While I was writing it, I came across a page I tore out of the South China Morning Post in October last year. It includes a letter from Dr Choo-hoo Giam, a member of the animals committee of CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. What is particularly interesting about the letter is that Dr Giam points out the extent to which it is not only the Chinese and their notorious shark’s fin soup that are to blame for the devastation of worldwide shark stocks. The main points Dr Giam makes are as follows: Continue reading…
Banquets, Chinese food culture, Environment, Hong Kong, Shark's Fin, Unusual delicacies / 8 Comments
Awards, Chefs, Chinese restaurants, Hong Kong, Restaurants / 1 Comment
Some time ago I wrote a piece for the Financial Times about the Michelin Guide’s awarding of its maximum accolade, three stars, to a Chinese restaurant, for the first time. While researching the article, I interviewed the director of the Michelin Guides, Jean-Luc Naret, on the controversy over whether one could judge Chinese and Western restaurants by the same criteria. Since I spoke to him, I’ve had one more niggling question, which is: with most Chinese restaurants, you really need to go with a large group to see what they can do, so aren’t they at a disadvantage when the judging is done by lone Michelin inspectors on repeated visits? Perhaps the inspectors don’t go alone, but it’s hard to imagine that their expenses budget would cover repeated visits with a party of people. If you visit a typical high-end Chinese restaurant alone, or with one dining companion, you are likely to be able to try only a few dishes, and to miss the excitement that comes from a really well-planned and diverse dinner for a group, which can be a kind of showcase for different cooking methods. In general, it is international hotels with Chinese restaurants that offer something equivalent to a Western tasting menu: could this explain the much-criticised focus on hotel restaurants in the inaugural Michelin Guide to Hong Kong and Macau? Hmm…
Chefs, Chinese cuisine, Chinese restaurants, Hong Kong, Restaurants / 4 Comments
I promised to write a little more on this story, and ended up doing a piece for the Financial Times, which you can read here. It was an interesting subject to research – and I had a very robust discussion on the phone with the director of Michelin guides, Jean-Luc Naret. I pushed him quite hard on the subject of rubbery things, which I honestly don’t believe most Europeans can appreciate (it took me years). His argument was that Michelin inspectors, as professionals, are duty-bound to understand the cuisines they assess – including alien aspects such as texture foods. Which conjures up a rather amusing picture of Michelin inspectors munching their way through piles of fish maw, sea cucumber and bird’s nest, trying to grasp the finer points of slitheriness…
For the first time, Michelin has awarded its maximum honour, three stars, to a Chinese chef - Chan Yan Tak of the Lung King Heen restaurant in the Four Seasons hotel in Hong Kong. The amazing accolade came in the first Michelin Guide to Hong Kong and Macau.
I had lunch at the restaurant in May, and briefly met the chef himself. As this was at the tail end of an exhausting gastronomic tour of China, I wasn’t capable of embarking on a full tasting menu, but enjoyed some of his delicate dim sum.
I’ll be writing more about this later, but wanted to flag up an interview I did for the BBC last night – not sure how long it will remain on their website, but you might just catch it!