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Short ribs and baby octopus may dominate many menus in the city, but that doesn’t mean local chefs can’t find love in an acorn squash. In our ongoing seriesChefs Veg Out, we’ll prove D.C.’s chefs can play with more than just meat.

  • Name: Darren Wightman
  • Title: Executive Chef
  • Restaurant: Ping Pong Dim Sum
  • Cooking Since: 29 years ago, cooking in Australia (where he’s from), Hong Kong, Bali, Greece, Dubai, Paris, and Los Angeles.
  • Random Fact: “I was a fullback playing Aussie Rules Football in high school. We were legends.”
  • Favorite Vegetable: Chinese vegetable daunew, snow peas shoots. “I fell in love with them in Hong Kong. I quickly blanch them in boiling salted water, then throw them in a wok with smashed ginger, chopped garlic and oyster sauce.”
  • Least Favorite Vegetable: Cauliflower. “I loathe the smell of it being boiled. It’s probably from having it poorly cooked when I was a kid.”
  • Memorable Meatless Dish: Balinese vegetable curry. “It’s almost like a staff meal. It’s from my time at Intercontinental Hotels Group. It’s a turmeric base with curry, coriander, lime, lime leaf, peanuts, sauteed smoked curry paste, blue ginger (galangal), smashed up lemongrass, aubergine, potatoes, beans, tomato, and broccoli. We served it with rice steamed in a banana leaf. There was nothing refined about it at all, just fantastic flavor and so cheap.”
  • Best Vegetable Dish at Ping Pong: Spicy vegetable dumpling. “It’s fresh and clean. There’s shiitake, water chestnuts, glass noodles, lots of cilantro and red jalepeño. We serve it with a fresh red chili sauce with a little crushed yellow bean and seaseme oil. It’s a textbook Chinese master sauce.”
  • Quick and Dirty Meatless Idea: Pencil asparagus. “Quickly blanched and grilled with a splash of extra virgin olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, sea salt and ground black pepper. It’s so simple, so quick and tastes amazing and can be eaten warm or cold.”

Photo courtesy of Ping Pong Dim Sum