Chef's garnishes land him in soup

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 June, 2012, 12:00am


One of four Hong Kong chefs heading for a prestigious international wine festival in France says he is finding it difficult to get a key garnish into the country because of strict laws on food imports.

William Ma, executive chef of the Gloucester Luk Kwok hotel in Wan Chai, said about 750 crab shells he had sent ahead of the Bordeaux Wine Festival on June 28 had been held up at French customs, which considered them as meat.

The crab carapaces, meant as decorations for the dishes he will present at the festival, are hard to find in France 'so we have to ship them from Hong Kong'.

Ma says he is confident that the problem will be resolved before the event starts.

Hong Kong is the second Asian city after Fukuoka in Japan to be named a 'City of Honour' at the festival, now on its 15th year, where the local chefs will offer signature dishes. The food will be paired with Bordeaux wines selected by French wine experts.

Joining Ma in the southern French city are Ho Wai-sing from The Royal Garden Chinese Restaurant, Lee Man-sing of Mandarin Oriental hotel's Man Wah restaurant and Mak Kwai-pui of dim sum specialist Tim Ho Wan.

Mak said he had chosen two dishes - baked bun with barbecued pork, and spring rolls filled with shrimps and mixed vegetables - to appeal to Westerners.

'[The dishes] are easy to make as well, and all the raw materials [I need] can be sourced in France,' said Mak, whose Tim Ho Wan dim sum house is dubbed the most affordable Michelin restaurant in the world.

The Hong Kong Tourism Board has assigned a French cooking school to look for all the necessary raw materials. It hopes that the event can solidify the city's reputation as a gourmet paradise.

'I hope after tasting the Canton-style cuisine, [the tourists] will come to visit Hong Kong,' said the board's chairman, James Tien Pei-chun.

Aside from Cantonese cuisine, Hong Kong will also host cultural activities at the wine festival.

Seventeen huge wine bottles wrapped in colourful labels - based on the paintings of a Hong Kong-based disabled artist, Liu Tung-mui - will be on display along the banks of the Garonne River in southwestern France.

The biennial wine festival, the largest of its kind in France, drew about 500, 000 visitors in 2010.