Fame and celebrity

Anthony Bourdain praises Hong Kong auteurs Wong Kar-wai and Christopher Doyle

Famed foodie fawns over Hong Kong’s food offerings against the backdrop of the city’s ‘controlled chaos’ and its ‘mix of old and new’

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 December, 2017, 7:43am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 December, 2017, 9:38am

Two of Hong Kong’s most critically acclaimed auteurs are big draws for Anthony Bourdain, the individual best known for bringing culture and philosophy into our heightened awareness of exotic cuisine.

“I’m utterly besotted with Wong Kar-wai and Christopher Doyle,” Bourdain, the noted American chef, author and television personality, told the South China Morning Post. He was referring to the director and cinematographer, respectively, for such acclaimed films as In The Mood For Love and Happy Together.

“I’m a fetishist for good cinematography and films,” Bourdain said. “Even if I had no connection at all to food, I would be drawn to Hong Kong as a location because of the absolute, stunning beauty of the place, particularly a scene by Christopher Doyle. If he’s reading this, I really would love to have him on the show. It would be a dream.”

It’s no surprise that the work of Wong and Doyle would beguile Bourdain – someone with an eye for visual and culinary stimulation.

The two made humble food stalls tucked within Hong Kong’s narrow alleyways, circa 1960, into characters in and of themselves in the Palm d’Or-nominated In The Mood for Love.

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A two-minute scene from the film, showing stars Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung in slow motion, wearily descending alley steps for dumplings as kitchen steam rises around them and dramatic theme music plays, has received nearly three-quarters of a million hits.

Bourdain spoke to the Post at an event in New York this week to promote a new digital series called The Perfect Dish: Asia, which features selected entrées in eight cities in the region.

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Nathan Thornburgh, founder of Roads & Kingdoms – an online journal focused on food and culture – said his interest in Hong Kong aligned with Bourdain’s. Roads & Kingdoms is the production company behind The Perfect Dish and partners with Bourdain on other projects including Explore Parts Unknown, a mobile-first companion to his long-running CNN series Parts Unknown.

Thornburgh hosted the Hong Kong episode, much of which is shot in Cheung Chau, featuring the history and technique behind the local dish typhoon shelter crab.

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“I wanted to go back to Cheung Chau because one of my fondest memories from maybe 15 years ago is just taking the ferry out there, walking the promenade, being hot, getting in an amazing typhoon shelter crab at the last stop on the promenade,” Thornburgh said. “Really, I just want to recreate that.”

Bourdain has other favourites among Hong Kong’s food offerings, most of them available against the backdrop of Hong Kong’s “controlled chaos, the mix of old and new”.

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“The roast goose is beyond belief. It’s just the high-water mark of animal protein,” he said. “It’s the textural interplay between the crispy outer skin, the subcutaneous fat, the various degrees of meat cartilage and bone. It’s absolutely everything.

“We under-appreciate in the West but which has long been appreciated in the East.”