Ngai Hong-kin is the chef de cuisine of Sha Tin 18 Chinese restaurant at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Sha Tin
"I grew up in a big family of eight kids. I loved eating dim sum, especially steamed vegetable dumplings, glutinous rice rolls and marinated pig's ears that my mother made.
Life was tough so my six brothers and I became chefs for one reason: the job was among the highest paid at the time. I've worked in Taiwan, the mainland and Japan.
My most memorable meal was eating wild salmon sashimi at a homestyle little joint near a Tokyo suburb. Every ramen shop I ate at, including the sidewalk hawker stalls, had its own signature soup base and combination of ingredients. I still haven't found a ramen shop in Hong Kong which can rival any in Japan.
I am a fan of northern Chinese regional cuisines and Thai cuisine. I love spicy food. Northern Chinese cuisine is fragrant and heavy on flavours. I get inspired by Peking Garden's (various locations) dim sum and ma po tofu.
As our restaurant's speciality is Dongguan food, I travel there quite often, looking for seasonal ingredients and river fish. I discovered cheese made from locally bred buffalo's milk. With this, I created the cow's milk, mustard green [a popular Dongguan vegetable] and spring onion fried rice.
For Thai food, I go to Kowloon City's Thai BBQ (19 Nam Kwok Road, tel: 2718 6219). The Thai owner's family prepares rustic dishes like simple grilled fish and stinky beans.
When I eat out with my family, we go to Sai Kung for the fresh seafood. I love to eat at those waterfront restaurants, places like Chuen Kee Seafood Restaurant (53 Hoi Pong Street, tel: 2791 1195) as I love the al fresco style.
I put the venue above the food. Most people can't afford a luxury house, so when I dine out, I pick a magnificent setting.
I go to Super Star Seafood Restaurant (1/F Tsimshatsui Mansion, 83-97 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 2628 0339) for its innovative Cantonese dim sum.
A chef is like an artist who needs a balanced mind to nurture creativity. But long hours and a demanding workload leave chefs barely any free time to be really inspired. But I see pressure as a chance to push myself to new heights."