We chat to the executive chef at Henry Wong, about honing his palate in Hong Kong, being inspired by his foodie family and how he almost became an accountant
Tell me about your cooking
My cooking style is Cantonese so lots of stir frying, steaming and deep frying using the finest ingredients. There’s no excuse for poor quality. I source the best meat, fish and vegetables along with top quality soy sauce.
Describe your perfect meal
My perfect Chinese meal is king prawn and shitaki mushroom yuk sung, followed by soft shell crab with chilli and garlic, sirloin steak with teriyaki sauce, steamed seabass with lemon & bean sauce and stir fried gai lan (Chinese vegetables) with ginger, along with a bowl of spring onion fried rice.
How did you become a chef?
My family’s love of food was an important factor. From the age of five I went to the market in Hong Kong every morning with my grandmother to buy ingredients for lunch. She introduced me to amazing food and flavours. Later I worked as an accountant at my uncle’s restaurant, but I couldn’t stay out of the kitchen. At any opportunity I was with the chefs in the kitchen learning the skill of cooking and honing my palate. I moved to Birmingham in 1982 and worked in my mother’s kitchen for ten years before opening my own restaurant Ricky’s. I’ve been at Henry Wong since 1995.
What do you eat when at home?
A fresh simple supper of steamed fish and vegetables.
Who’s the best chef in the world and why? And who’s the best in Brum?
Nobu Yuki head chef at Nobu is inspirational. It’s impossible to say who is the best in Birmingham.
Is the customer always right?
If a customer takes a delicate steamed fish and mixes it in a bowl with a sweet and sour dish, that is not right.
What’s the best thing about being a chef?
I love creating and developing new dishes. It’s very satisfying.
What’s the worst thing about being a chef?
The kitchen can be a tense place to be. Also, when I eat out and I feel the food isn’t up to scratch it upsets me so much I cannot eat. I leave feeling hungry.
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
I like things to look beautiful, so I’d probably be a photographer.
What do you recommend from this evening’s menu?
Shitake mushroom prawn yuk sung with a nice cold glass of Chablis
- 8 large king prawns
- 1 medium egg yolk
- 20g green and red peppers
- ½ onion finely chopped
- 1 medium hot red chilli
- ½ litre of vegetable cooking oil
- 1 tbsp chilli oil
- 1 tsp salt
- A tbsp cornflour
Remove the shells from the prawns, but keep the tails intact. Remove the veins by cutting the back of the prawns. Slightly open them gently pulling to remove the vein. Clean and dry the prawns. Cut the green and red peppers into small pieces. De-seed the red chilli by cutting away the top and then removing the seeds with a sharp knife. Cut the chilli into small rings. Crack an egg and drain out the egg white. Beat the egg yolk in a bowl . Add the prawns to the beaten yolk ensuring they are completely coated. Add the salt and cornflour to the prawns and mix well. Heat ½ litre of oil in a wok. Test the oil temperature by dropping a small piece of bread into it. When the bread is golden brown the oil is hot enough. Put the prawns in to fry for 1 minute. Remove once they are golden. Remove the oil from the wok and pour into a heat proof jug to cool. Reheat the wok and add 1 tbsp of chilli oil. Add the onion, peppers and red chilli rings and stir fry for 30 seconds. Add the fried prawns and salt to the wok. Toss the prawns a few times to combine the flavours and serve.