Why Chinese Plums Are Ando's Pastry Chef Joanna Yuen's Favourite Local Ingredient
As part of our series celebrating the vibrancy and community within Hong Kong’s dining scene, we spoke to several of the industry’s leading lights about why they love the city’s unique food culture. Here, Joanna Yuen—head pastry chef at Spanish-Japanese restaurant Ando and former pastry chef of Nobu Hong Kong, as well as a recipient of Tatler Dining's Pastry Chef Of The Year award—tells us about the importance of wok hei in Hong Kong cuisine and the variety of ways she loves using Chinese ume.
Tell us about your favourite Hong Kong food memories.
My favourite Hong Kong food memory is of stir-fried beef hor fun with spring onion—and it has to be done with thin noodles. Traditional beef hor fun is made with thick rice noodles that resemble fettuccine, and are made with rice and no egg; thin hor fun is so much harder for chefs to make, and you really need that wok hei to separate the noodles and not break them with your wok chan (wok spatula). When the thin hor fun is coated with so much sauce, and the spring onion and beef is stir-fried to just the right texture, it’s heaven on a plate.
The best place for beef hor fun was the long-closed Ho Hung Kee, which used to be on Jardine’s Bazaar in Causeway Bay (where tofu restaurant Yan Wo Dou Bun Chung is now). The stir-fried beef there used to be ace! But [in general], it does hugely depend on which chef is on duty that day—you can really tell. Sometimes the wok hei is off the roof and on those days, I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.
What are some of your favourite local ingredients to use?
My favourite ingredient to use is Chinese ume. Whether it’s in appetisers, desserts or drinks, you can easily find a use for ume at every stage of their growth—from sour baby plums to blotted mature ones, when they’re covered with dark spots and look like they’re about to rot, but are actually in their prime. Dolce Dolce is my go-to spot to buy them.
In summer, I like adding ume to pickled ginger to add aroma. I then blend the vinegar that was used to pickle the ginger with macerated ume to make a sweet and sour juice to drink with soda. You can also make a foam out of this mixture and add it to milk ice-cream. It also goes incredibly well with osmanthus as a sauce for candied lotus.
If you could only visit one restaurant in Hong Kong again, what would it be—and how does it sum up what you love about the city’s food scene?
My go-to place is Shek Kee Kitchen in Tin Hau—it is so good. Their food has so much flavour and wok hei exactly where it ought to be. This family business has been around for ages and I love the sense of familiarity whenever I go there—their lady boss greets everyone like they are their sons and daughters. And their claypot stir-fried rice noodles with shrimp paste (蝦醬粉絲煲) are the best in Hong Kong too!
- Dolce Dolce, www.dolcedolce.com.hk
- Shek Kee Kitchen, G/F, Fai Hon Building, 17 Ngan Mok Street, Tin Hau, Hong Kong, +852 2571 3348