Recreate the magic of Hong Kong in your kitchen

Hong Kong is an explorer's dream and a food-lover's paradise. Picture: Shutterstock
Hong Kong is an explorer's dream and a food-lover's paradise. Picture: Shutterstock

Hong Kong is an explorer's dream and a food-lover's paradise. It's the bowl of beef sa cha noodles washed down with a hot cup of signature Hong Kong milk tea at one of the city's countless cha chaan teng. It's the bamboo baskets filled with delicate dumplings placed onto pristine white tablecloths at a Michelin-starred dim sum restaurant. It's the cocktail-fused table of friends hungrily dipping crab claws and wagyu beef into aromatic hotpot at midnight.

Like the city itself, Hong Kong Local celebrates the traditional and contemporary Cantonese cuisine that is cherished by locals and fervently adored by visitors, while embracing the extraordinary influences that continue to shape Hong Kong's unrivalled food scene. Hong Kong Local is packed with delicious yet approachable recipes, so you can recreate the magic of Hong Kong at home.

  • Hong Kong Local, by ArChan Chan. Smith Street Books, $39.99. Pictures: Alana Dimou. Food Stylist: Bridget Wald
Sa cha beef noodles. Picture: Alana Dimou

Sa cha beef noodles. Picture: Alana Dimou

Sa cha beef noodles

In Hong Kong this dish is known as satay, but it's not like the Thai-style satay made with peanuts and turmeric. Hong Kong-style satay sauce (also called sa cha sauce) is dark brown in colour and less spicy. Though not a fancy dish, a bowl of this is one of the most popular things to order in a Hong Kong-style cafe.

Ingredients

300g beef tenderloin (or any cut for quick-cooking), cut into thin strips

100g sa cha sauce (see notes)

1 tsp caster sugar

3 tbsp canola oil (or other cooking oil)

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1 red shallot, finely chopped

340g instant noodles

sliced spring onion to serve

toasted sesame seeds, to serve

Marinade:

1 tbsp light soy sauce

1 tsp caster sugar

2 tsp cornflour

1 tbsp canola oil

Method

1. To make the marinade, combine all the ingredients and two tablespoons of water in a bowl. Add the beef and turn to coat well, then set aside to marinate for 30 minutes.

2. In a small bowl, combine the sa cha sauce, sugar and 125ml water.

3. Heat a frying pan over high heat. Add one tablespoon oil, then the beef and saute for two minutes until almost cooked and just starting to brown. Transfer the beef to a bowl and set aside. Wipe out the pan and return to high heat. Heat the remaining oil, then add the garlic and shallot and saute for 30 seconds. Add the beef, followed by the sauce mixture. Reduce the heat to low and cook for about two minutes, or until heated through and the beef has had time to absorb the flavour.

4. Meanwhile, cook the noodles according to the packet instructions. Drain.

5. Divide the noodles among serving bowls and top with the beef and sauce and sprinkle with spring onion and sesame seeds.

Notes:

For a healthier version, use rice vermicelli instead of instant noodles.

Sa cha sauce is available in Asian grocery stores.

Serves 4.

Sai do si, Hong Kong-style French toast. Picture: Alana Dimou

Sai do si, Hong Kong-style French toast. Picture: Alana Dimou

Sai do si (Hong Kong-style French toast)

Hong Kong-style French toast is often made with savoury fillings, such as peanut butter, cheese or satay beef (I use kaya jam here, but feel free to use any flavour jam or other filling you might like). The bread is coated in egg and deep-fried (rather than pan-fried) and served with a generous amount of butter, maple syrup or condensed milk. My recipe here gives instructions for pan-frying, as it's easier to do at home, but do deep-fry if you wish. Paired with a cup of tea, this French toast is perfect for breakfast or at tea time.

Ingredients

4 slices soft white bread, crusts removed

1 tbsp kaya jam (see note)

2 eggs

2 tbsp milk

1 tbsp vegetable oil

20g butter, plus extra to serve

maple syrup, to serve

Method

1. Spread two slices of the bread with the kaya jam. Sandwich with the remaining bread and gently press to seal.

2. Whisk together the eggs and milk in a shallow bowl. Dip the sandwiches into the mixture to coat evenly.

3. Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the coated sandwiches and fry for one minute each side or until golden brown, then stand the sandwich up and the edges for about 30 seconds each. Serve hot with extra butter and some maple syrup.

Note: Kaya jam is a sweet spreadable condiment made from coconut milk and sugar. It's very popular in Singapore and Malaysia and is normally a light yellow-green colour. There is also a caramelised version, which is a darker brown colour.

Serves 2.

