A feast for the eyes

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 May, 2011, 12:00am


Dominica Yang is known to be a good cook among her friends, who frequently ask her for her recipes. With one of them, Claudia Shaw d'Auriol, she has collaborated on two cookery books, Delicious and Too Delicious, with proceeds going to charity. Last week, Yang launched her first solo bilingual cookery book, Dominica's Bo Bo Ho - From My Kitchen to Yours, and will donate the proceeds to the Hong Kong Red Cross.

'I'm on the committee for the redevelopment project for the Hong Kong Red Cross. So this is like my contribution to them,' Yang says.

Her book's name is based on the idea that every pot or meal served at her parents' home is delicious. The book features 15 sweet and 15 savoury dishes that Yang cooks at home for family and friends.

'I'm always cooking, so there are always lots of recipes and I'm always trying different things,' the mother of three says. As her book - with dishes ranging from roast chicken to chocolate mousse - is bilingual, she hopes it will reach a wider audience.

Yang isn't the only food lover in Hong Kong to publish her recipes recently - she's joined by professional chefs whose subjects range from the Italian steakhouse through high-end European to the so-called modernist cuisine.

Christopher Mark, director of culinary operations for Dining Concepts restaurant group, says he's collected thousands of cookery books since entering the business 14 years ago, but says few interesting cookery books come out of Hong Kong. His book, Bistecca Italian Steak House: The Book, with recipes from the restaurant in Lan Kwai Fong, was published last month.

Mark says it's more than a cookery book, though. He wanted to offer something that's 'a lifestyle book that people put on the coffee table and flip through', and hired a fashion photographer. As well as the food shots, photos feature chefs working in the kitchen and the ambience of the restaurant interior, which resembles a butcher's shop.

'In Hong Kong,' the Canadian chef says, 'people ...overlook our local brands. So part of [the book] is to reinforce the success of the restaurant, and another part is to share something with our customers, because part of our restaurant's success is not just about the chef or the designer. The customers are a big part because they're the people who give the energy and life to our restaurant. So we want to include them, and we didn't want to write a book of recipes that people [use to] cook at home, that's not the point. The point is to include them in the lifestyle of our restaurant. A lot of people buy cookbooks because they just like the lifestyle [it represents]. Like people will buy design books, but they're not designers and they're not going to design anything.'

For Harlan Goldstein, publishing cookery books serves as a memoir of his career and as credit to his staff. His new cookery book, The Gold Collection by Harlan Goldstein, is a tribute to his own restaurant, Gold by Harlan Goldstein, which he opened last November.

The book is only available at his restaurant in Lan Kwai Fong, and it's been selling fast since it was published last month.

'Why do cooks make a cookbook?' Goldstein says. 'It helps promote your restaurant, it helps promote your brand while I tell a little bit about my background. It's sort of a dedication to the customers to let them know how to make the stuff that I do here, even though they maybe can't make it at home because they don't have the experience. But a lot of people like to buy the book as a souvenir or gift.'

The 39 recipes include many of his signature dishes - both sweet and savouries - including baked Hokkaido roasted scallop; truffled mushrooms and herb crust; wagyu beef cheek; rustic-style osso buco and Gold saffron risotto; and Valrhona chocolate raviolis.

'I want to choose the dishes that I think have the most chance of being prepared at home,' Goldstein says. 'I didn't write this book for professional chefs.'

Alvin Leung isn't going to make it easy for readers with his book, Alvin Leung: My Hong Kong, which is expected to be published in September. At his one-Michelin-star restaurant, Bo Innovation, the self-named 'Demon Chef' specialises in 'X-treme Chinese' cuisine, so the dishes in the book will be difficult to recreate in most home kitchens, even with the help of 'molecular gastronomy' equipment. But Leung says the book will be more of a tribute to Hong Kong, his home for 30 years, and to stimulate creativity, which is how he uses the cookery books in his own collection.

'Do I actually follow the recipes? No,' he says. 'But I expect [people who buy my book] will use it as a good [reminder] of their trip to Hong Kong and their visit to Bo, while others will look at the recipes and get inspired to do their own version.'

The studio shots in the book were done by photographer Rene Riis from Copenhagen, while additional shots of Hong Kong will be by amateurs who submit their photos to a contest that ends next month (for information visit www.boinnovation.com).

'[As well as being] a book of my recipes and food, I also want it to be almost like a guidebook to Hong Kong,' Leung says. 'There'll be a list of my favourite places to eat in Hong Kong. One of the questions most asked by people at the restaurant is: 'Where do I go to eat?' So I'd like to present it in a book and show them where I'd recommend.'

The authors say it's not easy to make their recipes accessible to home cooks, who have different levels of skill in the kitchen. Leung's are probably the most difficult, and the chef isn't dumbing them down.

'None of the dishes are simplified,' he says. 'Like at El Bulli [a three-Michelin-star restaurant in Spain]. In their books they don't simplify anything. My book will involve dehydration, [edible] chemicals and [liquid] nitrogen. But that's not the point - this book is something that you use as inspiration to cook at home.'

Yang says the hardest part in doing a cookery book is giving detailed steps and making sure the portions are right.

'A lot of my recipes at home are for my eyes only,' she says. 'So sometimes they're just ingredients with very simple notes.

'Sometimes when I cook, especially with savouries, I don't have real proportions. For baking, you have very standard proportions - that's easy, you just follow the rules. But for savoury dishes, you can do your own thing; sometimes you make a mistake and it becomes something else.

'Put in too many tips and it becomes academic. People who are afraid of cooking prefer very simple recipes. When I write the title, I'll add a little note and give a few tips.'

For Mark, 'the main difficulty is to think like somebody who doesn't know anything about cooking or has a very different knowledge of cooking. The way you communicate with them must be different because any industry has terms or jargon.'

So what if readers have difficulty recreating the dishes? The authors say trial and error is the key. Yang says she's planning a website where she'll post her recipes and answer questions. Goldstein has another suggestion: 'Come here and eat it.'