This recent book’s long but descriptive subtitle reads, “Over 80 delicious recipes inspired by a personal journey from my grandmothers’ kitchens, through the markets of Hong Kong, to the tables of celebrated Italian chefs.” From the titles you can guess the author, Aira Sasso, is Italian, lives in Hong Kong and has worked with famous chefs.
To briefly expand on the first and third points, Sasso is originally from Milan, and the chefs she’s worked with include Pino Lavarra, of Tosca at the Ritz-Carlton, in West Kowloon; Luca de Berardinis, of Nicholini’s at the Conrad, in Admiralty; Andrea Spagoni, at Beefbar, in Central; and many in Italy.
The second point will likely be of more interest to Hong Kong readers, because the recipes have been tailored just for us.
“The seed of this book was planted several years ago, when I decided, almost on a whim, to put together for my friends in Hong Kong a collection of recipes of Italian dishes they had enjoyed at my home. As I started to pull them together, carefully writing out lists of ingredients and transcribing cooking techniques, I found myself recalling my frustration when I was a newcomer to the city and could not find many of the things I needed. Too many of my recipes, as well as those found in the books on the shelves of any Hong Kong bookstore, were of little use because I simply couldn’t find the ingredients,” writes Sasso.
“It was then that I decided my book had to be different. It should not just be a collection of recipes but should also provide useful insights into making the experience of cooking Italian food in Hong Kong an easier one. It would be my gift to my Hong Kong friends and the city that had welcomed me.”
By exploring the wet markets with the help of friends, Sasso says, “I discovered new ingredients, managed to recognise and cook fish and other produce I had never been able to name before, and experimented, using them to replace typical Western varieties. The local hairtail fish made its way onto my plate in place of the Italian pesce sciabola (scabbard fish) and grouper have become a regular feature of my table. I wasn’t trying to create fusion cuisine; it was about maintaining the spirit of Italian cooking while using what was locally available.”
That’s not to say you might not need to search a bit for some of the speciality ingredients called for in the recipes but, fortunately for us, shops (including online ones) carry items such as guanciale and 00 flour.
The recipes include sweet and sour honey-stuffed tomato with ricotta sauce; ricotta and spinach pansotti with walnut sauce; pappardelle with Bolognese ragu; Ligurian focaccia; spaghettini with cream of sea urchin; lemon risotto with red prawns; rice croquettes with cheese fondant; honey-glazed rack of lamb with baby greens; almond-crusted pork tenderloin; extra-virgin olive oil chocolate fondant; and Grandma Clara’s cannoli.
The book is available at The Shop and Nicholini’s, at the Conrad hotel, in Pacific Place, Admiralty. You can also purchase it by emailing [email protected] (free delivery in Hong Kong).