Needing best Hong Kong style cuisine resources

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by Adore303, Nov 10, 2017.

  1. Adore303


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    2 years
    Hey everyone,

    Just stumbled across the site and decided to make an account.

    I am fairly Green in the kitchen .. and have been working in a modern Hong Kong style restaurant since June. I am finally getting comfortable with the stations and work a couple prep shifts through the week as well. The problem is is that outside of what I have been taught by my chefs, i am still at a wall when it comes to pairing, traditional spices and dishes, history, etc ...

    So what I’m asking is if anyone has any good references or personal experience, then will you please throw it my way? I absolutely love my job and want to continue to grow and have my own ideas to bring to the kitchen.

    Thanks everyone
  2. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    I Just Like Food
    I don't know what you mean by Hong Kong style. Hong Kong is renowned for many aspects of Chinese cuisine, particularly Dim Sum. But there are also top representations of the rest of China's regional cooking as well in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is probably also more experimental with modern Chinese Cuisine.

    Chinese food is my primary passion in cooking. I'm not Chinese, nor do I speak the language. But I can share those resources that have been best for me. Lets start with books.

    Breath of a Wok by Grace Young. This is an excellent view into Chinese Cooking by a modern author focusing on the wok, it's history, manufacture and function. It's strongly home focused which changes technique from what you're doing in a pro restaurant. Primarily because home stoves simply lack the power to put a wok into its optimal performance. For what seem to be your purposes, skip her follow up, Stir Frying to Sky's Edge as it's strongly immigrant fusion focused. By which I mean she examines how immigrant Chinese cook in foreign settings. It's a good book but not traditional or historic. Might be useful later on for ideas on substitutions and variations on a theme. But learn the basics first imho. She has another book I like, but I'll mention that one together with a book of Eileen Yin Fei Lo.

    New Classic Chinese Cooking by Mai Leung. This, as with a number of other books I'll mention, is out of print, but readily available in the used market. This is an update of an earlier edition. She gives light background and history on the dishes she cooks. I've never cooked a bad dish from her work. One thing that stands out to me in her work is her heavy use of dark soy sauce. Most other cooks use dark soy much less often but she brings it out in combination with regular light soy sauce most of the time. It's a much more versatile condiment than generally understood. It seems to me she uses it instead of oyster sauce or to reduce the use oyster sauce. If you read or watch Martin Yan cook, he's a heavy user of oyster sauce, kind of the opposite approach. But you'll learn an alternative seasoning approach from Mai Leung. She has a follow up which name escapes me now. It's not as good but not bad. Also a dim sum book I've not read.

    Chinese Gastronomy by Hsiang Ju Lin and Tsuifeng Lin. This is out of print and harder to find. This is THE book on Chinese flavor theory. And it's not that deep on flavor theory. But it's the best I've found. This book is designed around 4 tastes and some extra textures. These are not the tastes of sweet salty and so on. But sweet natural flavor, rich or heady, characteristic fragrance, and fat without being oily. In other words, it's about the ingredients being what they are at their best and bringing out just the best features. So they start with recipes that exhibit the basic flavors of the ingredients and build from there. The teach about using condiments to correct flavors. So it's not about ginger just giving a ginger flavor to the dish, but correcting grassiness in certain vegetables, rice wine correcting gaminess and so on. I've not been wowed by any recipe in this particular book, but I've not cooked deeply from it. Rather, it changed my understanding of what I was doing when cooking Chinese food. And of course, how to treat food for texture as the asians like texture in their foods beyond what Westerners think of as appealing.

    Classic Chinese Cuisine by Nina Simmonds. She's still writing books on Asian cuisine, but this one is out of print and it's my favorite of hers (second place goes to her China Express) This is more recipe driven. However her recipes are structured somewhat differently which exhibits some insight into the cooking. So sections in recipes for the marinade, minced seasonings, sauce and so on. It's not that unusual really, but it's more granular than usual and the recipes work well.

    Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking by Eileen Yin Fei Lo This is a textbook to her more recent cooking classes. The dishes tend to be more complex, but illustrate particular techniques and flavors. She has LOTS of other books, none of them bad. For your situation, her New Cantonese Cooking is probably worth reading. But also her My Grandmother's Chinese Kitchen. This is about her experience growing up and learning to love food. This will give you more cultural understanding and some good recipes. Besides cooking, it's just good reading. And Grace Young wrote a very similar book but on growing up in California, The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen. They talk about the same holidays and dishes and many similar experiences but in very different situations.

    Fuchsia Dunlop is writing excellent regional cookbooks. I was less impressed with her Every Grain of Rice and Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper.

    The Hakka Cookbook by Linda Lau Anusasananan is probably the best book of this particular ethnic group's cooking. It's on the expensive side new, but used copies are available now.

    The Food of Taiwan by Cathy Erway. My preference for the Taiwan region, and her frequent use of black vinegar is enlightening.

    Kenneth Lo has written many good books as well. His early books (up until about 1975) are written for a time when traditional ingredients were not available. His later books are detailed, well photographed, quality recipes. Special mention to his regional cookbook. Very different from anything else I've ever seen. These are all out of print, but well represented in the used market.
    chrislehrer likes this.
  3. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    Retired Chef
    Just learn the traditional dishes. There are like 500 dishes you should know from memory and without the menu.

    The thing with Chinese food is there is only one right way to do a classic dish. Any other way is wrong.