On your marks, get set, GO! Although our experience of the Hong Kong tourism board treasure hunt was not competitive, our fitness levels were sure put to the test as we scurried, Anneka Rice style, around Central London on Thursday evening. It was a good job we put trainers on that morning!
So, why did the Hong Kong tourism board have us running around London, gathering clues to inform our next move, with a quick pit stop to sample some delicious Cantonese fusion canapés courtesy of a two-Michelin starred chef before ending up in Aqua, one of London’s chicest bars to sip two of their latest Asian inspired cocktails on a grand terrace overlooking London’s unmistakable skyline? To showcase a few of the many cultural connections between our great city and Asia’s world city and to give us a preview of the week long street festival, Hong Kong – Live in London, taking place in Central London this week.
Hong Kong – Live in London will run on South Molton Street from Monday 12th – Sunday 18th September and will feature a glut of themed entertainment, including Chinese acrobatics, face changing, live music and dancing, not to mention five specially commissioned interactive dragons, each armed with an iPad to educate visitors about Hong Kong’s vibrant culture. The Dragons will introduce visitors to the many fascinating aspects of Hong Kong’s diverse culture – cosmopolitan, fusion, variety, vibrancy and trends. But why a dragon? Next year in Hong Kong is the year of the dragon, an ancient mythical creature that symbolises power, strength, and good luck. The Dragon is an integral part of everyday life and symbolic of the energy and spirit of Hong Kong. So don’t miss your chance to catch daily entertainment on South Molton Street at 1pm, 3pm and 5pm and don’t miss the opening ceremony and dragon dance, which kicks off at 5pm on Monday 12th September.
But hold on, perhaps even more exciting is YOUR chance to win one of seven holidays for two to Hong Kong and experience this lively city first hand! The holiday includes two economy flights on Cathay Pacific Airways, four nights hotel accommodation and a meal for two at two-Michelin Starred Ming Court at the Langham Place Hotel in Mongkok. There are also seven chances to win £400 vouchers for Bosideng, South Molton Street’s newest menswear store due to open in July 2012 and a meal for two with a bottle of wine at Mews of Mafair! The competition runs daily through the duration of the festival so head to South Molton Street before 6pm each day and enter your name into the hat. Wow… It’s as simple as that!!! And if shopping is your thing, special offers and free gifts are to be had at participating stores on South Molton Street. Shops taking part include Ted Baker, Comptoir des Cotonniers, Lush Cosmetics and more. See full details here.
I also urge you to visit the Hong Kong Film Festival from Tuesday 13th – Friday 16th September at Prince Charles Theatre, Leicester Square, London. For more information and tickets, visit www.thinkasiathinkhk.com
Now back to my evening of discovery (Hong Kong style)… After receiving a single pink rose, a stylish pen and being encased in heady aromas of ginger flower upon entering the Langham Hotel in London, we shot off in taxis to The Dorchester. On entering we marched quickly through The Promenade to China Tang where we rather mysteriously entered the plush toilet cubicles as a group and listened to a poem that triggered off our next move playing out from the speakers above us. It was destination South Molton Street so we jumped in another cab but soon aborted and continued on foot as rush hour traffic got the better of us. We swerved the mass throng of eager fashionistas attending the annual Vogue’s fashion night out and snaked past discerning drinkers to arrive in the chefs dining room at Mews of Mafair. Surrounded by original wooden beams and a wall smothered in antique maps, we entered to find Chef Tsang Chiu King, Executive Chef of two-Michelin starred restaurant, Ming Court at the Langham Place Hotel in Hong Kong waiting for us, standing alongside Executive Chef of Mews of Mafair, Alan Marchetti.
Chef Tsang Chiu King has flown over to London especially for Hong Kong – Live in London and will be taking part in a culinary collaboration with Italian chef Marchetti in the kitchen at Mews of Mafair for two whole weeks from Monday 12th – Sunday 25th September. But it’s not just his kitchen paraphernalia that he has brought over, he’s also brought his extensive Cantonese fusion recipes with him and the kitchen at Mews of Mafair will be working hard to recreate Chef Tsang’s dishes and will be giving diners their own little piece of Hong Kong to remember. Expect dishes such as crispy sole fillet, sealed with Yuzu honey & juicy pineapple, home made black sesame shrimp toast, pan seared chicken and chestnuts coated in bold black truffles, buttery plump pumpkin and caramelised pork lion, braised in Merlot, sprinkled in black peppercorns. We all know that the sweet stuff is important to me and I’m excited to see that Tsang will be serving a green tea and lime tart with lychee ice cream and poached plums with vanilla rice pudding for dessert! The specially created limited edition menu will cost £19 for 2 courses and £24 for 3 courses. So if you don’t manage to get down the South Molton Street next week, you have an extra week to try to Michelin style Cantonese fusion dishes at Mews of Mafair!
