked what the inspiration was for the menu. He simply replied, “Seasonal cravings.” When I prodded for more details, it boiled down to what is fresh and available, local, and satisfied his and his wife’s cravings. The menu is 100% made up of what they want to eat. The impetus was never about defining the menu to cater to or fit into any one category; Hunger Pang is not only New American nor is it Asian Fusion. As Chef Pang calls it, “. . . Asian Confusion, just like me.”
Chef Pang has a long list of credits to his career. Unlike others with a similar career pedigree, his story did not begin with a turn at an award-winning culinary school but the school of hard knocks. The path to Hunger Pang is filled with twists and turns, a truly unconventional path. Disinterested in pursuing higher education, listless and aimless, he chose to get into the food industry. Why food? Food was the one thing that always brought the people he loved together in his life.
Despite his mother’s hope for him to finish his schooling, Chef Pang entered the commercial kitchen in a more traditional, old school way. Working his way from the bottom in the kitchens of large restaurants, he learned to navigate the classic French hierarchy of the kitchen and the rigid, conventional menu. Looking for more creative outlets, he walked into the Upper East Side’s prestigious Park Avenue Cafe and asked for a job. This is how many of his stories started, blindly stumbling into an opportunity, a life lesson, whether it was a well-established restaurant built on prestige or a well-respected ski resort to getting a job as a snowboarding instructor or a startup (it was Vitamin Water) wanting to build an in-house art department.
Each of his trials brought him closer to Hunger Pang. The name is most definitely a pun based on his last name, which he kept in his back pocket for years before the possibility of opening his own place even existed. Now, five years after opening, he has established a cult-like following with his homemade hot sauce and standard dishes like the Pangry Wings and the Pork, Chive & Cheddar Dumplings. He has been busy preparing craveable dishes for the autumn menu. New for autumn are the 10 oz. Grass Fed Boneless Ribeye topped with a chile and black garlic butter and a side of amazing fries and the Bacon XO Fried Rice cooked in duck fat and sprinkled with fresh pea shoots, something Chef Pang cannot stop himself from tasting.
Check out www.hungerpangnyc.com and make your reservation today.