Tam Kwok-king

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 February, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 February, 2005, 12:00am

Tam Kwok-king was born in 1937 in Shun Tak (Shunde), Guangdong, and moved to Hong Kong in 1954. He started his culinary career at the Fung Shing restaurant in North Point, cooking Shun Tak dishes for 12 years before moving to Tokyo to work as a chef. He returned to Hong Kong and is now the owner of the Shun Tak restaurant chain, which has branches in Mongkok, Sheung Wan and Causeway Bay.

What do you eat when you go out? 'I'm not a picky person, but in general I prefer Chinese food to western cuisine. I like to visit new Chinese restaurants and try out different things. For Japanese food, Tomokazu in Wan Chai is pretty good.'

Which restaurants do you take visitors to? 'My guests are mostly from Japan and I usually take them to one of the Fung Shing restaurants, where we'll have shark fin, crispy roasted baby pig, shrimp and steamed coral trout, or humpback or panther grouper.'

What cities do you like to visit for food? 'Tokyo. I like Japanese food, such as sashimi and tempura. In Japan, they have high-quality, fresh ingredients and the hygiene standards are very good. I like that.'

What type of food do you bring back from your travels? 'Beef from Kobe. Crab as well; in Japan they often have the crab steamed and served cold. It's really good.'

What was the first dish you ever made? 'Shrimp toast and crispy chicken; they were Fung Shing dishes. My training started here. I came to Hong Kong and started helping in the kitchen in Fung Shing when I was 17 and, after two or three years, we were allowed to get more involved with the cooking.'

What is your favourite creation? 'Gold and silver mandarin fish rolls. I created it four years ago. I cut the fish in slices, wrap them around Jinhua ham and pine nuts, and fry them. The wonderful tastes of the Jinhua ham and the crispy pine nuts go together very well.'

What is your favourite ingredient? 'It depends on the season but I like to use freshwater fish. We use a lot of it in Shun Tak cooking and the best season for it is autumn.'

What do you like about Shun Tak cooking? 'It demands a high level of skill because lots of steps are involved in this cuisine, and the treatment of ingredients is relatively complicated. It's fine cooking.'

What is the key to good cooking? 'A nice kitchen - clean and dry with good ventilation - this ensures your staff are in good spirits. Creativity is important, too. A good chef should always come up with new dishes and produce food that pleases himself and his customers.'