Man Wah’s Wong Wing-Keung On Why Young Ginger Is An Oft-Overlooked Local Delicacy
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, Wong Wing-Keung—executive Chinese chef at Man Wah, Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong’s recently-renovated Cantonese dining institution – reminisces about his first job as a chef and explains the magic ingredient in his rendition of sweet and sour pork.
Tell us about your favourite Hong Kong food memories.
After years of training and working in the kitchen doing prep, one of my favourite memories is when I was promoted to be a chef and given the opportunity to actually cook in the Cantonese restaurant I was employed at the time—Jade Garden in Tsim Sha Tsui’s Tung Ying Building (where The One mall is located now).
I celebrated by inviting my mother to the restaurant; coincidentally, it was around the same time as her birthday, and I remember that day vividly because she really enjoyed the crispy fried spring chicken dish (脆皮炸子雞) that I prepared for her. Since she’s a bit older now and can no longer enjoy such indulgent dishes like the one I cooked for her all those years ago, both of us fondly remember that special moment.
What are some of your favourite local ingredients to use?
Young ginger is one of my favourite ingredients to work with. I like walking through different wet markets to pick the best young ginger; it’s a seasonal ingredient, so it can be challenging to find a good one.
In my early years, an elder chef taught me how to marinate and pickle young ginger. The process is quite tedious, taking a lot of time and perseverance, and it is a delicacy that is often overlooked. The most tedious part is the preparation—each piece of young ginger must be inspected to ensure that its root is tender and not too fibrous. After peeling off the skin by hand, the ginger is marinated with salt, then soaked in boiled water for four-to-five hours and drained. Finally, it is soaked in sugar water for a whole week.
Sweet and sour pork is one of my favourite dishes to make with young ginger. I replace the traditional pineapple element with young ginger to give the dish a crunchy sensation; its freshness also balances well with the fattiness from the pork.
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?
It would have to be Man Wah. I’ve been working for the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group for over a decade now. From Yee Tung Heen at The Excelsior to Man Wah at Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, the group has nurtured my growth as a chef; I’ve also made wonderful friends, both colleagues and guests.
Since it opened in the 1960s as one of the city’s first Cantonese restaurants during that period, I also feel that Man Wah has played an integral role in the Hong Kong food scene. As the Executive Chinese Chef of Man Wah, I am proud to bring the restaurant to a new era with a mission to deepen people’s appreciation for Cantonese cuisine.
Man Wah, Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, 5 Connaught Road Central, Hong Kong, +852 2825 4003