How Hong Kong's Vegetables And Char Siu Inspire Bakehouse's Gregoire Michaud
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, Gregoire Michaud – founder and pastry chef extraordinaire behind bakery-café Bakehouse and wholesale bread and pastry suppliers Bread Elements—explains how Hong Kong produce helped him fall in love with vegetables all over again and why a Chai Wan roast meat joint encapsulates what he loves about the local food scene.
Tell us about one of your favourite Hong Kong food memories…
Arriving in Hong Kong 21 years ago, what struck me most was the vegetables here. Back home [in Switzerland] growing up around farming, I was accustomed to the usual suspects of carrots and cauliflower—so the world of diversity here was unreal!
But the diversity was only one side of the surprise; the way they were cooked—a quick high-temperature wok-fry for vibrant crisp greens—made me fall in love with vegetables all over again. Then there were all the different pickled and preserved fruit and vegetables here, which were so intense and mind-blowing!
A favourite of mine is preserved tangerine peel, which I often use in rye sourdough or brioche, as well as caramelised with local raw cane sugar to flavour crème brûlée. I also love preserved olive mustard vegetables, which work a treat in focaccia.
What are some of your favourite local ingredients to use?
Over the years, I began to dig even deeper into the world of local farming, hunting for the origins of all the amazing produce here. One of my fondest memories is visiting Zen Organic Farm and discovering so much local fruit and vegetables, grown by such wonderful people; imagine my surprise when they told me they had even built a wood-fired oven!
Ever since I started visiting Zen, their farmer’s mother gifts me lin go (sticky rice cake) and lo bak go (turnip cake) every year, which she makes herself using the farm’s ingredients—it has a very emotional meaning to me.
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?
If I had to choose only one place to go again, it would be there at Zen Organic Farm. Sitting within the field, enjoying fresh fruit, vegetables and freshly baked bread from their wood-fired oven.
Aside from Zen, it would be Sun Kwai Heung, a humble local siu mei (Cantonese roast meats) shop in Chai Wan. It is my go-to place for the best char siu (Cantonese barbecued pork) and siu yuk (Cantonese crispy pork belly) in the city. The restaurant itself is unpretentious, where people just come and go, but the level of care they have towards their meat is exceptional – it sums up what I love about Hong Kong's food scene and culture.
Most of the time when I visit, I’ll tell the sifu at the shop that I'd like "half fatty, half lean" char siu with more geung yung (ginger scallion oil)—and because I speak Cantonese with a foreigner's face, it always makes the sifu smile a little. I would then sit on a round plastic chair near the entrance and eat my meal, often sharing tables with locals. The restaurant might not be perfectly clean, the staff might even be slightly rude, but the food they serve is truly delicious and exceptional.
- Zen Organic Farm, Ping Che, Ta Kwu Ling, New Territories, Hong Kong, +852 6692 2671
- Sun Kwai Heung, Shop 17, G/F, Kam Tam Yun House, 345 Chai Wan Road, Chai Wan, Hong Kong, +852 2556 1183