The tra­di­tion of yum cha may seem sa­cred, but for both sea­soned veter­ans and a new gen­er­a­tion of chefs, the pos­si­bil­i­ties of Hong Kong’s iconic meal are vast and un­ex­plored. Char­maine Mok ex­plains why T.Din­ing’s Dim Sum Duets is a project for our times

T.Dining by Hong Kong Tatler - - Contents - Fol­low the hash­tag #DimSumDuets to ex­plore the project and find out about up­com­ing events by T.Din­ing

Rein­vent­ing the art of yum cha

How much in­no­va­tion can Chi­nese food take, re­ally? When it comes to the ques­tion of part­ing ways with tra­di­tion, it seems to us that there’s a ten­dency to see things in black and white—that is, the be­lief that cer­tain things are meant to be un­touched. But we’re not go­ing to ar­gue about how tire­some it is to con­tinue see­ing “up­grades” such as chefs putting gold leaf on har gao, or us­ing caviar in place of the more hum­ble crab roe to em­bel­lish their siu mai. These ac­cou­trements, at best, are dis­trac­tions—a hol­low at­tempt to add a false value propo­si­tion to dishes that have been per­fected over decades, even cen­turies. But to stop ex­plor­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ties would be a fal­lacy, too.

What would hap­pen, we won­dered, if we ig­nited a con­ver­sa­tion around dim sum and its po­ten­tial it­er­a­tions? As Hong Kong’s most iconic culi­nary prac­tice, it’s also one of the most fa­mil­iar—most of us will have a ref­er­ence point for these de­li­cious lit­tle morsels hid­den in those tow­er­ing, weath­ered bam­boo bas­kets, eaten un­re­servedly with slosh­ings of tea. We also wanted to bring to­gether chefs from dif­fer­ent back­grounds to ex­plore the tech­niques and flavours that are so an­chored to Hong Kong’s culi­nary iden­tity. By pair­ing up vet­eran Chi­nese chefs who boast solid dim sum ex­pe­ri­ence with a new gen­er­a­tion of young guns, and then hav­ing them ex­plore the genre to come up with a col­lab­o­ra­tive menu of new yum cha cre­ations to­gether, the idea of Dim Sum Duets was born—a project that cham­pi­ons both our lo­cal tra­di­tions and the most tal­ented chefs work­ing to­day.

With the sup­port of Swiss brand V-ZUG and their kitchen show­room ZUGORAMA, we were able to—over the course of nine evenings in Novem­ber 2017 and May 2018—work with 12 in­cred­i­ble Hong Kong-based chefs who pre­sented their own vi­sion of dim sum to an au­di­ence of food lovers. The leg­endary Chi­nese master chefs in­cluded Mango Tsang of Dy­nasty Gar­den, Le­ung Fai-hung of Hoi King Heen, Jack Chan of Ce­les­tial Court and Lee Man-sing of Mott

32; rep­re­sent­ing the new gen­er­a­tion of chefs work­ing out­side of the clas­sic Can­tonese canon were May Chow of Lit­tle Bao, Max Levy of Okra, Vicky Lau of Tate Din­ing Room & Bar, Ni­cholas Chew of Bibo, Vicky Cheng of VEA, Hi­demichi Seki of Tenku Ryu­gin, Agustin Balbi of Haku and Daniel Calvert of Belon. Each night brought a dif­fer­ent vibe, and an ar­ray of in­trigu­ing cre­ations—all of them sur­pris­ing, witty, and in­cred­i­bly won­der­ful to eat.

For the chefs, the ca­ma­raderie that built up over the course of the event was the most re­ward­ing part of the project. New con­nec­tions were forged, and fresh ideas and in­spi­ra­tions were ig­nited. Levy found the col­lab­o­ra­tion free of ego, one that be­came a true meet­ing of minds. “Chef Lee’s use of scal­lion oil with lo­tus seeds in a sweet pair­ing re­ally caught me off guard,” he says. “It re­minded me of all the uses of vegeta­bles in sweet dishes that I grew up with.” Mean­while, Chan rel­ished the op­por­tu­nity to work with French-trained chefs Cheng and

Chew, with whom he cre­ated dim sum such as spicy minced goose crys­tal bun with XO sauce, and “har gao” with chopped cele­riac fill­ing and shrimp oil.

Dim Sum Duets is just the be­gin­ning of a new di­a­logue, a start­ing point for new ways of ex­plor­ing a time-hon­oured tra­di­tion—not with gold leaf, but with an open mind and an ap­petite for learn­ing from dif­fer­ent points of view.

Dim Sum Duets is a project that cham­pi­ons both our lo­cal tra­di­tions and the most tal­ented chefs work­ing to­day


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