Food & Drink

Recipes, cookbook reviews, interviews with chefs, culinary insights and wine columns
South China Morning Post
  1. Barbecue pitmasters in the southern United States are quick to point out the differences between the low-and-slow cooking technique in which they specialise and what almost everyone else calls “barbecue”. To a pitmaster, quickly cooking a steak or a chop over coals or gas isn’t barbecue, it’s grilling.Barbecue as done by pitmasters involves cooking a large hunk of beef, pork or lamb – or often the whole animal – over indirect heat at a relatively low temperature. If the meat were cooked over…
  2. What were you like as a child? “I was very quiet. I have an older brother and sister and a younger sister. I had a normal upbringing, nothing glamorous. I grew up on a housing estate in Surrey [in southeast England], which was not very exciting. The only thing that comes out of Surrey is Harry Potter, so I left home at 16 and moved to London.” What was it like moving to London at such a young age? “Hard. I didn’t think about it at the time. But I knew if I wanted to cook that’s what I had to…
  3. I have long wanted to develop a recipe for Chinese chicken dumplings, but it took several more attempts than expected. It would have been easier if minced dark meat were easily available, because it’s more similar to minced pork. Unfortunately, in most supermarkets, all you will find is minced chicken breast – not thigh or leg meat. Minced breast can have a cottony or pasty texture (the latter comes from being too finely minced), both of which are unpleasant.To get around that, I added a lot of…
  4. The Classic Cuisine of Vietnam was first published in English in 1979 (the French edition came out a year earlier), and it’s interesting to see how, apparently, the food was perceived by outsiders back then.In the introduction, Bach Ngo and Gloria Zimmerman write, “Anyone under the illusion that Vietnamese cookery is a mere variation of Chinese cuisine will discover what a fundamentally different style it has – and unforgettably different delight it is.“A similar comparison could be made…
  5. What was your childhood like? “I have seven brothers and sisters. At that time it was normal – today you don’t see that. When my father retired, I asked him why, when we were young, he didn’t chat with us. My father sold pork in the wet market, working 365 days a year for 12 hours each day.“After work he came home, took a shower, ate dinner, listened to the radio, then went to bed. It was already 10pm. The next day he woke up at 5am. He didn’t have enough energy to breathe, so when would he…
  6. I love cherries, especially the vividly coloured sour cherries that make the best sorbets and pies. Unfortunately, sour cherries are difficult to find outside areas where they are grown, because they are softer than black cherries.But black cherries are delicious for eating out of hand, and they can also make really good pies. I bake them into a deep-dish pie that takes 2kg of fruit. It’s difficult to cut the pie into tidy wedges – this much fruit means that each slice collapses onto the plate …
  7. How did you become interested in food? “From when I was six to 12 years old, during the summer holidays, I joined my father, who was a truck driver, as he travelled around Italy two or three times a week. Every lunchtime we stopped in a traditional trattoria and I tried different regional Italian food. It was amazing; I ate a lot of pasta.“One time in Bologna, in northern Italy, I ate the best tagliatelle with Bolognese sauce in a small restaurant with my father. I remember the pasta was rich…
  8. The Japanese have created delicious and refreshing ways to beat the summer heat. One of my favourites is cold noodles, which can be served in a variety of ways. Most people are familiar with soba (buckwheat flour noodles) or somen (noodles made of wheat flour) served with a bowl of ice-cold dipping sauce mixed with minced spring onion and grated wasabi or ginger. But there’s far more besides: the noodles can be flavoured with sakura (for a pretty pink tinge), yuzu (pale yellow) or green tea,…
  9. Looking back on MasterChef UK, what was the most difficult challenge for you? “It was definitely the three-ingredients challenge – the ‘mystery box’ when you don’t know what you’ll cook. When I opened it, my mind was just blank, but then somehow you allow yourself to go on autopilot. “My adrenaline was shooting sky high but I said, ‘OK, calm down, think about what you see when you open your fridge at home, what would you cook?’ I felt really satisfied afterwards that I was able to cook…
  10. I thought I was familiar with Vietnamese food before taking my first trip to the country many years ago. I had enjoyed numerous meals with my Vietnamese friends, both at Vietnamese restaurants in California and at their homes, and they also taught me to make dishes such as fresh and fried spring rolls, head cheese, jellyfish salad, and sour and spicy soup.But, of course, the food in Vietnam is very different from what I had been eating at restaurants overseas. For one thing, the portion size…