Steamed rice with prawn and lotus leaf. Picture: Alana Dimou

Steamed rice with prawn and lotus leaf. Picture: Alana Dimou

Steamed rice with prawn and lotus leaf

What's the best part of this dish? I would have to say the rice. It absorbs the flavour of the garlic, the prawn juices and the fragrance of the lotus leaf. The perfect simple yet tasty dish! Even simpler if you have chilled leftover rice from the day before.

Ingredients

200g jasmine rice

100ml canola oil (or other cooking oil)

2 egg whites

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

1/4 tsp ground white pepper

8 garlic cloves, chopped

1 dried lotus leaf (see note)

4 fresh tiger prawns, peeled and deveined, halved lengthways

4 spring onions, white parts thinly sliced into rounds, green parts julienned

2cm piece ginger, sliced

1 tbsp roughly chopped red shallot

1/2 tbsp roughly chopped coriander root

1 tbsp shaoxing rice wine

1/2 tbsp caster sugar

2 1/2 tbsp light soy sauce

1/2 tbsp oyster sauce

Method

1. Cook the rice using a rice cooker. Set aside to cool.

2. Heat a large wok or frying pan over high heat. Add two tablespoons of the oil and as soon as it is hot add the egg white and stir for five seconds. Add the cooled rice and stir-fry until the rice is coated with the egg white. Season with salt and pepper, then transfer to a plate.

3. Wipe out the wok or frying pan, add another two tablespoons of the oil and heat over medium heat. Add two tablespoon chopped garlic and fry for one minute or until lightly golden. Scoop the garlic and oil into a small bowl and mix with the remaining chopped garlic.

4. Grab a large wok or frying pan with a lid that will fit a 25.5cm bamboo steamer basket. Add two litres water and bring to the boil. Quickly blanch the lotus leaf so it turns soft, then remove.

5. Line the bamboo basket with the lotus leaf, then spoon in the rice and top with the eight prawn halves, meat side up. Spoon over the garlic mixture. Fold the lotus leaf over so it covers the prawns and rice. Bring the water in the wok or pan to the boil again, then steam the prawns for 10 minutes.

6. Meanwhile, heat the remaining one tablespoon of the oil in a small frying pan over medium heat, add the sliced spring onion whites and the ginger, shallot and coriander root and saute for about one minute or until fragrant. Add the shaoxing wine, sugar and 21/2 tablespoons of water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and stir in the soy sauce and oyster sauce.

7. Open up the lotus leaf, pour over the sweetened soy sauce and garnish with the spring onion greens. Serve immediately.

Note: Dried lotus leaf: The huge leaves of the lotus plant, which have a diameter slightly bigger than a basketball. Usually sold dried, the leaves are often used as a wrapper for rice dishes as the rice will take on the delicate fragrance from the leaves when steamed.

Serves 2.

Yeung chi kam lo, Sago with coconut, mango and pomelo. Picture: Alana Dimou

Yeung chi kam lo, Sago with coconut, mango and pomelo. Picture: Alana Dimou

Yeung chi kam lo (Sago with coconut, mango and pomelo)

This refreshing mango soup was created by a Hong Kong chef in the 1980s. Served chilled, its popularity lies in just the right balance of flavours and textures - the soft, sweet mango, light coconut cream, chewy sago pearls and slightly bitter pomelo popping in the mouth. Hongkongers consider it a staple in the dessert world.

Ingredients

150g sago pearls

150ml evaporated milk

3 ripe mangoes, peeled, flesh finely diced

1 pomelo

Coconut syrup:

100g yellow rock sugar, or to taste

200ml coconut cream

tiny pinch of fine sea salt

Method

1. To make the coconut syrup, place the sugar and one litre water in a medium saucepan and gently bring to the boil over low heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat. Add the coconut cream and salt and mix well, then set aside to cool.

2. Pour one litre water into a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the sago and boil for about eight minutes, stirring occasionally to stop it sticking to the bottom of the pan. Remove from the heat, then cover with a lid and set aside for 15-20 minutes until the sago is just cooked and transparent.

3. Drain and rinse the sago under cold running water to cool it to room temperature, then add it to the cooled coconut syrup.

4. Blend the evaporated milk and two-thirds of the mango until smooth, then add to the sago mixture and mix well. Scoop it into a serving bowl, then cover and chill in the fridge for one hour.

5. Peel the pomelo, then gently separate the flesh into small pieces. Add to the sago mixture, along with the remaining mango, and serve cold.

Serves 4.

Hong Kong Local, by ArChan Chan. Smith Street Books, $39.99. Pictures: Alana Dimou. Food Stylist: Bridget Wald

Hong Kong Local, by ArChan Chan. Smith Street Books, $39.99. Pictures: Alana Dimou. Food Stylist: Bridget Wald

This story Recreate the magic of Hong Kong in your kitchen first appeared on The Canberra Times.