East-meets-west diner food

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Added
10 October, 2017

Jeremy Pang shares a snapshot of Hong Kong’s street food and diner culture in his new book. Rest assured though, it’s an easy cooking style to recreate at home. Grab your wok and dive in!

Let Jeremy set the scene: If you’ve ever watched a Hong Kong gangster movie, you’ll know what a dai pai dong is, even if you’ve never been to Hong Kong. At the start of the movie, once the cameras have finished panning across the bird’s eye view of the skyscrapers and twinkling harbours, the real action begins, most often in the middle of a crowded street market. Once they hit the market scene there is likely to be a token shot of some guy in a sweat-stained white tank top, wielding a giant cleaver or whisking a featherweight wok. That is a dai pai dong. It’s a type of street food eating establishment that has been around in Hong Kong since the 1800s. This is the place to come for the most street level, sink-or-swim experience if you want the most authentic lesson in Cantonese cooking.

Hong Kong’s cuisine draws on everything from classic Chinese to America’s west coast to French Vietnamese. It’s a city where apartment sizes are likened to the size of large parking spaces, where space is limited, and home kitchens are often a secondary thought, or else there would be nowhere to sleep.  

As a result, cooks and chefs in Hong Kong have to be super-efficient. Not just with their kitchen space, but also the way they prepare and serve their food. This can be seen all over Hong Kong, from the aforementioned street-food stalls, to the smartest restaurants. Luckily for us, Jeremy has devised a clever system for wok cooking, that once you’ve tried it for Chinese food, you may well end up using it for all your cooking.


The Wok clock

When it comes to learning how to cook Chinese cuisine, Jeremy has one top tip: prepare your ingredients in an organized manner, using a round clock as a plate. He calls this the Wok Clock and it works like this;

Prepare your ingredients and then place them in their cooking order, beginning at 12 o’clock, working your way around a plate. Whether you are cooking a stir-fry or a slow-cooked curry, it works.

Start with the base ingredients (onion, garlic, ginger), and firmer vegetables, then move on to the meats or other proteins, followed by the sauce or braising liquid. It’s that simple.


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