Keeping Food Traditions Fresh
Adding a new spin to Lunar New Year traditional foods - right from the heart of Chef Fung Chi Keung, Executive Chef of Paradise Group
Issue: Feb 2011
Whether dining in or eating out, you can expect a sumptuous spread this new year from the Paradise Group
As a little boy in his home country, Hong Kong, fa cai (black moss) with oysters was a regular feature at Chef Fung Chi Keung’s family table during the Chinese New Year. The dish, favoured during the season and prepared by his mother, was eaten because it was believed to promise future prosperity since the names of the ingredients are homonyms of the Chinese word for prosperity. In addition, his mother would make her very own nian gao which is a sticky cake eaten in the hope of a better year because the Chinese words for the cake sounds like the phrase “higher year”.
Today, as the executive chef of Paradise Group, a restaurant group with seven brands in its ever-growing empire, Chef Fung is mindful that his festive menus continue these food traditions to keep the spirit of Chinese New Year alive. In fact, nian gao, thinly sliced and panfried to crisp perfection, is one item that completes almost every one of the chef’s new year menu at the Paradise Group restaurants.
Inspirational Touches to Traditional Offerings
Chef Fung may have begun his culinary career as a kitchen assistant at a seafood restaurant in Hong Kong and is, today, a Chinese cuisine expert, but his favourite dishes are not Chinese ones.
“I like Japanese food because they are fresh and healthy. That’s why I like to incorporate Japanese ingredients and flavours into my dishes,” says the affable 44-year-old.
Chef Fung borrows heavily from the Japanese in creating his signature dishes like the baked fillet of cod with miso sauce
In his Chinese New Year menu, there is a Japanese influence which, while still adhering to treasured traditions, does put a new twist to the old. Prawns are a new year favourite because they are believed to bring joyous merriment and laughter to those who consume them. Chef Fung’s prawn dish is done Japanese style. King prawns are marinated with garlic and miso paste then baked to seal in the natural sweetness of the seafood.
Another traditional food for the festivities is noodles. Eaten to symbolize longevity, Chef Fung’s version features the Japanese ramen instead, wok fried with six-head abalone or lobster in XO sauce.
Fish, believed to bring abundant fortune, is a staple during this season. And for this dish, Japanese ingredients are used as well. Chef Fung bakes cod fillets with miso paste while scallops, a priced ingredient, are infused with sake and sautéed.
Classic Superior Shark's Fin in Supreme Broth accompanied with Crispy Spring Roll served in Japanese Stone Pot
Shark’s fin soup, another Chinese New Year delicacy, also bears the chef’s signature innovative touch. Paradise Group’s soup is served in a Japanese stone pot as a nod towards Chef Fung’s love and respect for Japanese cuisine. But beyond that, the stone pot keeps the broth warm for a longer period. For a varied texture, the dish is accompanied by a crispy spring onion roll that adds crunch to the hearty soup.
East Meets West
Chef Fung also looks to the West for inspiration.
“I like to buy Western recipe books and read them. That’s where I get my ideas from as well,” he said.
The indulgences of the West are also included in his Chinese New Year dishes. Black truffles are paired with double-boiled shark’s fin soup for a delicious fusion of East and West. White truffle oil is used to give sautéed wild fungus and asparagus a burst of flavour and fragrance.
In keeping with Chinese customs to indulge in the best foods during the new year, Chef Fung’s list of goodies include the suckling pig. His, however, has a touch of French opulence because it comes with pan-seared foie gras (goose liver).
Ideas for a Homecooked Fortune Pot:
Chef Fung’s Auspicious Fortune Pot Sauce Recipe
- Dried Oyster
- Goose Web
- Sea Cucumber
- Fish Maw
- Chinese Mushroom
- Lotus Root
- Pork Belly
- White Cabbage
- Dried Scallop
- Sea Moss
- Pork belly
- Waxed Meat
- Oyster sauce (to taste, depending on amount of ingredients used)
- Bean curd paste (also to taste)
- Sliced ginger (a few slices)
The amount needed for each ingredient is up to individual needs and preferences. This is a flexible dish. Use as much or as little of each ingredient as you like.
- Braise the goose web with oyster sauce and ginger and onion. Save the sauce from this for use later.
- Stir fry the slices of yam and gluten.
- Sautéed pork belly and lotus root with fermented bean curd paste, add chicken stock to prevent ingredients from drying up.
- Put all the above items and the rest of the ingredients into a large earthen pot. Cover and braise over fire for 45 minutes.
- Add cabbage and continue to let dish stew for another 15 minutes.
- Serve hot.
Paradise Group’s Fortune Pot is a rich stew of the best ingredients of the occasion
Festive Favourites and Food Customs of the Season
As the Chinese New Year is such a treasured holiday, all the best the kitchen has to offer often make their appearance at the table. And there is no better dish that personifies pure gastronomic indulgence than the fortune pot. Not one to stint on quality, Paradise Group’s Fortune Pot is a bountiful treasure of 15 luxurious ingredients such as eight-head Australian whole abalones, dried oysters, Japanese dried scallops, Japanese sea cucumber, premium fish maw, goose web, Chinese sausages, dried mushrooms, lotus, sea moss, cabbage, pork belly and yam. Each item in the pot has been carefully selected for both its premium quality and its auspicious meaning. Oysters, for example, are included because its Chinese name sounds like the “good things”. Eight-head abalones are known to be the biggest of its species and the most succulent seafood from Japan are reputed to be top grade.
That dedication to quality is also found in Chef Fung’s yusheng selections. Yusheng is eaten during the Chinese New Year because yu sounds like the Chinese word for “abundance” and sheng sounds like the word for “life”. Chef Fung’s yusheng comes in lobster and abalone versions in addition to the usual raw fish that is available.
In the skilled hands of Chef Fung, who has some 30 years of experience in the kitchen, the treasured food traditions and customs of the Chinese New Year are not only observed but also given a marvelous makeover guaranteed to whet the most discerning of appetites.
Sample Chef Fung’s creations at:
No.2 Orchard Turn
#04-07 ION Orchard
Tel: 6509 9660 Fax: 6509 9661