Fish and woodchips
Smoking should be allowed in restaurants - as long as it's the kind that happens in the kitchen during food preparation.
'Traditionally, smoking worked well for preserving fish and meat. Nowadays, it's really for the flavour,' says Adam Bantock, chef of M at the Fringe in Central, the kitchen of which has a smoke box specifically for the preparation of its signature hot house-smoked salmon dish.
'At home, you can smoke food in a lidded pot with a metal steamer rack, which a lot of people in Hong Kong do. You need a good exhaust fan. You also need a pot that you aren't going to use again for other cooking - the smoking flavour is really intense and hard to get rid of afterwards,' says Bantock.
'The idea of smoking in-house is that you can control every aspect of it - it's a guarantee of quality. When you buy smoked meats and fish, you don't know what's happened in the handling process. We dry-cure the salmon with a mixture of sugar, salt and pepper [and put it] in the fridge for about 16 to 24 hours. For fish like salmon, which is naturally quite oily, a dry cure allows the seasoning to penetrate much better. For meats, brining is probably better.
'At the bottom of the smoker, we place Norwegian woodchips, which are very fine - almost like sawdust. The rack of pre-portioned salmon sits on top. We close the lid and put it over a flame. As the chips burn, the smoke circulates evenly throughout the box. The fish is never exposed directly to heat. The timing comes down to personal preference. If you leave it in for a couple of minutes, it takes on a light smoky flavour. Eight or nine minutes will give you an intense flavour in the traditional Scandinavian style that we like.'
Hot smoking (within a temperature range of 74 to 85 degrees Celsius) will also cook fish or meat. Cooking time varies depending on the type of meat and the size of the portion but, done properly, hot-smoked meats are safe to eat without further cooking.
'However, our salmon is cooled down and stored in the fridge after smoking, then cooked again to order,' Bantock says. 'Cold smoking [in temperatures below 38 degrees] would be more appropriate for fish used in a carpaccio - such as tuna. If you weren't going to cook it again, I'd definitely go for a cold smoke.'
A favourite for Bantock when he's in his native Australia is smoked oysters. 'You keep raw [unshucked] oysters in a hot smoker till they open. At that point they are cooked just slightly. Cool them down in the fridge, garnish and serve.'