SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Think of the short list of things of things for which Springfield is famous. Cashew chicken is one. The family who invented that famous dish is back in business.
Monday wasn’t David Leong’s birthday but might as well be.
“I am 90 now, and very happy,” he said.
Leong started it all in 1963 by pouring oyster sauce on fried chicken chunks. He's still working. On Monday, he made sure his sons’ new restaurant with the family name and menu didn’t run out of won ton on opening day.
"They learn it all from me,” said Leong.
His know-how extends all over the place, with true and tried guidance.
“I know what works; the kitchen needs to be efficient, and we can cook anything you want,” said co-osner and son Wing Wah Leong.
After a 13-year absence from the Springfield restaurant scene, Leong's Asian Diner is number 91 of its kind, locally.
“I wish I had a nickel for every order of cashew chicken that's been served. We wouldn't have to work,” said co-owner and son Wing Ling Leong,
“It’s like the Pavlov thing; they just say cashew chicken and you just drool,” said diner and former KY3 personality Larry Dixon.
Dixon was Leong's original ad man.
“He had a very small budget. The food was it. We just talked about cashew chicken, cashew chicken,” said Dixon.
The new restaurant is bringing back plenty of old customers.
“I haven't found anything that's as good; there's just no comparison anywhere,” said customer Jeannie Petrie.
Most of Springfield's family restaurants are long gone, just memories. The executive chef of Leong's says this is all karma -- very good karma.
“I don't know how to explain it to people, but I believe it: you do something good, it comes back twice. I think this is a true example of that,” said executive chef and co-owner Wing Yee Leong.
The new Leong's is on West Republic Road near Kansas Expressway. The original “Tea House” was right across the street from the KY3 studios on West Sunshine Street.