Peter Chang’s growing empire of Chinese restaurants have always been a family affair, but for his latest expansion to Canton, the chef is bringing former Brothers and Sisters pastry chef Pichet Ong into the fold. Helmed by daughter Lydia Chang and Ong, NiHao opens on Thursday as a carryout spot with Peking duck soup kits to recreate the show-stopping dish at home.
Originally slated to debut in March, the pandemic pushed back the restaurant’s unveiling. NiHao is now opening in three phrases to ensure health protocols can be integrated: First for takeout-only, followed by patio seating, and later indoor dining on the restaurant’s three levels. Without the ambiance of a dining room, the team has looked for other ways to curate the restaurant experience through presentation and (sustainable and eco-friendly) packaging.
That mentality bred dishes like the Peking duck kit, complete with buns, noodles, and everything you need to make a duck broth. Chang and Ong wanted to educate people on traditional Chinese ingredients, so they provide the duck carcass, dried mushrooms, star anise, and other ingredients that people can boil together at home to make their own soup.
“There’s a little bit of a Chinese 101 mentality that I have with the menu,” says Ong.
The menu is a joint effort between Ong and the Chang family —a mind-meld that bred dishes like the hot and cold housemade tofu. The sizzling mapo version is a Chang classic, and the cold iteration served with a century egg is reminiscent of the chilled tofu Ong grew up eating as an after-school snack.
While the Chang restaurants traditionally serve mouth-tingling Szechuan cuisine, dishes like Grand Marnier prawns folded into lettuce cups have Cantonese origins. (In fact, Canton was once a trading port with the Chinese city of Guangzhou, also known as Canton).
Like the savory menu, Ong’s sweet treats are designed to be transportable, a skill he mastered while cooking at the Line Hotel where pies and cookies were sent off with stuffed guests after large-scale dinners. Matcha cakes and cookies are available fully prepared while Ovaltine snickerdoodle cookie dough is a DIY dessert project—just bake in an oven.
The restaurant’s beverage roster starts with summery sodas in flavors like pineapple, mint, and singed rosemary. Cocktails and a wine list heavy on Austrian varietals on the way. Ong is also planning to incorporate takeout dim sum kits with buns and fillings in the future.
NiHao. 2322 Boston St., Baltimore. 443-835-2036. Open daily from 12 PM to 8 PM.