Ex­ec­u­tive chef at Me­gan’s Kitchen

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Hong Kong-born Au-ye­ung Kwok-man’s love of cook­ing started when he was young. Ex­per­i­ment­ing with dif­fer­ent omelette fill­ings piqued his in­ter­est in a culi­nary ca­reer. He worked in ho­tels and restau­rants for 20 years, rack­ing up an im­pres­sive range of Chi­nese and West­ern culi­nary ex­pe­ri­ences. In 2005, he be­came ex­ec­u­tive chef at Me­gan’s Kitchen, a con­tem­po­rary hot­pot and Can­tonese restau­rant con­cept.

“I used to gather with my chef friends after work, hot­pot was our ‘must-eat’ ev­ery week. We ex­am­ined soup bases, in­gre­di­ents and ex­changed all sorts of ideas al­to­gether,” Au-ye­ung says. “Hot­pot was one of my most craved foods when I was a kid, but it only be­came af­ford­able once I started to earn my own liv­ing. Beef balls are my favourite.”

Un­like most hot­pot chains, Me­gan’s Kitchen also serves pre­mium Can­tonese dishes, such as sautéed spare ribs with straw­ber­ries and mango, and fried pi­geon cooked to a se­cret recipe. While th­ese dishes are pop­u­lar, what re­ally draw the crowds are the in­no­va­tive hot­pot in­gre­di­ents and wide se­lec­tion of soup bases.

Au-ye­ung puts his own spin on in­gre­di­ents with French-in­spired twists such as stuffed cut­tle­fish ball with es­car­got, stuffed pork ball with ch­est­nut, and foie gras and duck meat dumpling. He be­lieves top-qual­ity in­gre­di­ents are cru­cial for hot­pot be­cause they ar­rive raw. “Guests cook the food on its own, like a slice of raw beef or fresh lob­ster. It’s not like a stir-fried dish where you stir in a few in­gre­di­ents to­gether and en­hance the dif­fer­ent flavours,” he says. As well as trusted sup­pli­ers, Au-ye­ung sched­ules a trip to the wet mar­ket ev­ery morn­ing to hand­pick pro­duce to en­sure his guests ex­pe­ri­ence his cre­ations as fresh as pos­si­ble. He has a few chef ’s tricks up his sleeve. To keep one of his meat­ball con­coc­tions fresh, he says, “I pick out pro­duce that is not too ripe [so it will be ripe when the meat­balls are ready to eat].”

The chef also adapts the menu to meet din­ers’ ever-chang­ing pref­er­ences. Serv­ing broths with sea­sonal in­gre­di­ents al­lows Me­gan’s Kitchen to con­stantly tweak its soup bases and menu, cre­at­ing in­trigu­ing new dishes that at­tract a steady stream of loyal cus­tomers.

Hot­pot al­lows cus­tomers to choose ex­actly what they want to eat, mak­ing it easy for the chef to spot any trends in tastes. “We are pay­ing more at­ten­tion to sourc­ing ‘healthy’ in­gre­di­ents as cus­tomers are get­ting more con­scious about their health as well as en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion. For ex­am­ple, we now serve Korean ham, which has lower sodium and lower fat com­pared to tra­di­tional lun­cheon meat,” Au-ye­ung says.

Go­ing healthy doesn’t mean more re­stric­tions to the typ­i­cally yeet hay (“hot air”, or too much heat in­side the body) dish. Au-ye­ung ex­per­i­ments with un­usual sea­sonal broths ev­ery fall and win­ter: Ital­ian parma ham con­sommé soup base in 2015; creamy ch­est­nut and mush­room in 2016; and dou­ble-boiled French spring chicken stuffed with porcini mush­rooms and quinoa last year. He be­lieves most Hongkongers are too busy to pre­pare a good home-cooked meal, so the restau­rant should pro­vide a has­sle-free din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence with good-qual­ity food and ser­vice.

“Hav­ing hot­pot should be de-stress­ing. It is usu­ally a happy oc­ca­sion when fam­ily and friends gather for lunch or din­ner, with a great va­ri­ety of dishes to cook to­gether. There is a sense of to­geth­er­ness and shar­ing that makes hot­pot the ul­ti­mate com­fort food.”

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