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  • Sep 17, 2014
  • Updated: 1:40pm
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 May, 2013, 3:47am

Barry Cheung makes waves in Moscow

BIO

Howard Winn has been with the South China Morning Post for two and half years after previous stints as business editor and deputy editor of The Standard, and business editor of Asia Times. His writing has also been published in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune. He writes the Lai See column which focuses on the lighter side of business.
 

We see that Barry Cheung's difficulties with the Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange have made waves in Moscow. This is because he is an independent non-executive director on the board of Rusal, the world's largest aluminium company, which, although Russian, is listed in Hong Kong.

But it's also because Viktor Vekselberg and Len Blavatnick, the principals of Sual Partners, which owns 15.8 per cent of Rusal, have issued a statement calling on Rusal to demand an explanation from Cheung, according to the Russian language newspaper Vedomosti. This probably has little to do with corporate governance issues but is more likely an attempt by Sual to embarrass Oleg Deripaska.

It will be recalled that Vekselberg resigned the chairmanship of Rusal under acrimonious circumstances in March last year, criticising Deripaska for the company's poor performance. The paper quotes a Rusal shareholder as saying: "While there are legal proceedings, it is too early to come to any conclusions." Sage advice.

 

Austria rules?

Austria is under pressure to agree to EU efforts to clamp down on tax evasion. On Wednesday it dropped objections to sharing data on foreign depositors. It had been reluctant to share the names of foreign holders of accounts, many of which were set up as a way of evading tax in their own countries.

In the light of this it will be interesting to see how the Austrian company Bilanz Data fared with its tax mitigation and wealth management seminar in Shanghai yesterday. Its website says that the company is very successful at showing "how tax law can be utilised for the benefit of a company or an individual". Business may not be quite so brisk in the months to come.

 

Smart investing?

Morgan Stanley strategist Gerard Minack, the author of the widely read Downunder Daily, is retiring. His last note has attracted more than usual interest. "Investing is an unusual profession: perhaps the only one where amateurs have a good shot at beating the pros," he starts off.

He points out that in an average year, 60 per cent of actively managed funds underperform their respective benchmarks, while in the three years to end-2012, 87 per cent of funds underperformed the market. His advice is to buy and hold a low-cost index fund: "You will be guaranteed to beat 90 per cent of funds over the long haul," he says.

Minack says, it took him three years to persuade himself of this. "And then I finally stopped trying to pick stocks and time the market and moved my own portfolio into index funds … by far the best investment decision I have ever made."

 

The return of the prawn cocktail

There was some dismay from a reader following yesterday's piece about Britain's favourite food. We had noted that Chinese stir-fry had replaced chicken tikka masala as Britain's favourite dish and mentioned a number of other Asian dishes popular in Britain. "How can a man of your journalistic experience fail to mention the traditional prawn cocktail starter much loved by some of us of a 'certain age'?" our reader chides.

But what are the origins of the prawn cocktail? Hopkinson and Bareham, in their book The Prawn Cocktail Years, published in 1997, observe: "Prawn Cocktail, Steak Garni and Black Forest Gateau has been the favourite British meal out for as long as one can remember." They also quote Nico Ladenis's My Gastronomy (1987) thus: "A gin and tonic says a lot about you as a person. It is more than just a drink, it is an attitude of mind. It goes with a prawn cocktail, a grilled Dover sole, Melba toast and Black Forest gateau."

Some authorities say the prawn cocktail first appeared in the United States, citing the Boston Cooking School Cookbook (1937). Others say it was Scandinavia. However, the earliest reference we can find is in a recipe in a 1931 edition of the British magazine Country Life, written by no less than Countess Morphy. But we gather the prawn cocktail is enjoying a resurgence, and is now being promoted by cool chefs such as Jamie Oliver.

 

Have you got any stories that Lai See should know about? E-mail them to howard.winn@scmp.com

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impala
With regards to the more and more cosmopolitan British eating habits, I have to say that I am not sure what is meant by "Chinese stir fry' as a dish. By contrast, 'chicken tikka masala' is a fairly clearly defined dish. Variations of course exist, but without boneless chicken and some balanced blend of the typical 'masala' spices, it wouldn't be chicken tikka masala. And I think we can be all but certain that the dish would invariably be accompanied by rice.

'Chinese stir fry' however raises a lot of questions about what precisely is eaten, just like 'Scottish deep fry' or 'French braising' would. Stir frying is a cooking method, and I you can stir fry practically anything, from pak choi to (steamed) rice. It is the predominant cooking method in most strands of Chinese cuisine, and there is not a lot of well-known Chinese dishes that are not stir fried at least at some point in their cooking processes. So I'd be very curious to know what the Brits precisely envision when they cite 'Chinese stir fry' as a regular dish!
 
 
 
 
 

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