Chinese New Year 2016: Hong Kong chef cooks up a feast at home and work
VIDEO: Mok Kit-keung makes time to prepare a festive meal for his family in between his duties at a top city restaurant, where he prepares lucky dishes such as lo hei, grouper fillet, cabbage rolls and New Year puddings
Lunar New Year is a very busy time for chef Mok Kit-keung, but he still enjoys preparing dinner for his family with must-have dishes.
“Families usually eat home-made soup, a whole chicken, and fish,” he says. “My favourite dish is dried oysters with black moss because these ingredients have the meaning of prosperity in Chinese.”
WATCH Mok Kit-keung prepare Lunar New Year fare
At Shang Palace, the two-Michelin-star Chinese restaurant at the Kowloon Shangri-La hotel where Mok is executive chef, several dishes on the menu are considered auspicious.
One is lo hei, a cold dish, popular in Singapore – where Mok worked for 19 years – and comprises thinly sliced cucumber, carrots, and radish, Chinese pickles, young ginger, pomelo chips, sesame seeds, peanuts and limes. Typically raw salmon slices are included, but Mok uses raw lobster to make it more decadent.
There is a ritual that goes with lo hei. After adding the fruit, vegetables, seeds and nuts, Mok makes a hollow and utters auspicious sayings as he adds the remaining items, starting with the lobster, until the final ingredients – oil, white pepper and cinnamon – have been added. Then everyone grabs a pair of chopsticks and takes part in mixing the dish, throwing ingredients up high for the promise of a promotion.
Next is a sauteed grouper fillet decorated with the fish’s backbone deep-fried with spicy salt. Everyone should eat fish at Lunar New Year, since it means “may you have a surplus”, not only of wealth, but of friendships and well-being.
Another financially themed dish is braised pork knuckle with arrowhead in preserved bean curd sauce. “Arrowhead is only available at this time of year, which is why it’s good to use it now. For many it means Chinese New Year is here,” says Mok. The tuber is braised with the pork knuckle, hence the dish’s meaning of “holding out your hand to get money”.
No Chinese meal is complete without vegetables, and Mok has prepared braised cabbage rolls filled with shredded vegetables and topped with morel mushrooms for a bit of a Western touch. The dish is said to offer the hope of great happiness.
Finally, Lunar New Year puddings or neen goh are a must for a sweet year ahead. Mok has created three new flavours this year – Kyoto Uji matcha tea and red bean, Hawaiian purple sweet potato, and Korean brown sugar and melon seed.
For those interested in trying Mok’s lo hei on the second day of Lunar New Year, February 9, the lobby of the hotel will have a long table covered with the dish’s ingredients and at 12.30pm everyone can grab a pair of chopsticks and wish for an uplifting year ahead.
Shang Palace, Lower Level 1, Kowloon Shangri-La, 64 Mody Road, Tsim Sha Tsui East. Tel: 2733 8754