Tony Tan, the Malaysia-born, Australia-based author of Hong Kong Food City (2017), has become a familiar face at restaurants around town.
In the book’s introduction, Tan gives a brief history of Hong Kong and explains the influences on its cuisine. “Its food scene is truly a food lover’s paradise. But it was not like this less than two hundred years ago. Hong Kong was built on power and colonisation [...] The tastes of the British establishment meant that gammon, roast beef, tinned oatmeal and claret often graced the table [...] The British viewed the food of the Chinese with suspicion – perhaps due to chauvinism or simply an inability to adapt to local tastes. The Chinese, on the other hand, bound by colonial policies and restrictions, stuck to their teahouses, street stalls, markets and burgeoning restaurants to the west of the island in Sheung Wan and Sai Ying Pun. They also enjoyed Western foods in restaurants opened by their compatriots during the late 19th century. Featuring Western classics with a dash of Cantonese flair, these places came to be known as ‘Soy Sauce Western’ restaurants.”
With new-found wealth, people ate out more and different eateries emerged. The city’s predominantly Chinese population was obsessed with food, and had an innate sense of appreciation for it, stemming from thousands of years of culinary evolution based on yin-yang principles, creativity and regional variations.
“It’s no secret that I’m in love with Hong Kong and its extraordinary food culture. Every time I return to visit my family, I am surprised by the ever-changing face of this metropolis.”
The recipes in Hong Kong Food Cityreflect the range of cuisines available here, with some contributions by local chefs. There’s Sichuan sliced pork with garlic and chilli sauce; Wagyu short rib with jalapeño purée, soy glaze and spring onion kimchi, by Jowett Yu, of Ho Lee Fook, in Central; Hainanese chicken rice; steamed pork and prawn dumplings; hot and sour soup;steamed crab claw with egg white custard from Tin Lung Heen, at the Ritz-Carlton; kingfish carpaccio with jicama, fennel confit, soy and ginger by Shane Osborn, of Arcane, in Central; drunken abalone; prawn toast; char siu; Hakka pork with preserved mustard greens; chilled mango, sago, pomelo and coconut soup;and ginger pudding.