Korean mother conquers Hong Kong with home-style cooking

April 28, 2017 17:32
Una got a flash of inspiration from her daughter after whom she named her restaurant. Photo: HKEJ

There are a lot of Korean restaurants that people in Hong Kong can choose from but only a few are recommended by the prestigious Michelin Guide.

Kelly's Cape Bop is one of them.

Since its opening in 2014 in Wan Chai, the Korean eatery has been on the list of Michelin street food twice -- in 2016 and 2017.

The restaurant prides itself on the home-style cooking by its owner, a single South Korean mother who calls herself Una.

Early on, Una was not in the restaurant business until she got a flash of inspiration from her daughter after whom she named the eatery.

Una lived in Italy for eight years working in the fashion marketing industry before she moved back to South Korea where she engaged in fashion imports.

She suffered a lot of pressure from running her business and eventually gave up. At the age of 41, she went to England where Kelly studied.

In the following years, she was a full-time mother, preparing lunch boxes for Kelly and later for Kelly’s classmates.

Una became fond of cooking during that time. Feedback from Kelly and her classmates were good, inspiring her to sharpen her cooking skills even more.

Una came to Hong Kong when she helped a friend with some marketing work.

After learning that eating out is very common for Hong Kong people, she decided to open Kelly's Cape Bop. The restaurant offers home-cooked and healthy food without artificial additives.

Her decision proved to be right. Not only locals but also foreigners were attracted to the eatery soon after it opened. She said it was mainly because the food on its menu flaunts natural ingredients rather than strong flavors as is common in other Korean restaurants.

Take kimbap, the chef’s special of the eatery, for example. Although the Korean-style seaweed rice roll similar to Japanese sushi is one kind of traditional food that every Korean mother knows how to prepare, it is completely transformed in Una's hands using more vegetables and less rice so that it can be healthier with less calories.

To make fried chicken taste less greasy, she specifically designed a sauce made from seven vegetables and fruits.

Now running a successful business, Una is still as enthusiastic about cooking as she used to be, having found her calling.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on April 21

Translation by Taka Liu

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Kimbap (left) uses more vegetables and less rice. The dish is something most Korean mothers can make but it is completely transformed in Una's hands. Photos: HKEJ

Writer of the Hong Kong Economic Journal