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Xi Yan Cuisine cookbooks by Jacky Yu. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

Hong Kong chef Jacky Yu shares his eclectic Asian tastes and mix-and-match philosophy in his Xi Yan Cuisine cookbooks

  • Jacky Yu, the founder of Xi Yan private kitchen and the Xi Yan restaurant chain in Hong Kong and Singapore, loves Asian cuisine
  • His cookbooks reflect his passion, and he loves to mix and match dishes from around the continent
Hong Kong

When chef Jacky Yu started his private kitchen Xi Yan in Wan Chai, in 2000, the popularity of the modern Asian restaurant led to the opening of half a dozen cheaper, more casual concepts in Causeway Bay, Tsim Sha Tsui, Taikoo Shing and other locations, as well as a branch of the original in Singapore.

Sadly, the last of the Xi Yan restaurants in Hong Kong closed about five years ago, although the private kitchen in Singapore is still going strong.

Yu, however, documented many of his recipes in his Xi Yan Cuisine books, which were published in 2002, 2004 and 2006 (there’s apparently one more volume, published in 2008, which I don’t have).

Yu, who worked in advertising for many years before becoming a chef, is a man of few words, at least if judged by the brief, reserved forewords to his books.

Yu’s Xi Yan Cuisine cookbooks. Photo: Xiaomei Chen
A page from Xi Yan Cuisine. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

He reveals most about himself in the first book, when he writes, “I am passionate about food. I love the wondrous experience of taste – the revelation, the excitement, the challenge to my taste buds, and the mystery of flavours brought on by the endless concoctions of different ingredients and spices.

“I am equally passionate about art. Food and art instil in me feelings which are sometimes not so dissimilar and leave me intrigued and lingering. There are no boundaries.

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“In art and food, I am incredibly eclectic. I love all sorts of Asian cuisines. It must be the common threads in them that make some of the different types of cuisine go so well together.


“The cuisine of Xi Yan expresses my view of food and art. It also reflects my fascination with the diverse Asian cuisines which can be so perfectly balanced with each other.”

At the Xi Yan restaurants, the meal might begin with, say, a trio of Shanghainese starters, followed by a Cantonese soup, then dishes from Thailand, Sichuan and Japan, before returning to Shanghai for dessert.

A northern Chinese dried chicken recipe from Xi Yan Cuisine. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

The books reflect Yu’s eclectic cooking, with dishes such as deep-fried shrimp with salted duck egg yolks, apple and shredded roast duck salad in Thai style, stir-fried bean curd with yellow crab roe and meat, Hakka marinated duck, bitter melon with dried sour plum, okra with fermented bean curd sauce, oyster green curry, stewed chicken with ginseng, sweet and bitter almond with papaya and pork shoulder ribs soup, dan dan instant noodles, oolong tea-smoked chicken, stewed spare ribs with Worcestershire sauce, crispy pork belly in fermented tarocurd sauce, glutinous rice dumplings with distiller’s grains and preserved osmanthus, and double-steamed bird’s nest with dried osmanthus and lotus seeds.

​​Like what you read? Look for more food and drink in SCMP Post Magazine.