"Chinese cuisine presents a lot of variants: in order to master the art of cooking Cantonese, skill is only one basic requirement.
A Chef should also have thorough knowledge of the uniqueness of different ingredients before marrying them with various cooking techniques to come up with new taste sensations.”
We got to meet with Siu Hin Chi, Executive Chef of Michelin One-star Ying Jee Club. The stylish and elegant restaurant offers the highest standard of excellence in Cantonese cuisine, impeccably presented dishes and an eclectic wine list for over 300 bottles from around the world.
We would like to date back to when you started, in 1979.
I was 16 years old and at that time the economy in HK was not doing well, the most popular occupations were constructions, renovations and cooking. I was struggling to find a job and raise up some money, so I decided to get started in the environment I liked the best: the kitchen.
I started as an helper in a restaurant where a schoolmate helped me to get the job.
I cleaned the kitchen every day with no chance to chop any food. At those times, the Chefs wouldn’t teach the juniors directly, so in order to get some knowledge, you would have to observe on the side and treasure all the tips you could get on the way, keeping your head down and work.
How did your experience influence you?
I had always enjoyed eating, cooking and sharing food with other people.
When I was a kid I used to steal food from my mum’s kitchen while she was preparing dinner for us.
What was the breakthrough in your career?
After 7 years of long working hours and learning, I moved to another restaurant that was doing fine dining cuisine: that was my turning point.
New place, new cuisine, new clients and new targets.
To you, how do you go from being a good cook to be a Chef?
A cook just executes the dish, in an excellent way yes, but he doesn’t bring any personality to it.
A Chef is the creator of the menu, according to his experience, taste and skills.
Not only, he has to be the manager of the kitchen, leading the team with teaching them his style and philosophy.
How did you feel when receiving the first Micheline star?
10 years ago, the Micheline guide launched its first Hong Kong edition.
Since then, people got more aware about the importance of the guide worldwide.
I have to say that when I received my first star, with T’ang Court in 2009, I still didn’t understand the impact it would have had in my work life and career soon after.
What are the prejudices against Chinese chefs?
Without doubts, Micheline guide helped China and its chefs to gain credibility and raise the standards.
What big changes have you noticed over the 20 years in your customers?
The culture of Cantonese style restaurants at the beginning didn’t pay attention to the interior and the atmosphere of the place, which is something that nowadays people research and want while eating to enjoying a full experience.
What is the essence of Cantonese cuisine?
To start, the freshness of the ingredient you source, then the temperature of the fire and the timing in serving: it is a key combination for Cantonese food that must be served hot.
Most challenging ingredient to cook?
Fresh Seafood, it is very hard to get the right cooking time.
Is there a dish that sums up your adventures? That truly represents you?
The signature dish: stir-fried sliced lobster with shallot, red and spring onions.
It is a dish that embraces different textures and cooking techniques: it needs to be deep-fried to the point where the surface is crispy but the core is just cooked.
How do you create a new dish? It must be a lot of experimenting…
Where does your inspiration come from?
Creating a new dish is a deep process that involves both your experience and skills. The most important is to understand the ingredient you use, the cooking method, the textures and the presentation. It has to be all perfectly balanced, like in a composition.
Do you find it challenging to constantly innovate?
To me, the important is to listen to my customers and understand the market through them.
If appreciate my food I am happy, if they complain I am also happy because it is a chance to improve and change in better. Being able to adjust and adapt is one of the best qualities a Chef could have.
What are three essential ingredients that are always in your kitchen?
Chicken, lobster and beef
Here some of the delicacies we tried...
- Dim Sum Combination
- Ying Jee combination
- Crispy salted Chicken
- Poached Chinese Lettuce with Wonton in Fish Soup
- Ying Jee dessert