Kylie’s re­turn to roots a recipe for suc­cess

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

SEC­OND-GEN­ER­A­TION Aus­tralian Kylie Kwong re­turns to the land of her an­ces­tors in this nine-part se­ries re­trac­ing the steps that led her great­grand­fa­ther from a Can­tonese vil­lage to Aus­tralia dur­ing the gol­drush.

Tonight’s episode fo­cuses on the south­ern city of Guangzhou in the Guang­dong prov­ince ( for­merly Can­ton), and the Syd­ney-based chef and au­thor be­comes the first de­scen­dant in 90 years to re­turn to her an­ces­tral home, Tois­han.

Not con­tent with pitch­ing up to meet a vil­lage full of rel­a­tives she’s never clapped eyes on be­fore, Kwong ( who speaks no Can­tonese or Man­darin) de­cides to com­man­deer the vil­lage wok and whip up an Aus­tralian-in­flu­enced Chi­nese ban­quet for her fam­ily. No pres­sure, then.

All goes smoothly, though, as anybody who has dined at Kwong’s ex­quis­ite Surry Hills restau­rant Billy Kwong will have pre­dicted, and the as­sem­bled cousins, aunts and un­cles tuck into her Chi­nese coleslaw, stir­fried mush­rooms with gin­ger and gar­lic, stir-fried bok choy with gar­lic, and roast suck­ling pig with­out in­ci­dent. And with­out, of course, a hefty Syd­ney restau­rant-sized bill.

Kwong is clearly moved by the visit in this episode, which is more trav­el­ogue than cook­ery show ( although recipes for the many dishes she pre­pares through­out the se­ries can be found in the spin-off cook­book).

We see Kwong speak­ing with a vil­lage el­der in Tois­han about a cen­turies-old Kwong fam­ily tree, of which she has a branch, and this Syd­ney born and raised Aussie has a touch­ing re­union with a long-lost Chi­nese cousin. Kwong finds an in­stant con­nec­tion. ‘‘ We can’t speak each other’s lan­guage, but we ac­tu­ally don’t need

Aussie in­flu­ence: Kylie Kwong draws a crowd as she pre­pares a meal in China to,’’ she says. In ad­di­tion to Guangzhou, where the at­mos­phere is strange but so fa­mil­iar, Kwong trav­els fur­ther afield in fu­ture episodes in­clud­ing to Hong Kong ( where she sam­ples what would ap­pear to be the world’s most glam­orous dim sum), Bei­jing, Fu­jian prov­ince, Hangzhou, Ti­bet and more.

She trawls through mar­kets and tiny laneway shops, sam­ples meals in top Shang­hai restau­rants, picks up re­gional cook­ing skills and com­bines some of her favourite recipes with what­ever in­gre­di­ents are avail­able.

She even has an arm-wres­tle with a 60-year-old woman in Hangzhou for good mea­sure.

At the heart of this colour­ful and evoca­tive jour­ney through­out China and Ti­bet is the premise of food and fam­ily, which are cen­tral to Chi­nese cul­ture, and which res­onate deeply with Kwong.

The jour­ney back to her roots to re­search this se­ries ap­pears to have strength­ened a sense of her own Chi­nese her­itage.

‘‘ By re­trac­ing my great-grand­fa­ther’s foot­steps I have learned a lot about this coun­try and its food,’’ she says.

‘‘ Food and fam­ily are the ce­ment of the cul­ture. The ties still bind.’’

Michelle Rowe

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