Any chef that can have me actually dreaming of eating crocodile again is a chef of note in my book. Hong Kong Chef Liu Ching Hai of Summer Palace in the Regent Hotel is that chef. You might remember our recent review of Summer Palace. We were treated to a special Sunday lunch of traditional Asian dishes and ones with a more modern twist… every dish as tasty as the next. After the meal we were gifted another treat – a chance to sit down and talk (via translator) to Chef Liu about his life & approach to food… and we even got a signature recipe!
Like many great chefs, Chef Liu was inspired by watching his grandmother cook as a young child. He soon caught the full time cooking bug and at 17 began his life in the kitchen, opting to learn through a traditional apprenticeship over formal training.
He soon made a name for himself and began cooking not only in the region’s top hotels, but also for western and Asian celebrities in Hong Kong… including Jackie Chan and Michael Jackson. He even catered Chow Yun Fat’s wedding (I’m a huge fan of his films and so was excited to hear this)! But the celebrity status hasn’t gone to Chef Liu’s head. When pumped for information about the assignments you realize he really treats every diner the same… not placing more importance on a celebrity meal than a regular hotel brunch crowd. I did keep asking him questions though and the most I was able to pry from him dirt-wise is that the Asian celebrities were a bit more down to earth than their western counterparts… taking time to come talk to the chef about their food and about life in general
Chef Liu specializes in seafood and we’re not just talking snapper here. He’s comfortable with anything that’s lived it’s life in water, and prefers simpler recipes that let the quality of the ingredient shine…. something he’s used to from his days in Hong Kong with daily deliveries of the freshest seafood.The crocodile dish one more time
When not at work he’s cooking at home with his two sons. They’re only 8 and 10 but are already looking as if they’ll be following in their Dad’s footsteps. He says they’ll go to the market and the kids will tell him which part of the fish they want and then once home will stay in the kitchen with their father watching his every movement.
Chef Liu is actually a bit older than his looks, a rarity for chefs… particularly American chefs who look as though they’ve cooked themselves with their years over open flames. So I asked the chef if there was some traditional remedy responsible for his youthful appearance. He smiled and said it wasn’t bird’s nest soup as the translator had joked… it was eating simple and fresh food and trying to just be as happy as possible.
I asked the chef to provide our readers with a signature dish of sorts. Something reflective of his roots, but also something that had ingredients not so out of reach of the average home chef. So I am thrilled to give you:
Wok-Fried Prawns with Asparagus and Black Bean Sauce
Black Bean Sauce 20g
Bell Pepper 20g
Chinese wine 5g
- De-shell & de-vein the prawns
- Wash the asparagus
- Heat up the wok and add oil into heated wok
- Place prawns into wok, stir-fry till half-cooked, and drain prawns out
- Pour garlic, black bean sauce, bell pepper and asparagus into wok and stir-fry for 2 minutes.
- Add in half-cooked prawns
- Add flour, sugar and Chinese wine
- Stir-fry for 3 minutes.
- Ready to serve.