And of course we were lucky enough to have a tester on Thursday. After watching Chef Tsang cook his signature dish of pan seared chicken and chestnuts coated in bold black truffles, we each slid the silver spoon into our mouths and waited. We waited for an explosion of flavours to hit us. And it did. The softness and sweetness of the steamed pumpkin with the saltiness of the chicken patty and unmistakable aroma of black truffle sauce had us all wanting more. I nodded my head in approval at Chef Tsang and a wide smile emerged across his face. He had certainly delivered the goods. Chef Tsang (via his capable interpreter) explained his ‘East meets West’ cooking style and inspiration– an example of this was the truffle and pumpkin used in his signature dish. Both ingredients are somewhat uncommon in Cantonese cooking but the combination certainly works.
Then came the crispy sole fillet, sealed with Yuzu honey & juicy pineapple. The sweet honey sauce matched perfectly with the tender white fish and the pineapple (I thought) was a nice touch. We were also given a glass of Mudhouse Sauvignon Blanc, which is a recommended pairing. All dishes that will be served at Mews of Mafair from Monday 12th – Sunday 25th September will have a suggested wine pairing, yet another nod to Tsang’s East meets West philosophy.
After scraping the sticky honey off my front teeth, I turned around to see a tray of delicious looking homemade black sesame shrimp toast. I’ve always been a sucker for prawn toast and I couldn’t wait to stick my honey clad teeth into it. My mouth is watering just remembering the crisp yet indulgently oily toast, accompanied by a butterflied prawn with the fantastic black sesame topping. It was so good, I snuck another one after everyone had taken one off the tray. Tsang worked his magic and as we ran out of the restaurant, I was planning my trip back next week.
In fact, the whole evening really opened my eyes to Cantonese cuisine and culture, and if my experience was anything to go by then vistors to Hong Kong – Live in London will not be disappointed. I can’t begin to count the amount of times my dad visited Hong Kong on business when I was a child. I had (and still do) a passion for stationary and the bags and bags of quirky, colourful goodies that were given to me as presents upon his return kept me quietly occupied for months. Not to mention the empty suitcases that he filled and brought back with clothes that had my brother’s friends extremely envious. I’ll never forget his stories of Hong Kong reaching all of your senses in one go because as soon as he walked out of his hotel, the sight, sounds and smells hit him immediately. Then the stories of how people trade – seeing people carrying wheelbarrows full of jewellery, clothes and trinkets and selling to the passers by.
It seems there is a common misconception that Hong Kong is predominantly visited as a business destination and is something of a gateway between the UK and other areas of Far East and Australasia. But just from the brief insight that I had on Thursday, it is obvious that Hong Kong offers so much more as a holiday destination in its own right. I’d love to experience this vibrant city and see it for myself!
As a result of Thursday’s excitement, I felt inspired to try something that I have NEVER attempted before… cooking Cantonese style. I asked Chef Tsang what the five most important ingredients in Cantonese cooking are. His answer was salt, sugar, soy sauce, vegetable oil and a wok. So the next day we set off to Hoo Hing, a Chinese supermarket not too far from our house to buy a trolley full of ingredients that I had mostly never cooked with before. The result was a delicious combination of duck breast with home made damson sauce, bok choi and shiitake mushroom. See the recipe here. Ok, so it’s not quite on the scale of Chef Tsang’s delicacies but considering that this was our first venture into Cantonese cooking, we both devoured it and vowed to experiment further within the realms of Cantonese cuisine. We also picked up ingredients for pork dumplings, which will be on the menu Tuesday evening!
Hong Kong – Live in London takes place on South Molton Street on Monday 12th – Sunday 18th September and features live entertainment daily at 1pm, 3pm and 5pm.
Hong Kong – Live in London will no doubt get busier towards the end of the week so get down there early in the week to be in with a chance of winning that fantastic trip for two to Hong Kong!