Life

These Most Exquisite Dishes Are Actually Dog Food

Think your pet will like sous vide sea bass with a side of roasted potatoes and shiitake mushrooms, plated with pumpkin purée and a sprinkle of violets?
September 13, 2021, 4:50am
Shirleen Cheok, founder of pawdning.my, creates fine dining gourmet food for dogs in Malaysia
Pawdining.my is an online restaurant that serves gourmet dog food. Collage: VICE / Images: Courtesy of Shirleen Cheok

A crisp pan seared duck breast rests atop a bed of whipped potato, decked with a small dropper filled with blueberry compote. The stack is surrounded by a drizzle of gravy garnished with small vibrant flowers and thinly sliced carrots, forming a perfect circle on a pristine white plate. The dish looks straight out of a fine dining restaurant except it’s not for you, but your dog

Advertisement

Pawdining.my is an online restaurant serving gourmet dishes for dogs. For owner Shirleen Cheok, it’s the perfect outlet to combine her culinary creativity with her love for animals.

Pawdining.my’s pan seared duck breast

Pawdining.my’s pan seared duck breast. Photo: Courtesy of Shirleen Cheok

“Pawdining.my really started off with me trying to keep my artsy side going,” Cheok told VICE. 

She graduated with a degree in culinary arts and food service management, and now juggles her dog food business with a full-time job at a burger joint in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Launched in July, pawdining.my offers a selection of menu items that Cheok prepares in small batches of up to 10 orders. There’s a set menu of dishes, but each batch is modified according to the ingredients she can get her hands on. A plate costs about 50 Malaysian ringgit ($12). 

Customers can pick up the plated dishes from Cheok or get them delivered to their houses. 

“Especially during [the pandemic] with dine-in restrictions, there really aren’t any choices to bring them to,” said Cheok. “So I thought, Why not bring it to them?

She said the dishes she develops are the result of having to deal with an exceptionally fussy pet at home. Her dog Zephyr is a picky eater who outright rejects repetitive meals, so Cheok learned to experiment with different dishes, sourcing a variety of ingredients and switching up her cooking techniques. Naturally, Zephyr now helps out as the taste tester for her business. 

Shirleen Cheok and her dog Zephyr who created pawdining.my

Shirleen Cheok and her dog Zephyr (the taste tester), the team behind the online restaurant. Photo: Courtesy of Shirleen Cheok

Her gourmet offerings go beyond premium canned dog food and pet-friendly cupcakes. Arranged on 6-inch porcelain plates, those who don’t know any better could easily mistake them for human food. 

“The dishes are 100 percent human grade,” she said. “So yes, if you’re into food with zero seasoning, you can give this a try.”

In fact, Cheok said she sometimes eats the food that her dog Zephyr rejects. 

Each pawdining.my dish comes with a serving of protein, carbs, and a side of vegetables that are all pet-friendly. The violets used to garnish the food are also safe to be eaten by cats and dogs. Besides the pan seared duck breast, Cheok has also served canine-friendly nasi ulam (Malaysian herb rice) with pan seared sea bass and a piece of durian—option to switch rice with quinoa available. 

Pawdining.my’s nasi ulam (Malaysian herb rice) paired with a slice of pan seared sea bass, lightly sautéed seasonal vegetables, carrot purée, and durian.

Pawdining.my’s nasi ulam (Malaysian herb rice) paired with a slice of pan seared sea bass, lightly sautéed seasonal vegetables, carrot purée, and durian. Photo: Courtesy of Shirleen Cheok

Another creation that Cheok hasn’t officially released is a sous vide chicken breast or sea bass with potatoes, mushrooms, and pumpkin purée. 

Sous vide sea bass with roasted russet potatoes, beetroot purée, pumpkin purée, shiitake mushrooms, and Japanese cucumber cubes.

Sous vide sea bass with roasted russet potatoes, beetroot purée, pumpkin purée, shiitake mushrooms, and Japanese cucumber cubes. Photo: Courtesy of Shirleen Cheok

But why on earth would people buy fancy food for pets who probably can’t tell the difference between fine dining entrées and canned pâté

Cheok said many of her clients order her food as birthday treats for their dogs. She’s well aware that her business serves a very niche market of doting pet owners. Still, in Cheok’s spirit of “having all pets included in whatever we do,” she is more than happy to serve up canine haute cuisine for those who are looking to pamper their pets—even if there isn’t a whole lot of them right now.

“I still strive to make all pets feel special with my dishes,” she said.

Follow Koh Ewe on Instagram.