Hong Kong’s culinary heritage

By Sarneet Kaur Saran, HKMA David Li Kwok Po College
By Sarneet Kaur Saran, HKMA David Li Kwok Po College |

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On June 25, 65 Form 4 students from numerous local secondary schools gathered at Tsim Sha Tsui Centre to attend a journalism training workshop for the Sino Junior Reporters Programme 2016. This workshop was jointly organised by Sino Group and the SCMP’s Young Post.

The purpose of the workshop was to give students a chance to better understand Hong Kong’s countless amazing dishes and tastes, while simultaneously developing their skills in writing English.

The workshop started off with students learning basic journalism skills, which include interviewing, researching and writing techniques, from an experienced SCMP journalist.

Afterwards, they had the opportunity to taste some of Hong Kong’s most popular delicacies, namely traditional HK-style barbecue pork buns, chicken legs marinated with homemade Swiss sauce, steamed sweet glutinous rice pudding with red bean, wife cake or “lo po pang” with winter melon paste, and Hong Kong’s classic childhood drink, Vitasoy.

Students also had the chance to meet the chef who had prepared the dishes, Kenneth Yuen, executive chef at the Royal Pacific Hotel and Towers.

Yuen, or as he prefers to be called, Yuen Sifu, has been in the culinary business for over 30 years, and has worked in many well-known hotels such as the Mandarin Oriental, Conrad Hotel and Regal Hotel. He has been working at the Royal Pacific Hotel and Towers since 2010.

He spoke about his culinary journey, and the difficulties he faced as a chef. He gave an example of the first event he was in charge of while working at the Conrad Hotel. It was an outdoor catering event at Hong Kong Park. With no kitchen or electricity available at the location, Yuen Sifu was faced with the challenge of catering successfully for the 1,000 guests attending the event. Situations like that, according to him, were good experiences in teaching him to solve problems.

“The challenges I faced as a chef are a bit like the challenges in our lives,” said Yuen Sifu. “They taught me that whenever we face a problem, we have to know there is a solution, and that we can actually find the solution.”

Besides talking about his experiences as a chef, Yuen Sifu also talked about traditional food in Hong Kong, and the importance of promoting it in order to prevent the culture from being extinguished. “To promote traditional food, you need to have cultural exchanges, you have to share your recipes, and you have to promote how to do things and how to cook things.”

When asked what traditional Hong Kong food is most heart-warming for him, Yuen Sifu talked fondly of his childhood experiences with white sugar pudding, and how it reminded him of growing up on an estate in Hong Kong.

“Whenever I eat that, all the memories of my childhood, of living on the estate, of rushing out to try to buy that pudding, come back clearly,” he said. “Food actually stirs up memories.”