This Lunar New Year, I led a food tour to the Italian island of Sicily.
As soon as I had settled down everyone on a farm, it was time to smuggle my secret ingredients into the kitchen.
I brought a pretty good collection all the way from Hong Kong — five-catty premium-grade jasmine rice directly ordered from Thailand, deluxe dried scallops, Chinese mushrooms, one-catty Calmex Mexican abalones, 10 turnip cakes and taro cakes, chili sauce from Hong Kong sauce company Yu Kwen Yick and 10-year-plus-old Xinhui chenpi.
Some in the group already had an inkling of what was in store. Still, I couldn’t resist the look on their faces when they realized we were about to replicate Hong Kong food on foreign soil.
Last year, also in Sicily, I prepared pork bone rice porridge with dried oysters, chenpis and dried Chinese cabbages, pan-fried coconut milk year cake and pan-fried turnip cake, along with sumptuous meal offered by the farm on the first day of new year. Claypot rice with siumei was offered the following day.
You might wonder why I would have to cook so many dishes given the fact that there’s no shortage of good food in Italy.
While it’s true that more than 10 authentic local meals were included, of which four were from Michelin-star restaurants, my designed food tour could be a little bit too overwhelming. I find that surprises are good for the taste buds.
On top of the festive dishes, I cooked cha chaan teng macaroni soup with ham in the morning.
People initially disliked the idea, complaining that I shouldn’t treat the group to some cheap dishes, especially considering the tour cost tens of thousands of Hong Kong dollars.
The Italian chefs shook their heads, disapproving of the Hong Kong interpretation of pasta.
I explained my plan.
I would cook real made-in-Italy macaroni and ham in a broth stewed from beef bones and fresh vegetables — an excellent collaboration from Hong Kong’s cha chaan teng and Sicily’s rural farm.
Hong Kong-style macaroni soup with Italian ham was the most quickly sold out breakfast item, exactly as I anticipated.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb. 8.
Translation by Darlie Yiu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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