Road to Le Cordon Bleu

Road to Le Cordon Bleu

Budding chefs had a testing time creating prawn dumplings in the last preliminary round of the Towngas Young Master Chef contest

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Contestants mix the har gow dough.
Contestants mix the har gow dough.
Photos: Edmond So/SCMP
The six preliminary rounds of the Towngas Young Master Chef contest ended on Wednesday. Towngas Cooking Centre's tutor Pauline Wong teased the contestants with intricate Cantonese dim sum.

The dish of the day was har gow, or prawn dumplings, a very popular dim sum choice at yum cha. Pauline picked that specifically to show the contestants how to appreciate an everyday yet delicate dish.

However, this week, a special rule was announced: one extra entrant would be eliminated, along with the usual two contestants to be shown the door.

To win, the contestants had to try their utmost to make the juiciest, most translucent har gow possible.

Check out how round six went ...

Testing Chinese dish

Unlike previous Chinese cuisine challenges, making dim sum requires a special set of skills. Although many contestants have experience cooking Chinese food, it was surprising that many of them struggled to achieve success in this round.

Jacky Leung Cheuk-ki ran out of time before he could make his har gow, and was able to put on a plate only one dumpling in the end. "It is so much different from other Chinese food," he says. "The concept is completely different."

Jacky said he's not familiar with kneading and managing this kind of dough - a mixture of wheat and potato starch with water. It cost him quite some time to figure out.

Yet Trista Tang Yuk-ching achieved all the tasks seamlessly with her teammate, Florence Tse Hin-wing. Their dish was finished in the second quickest time and was ready for tasting five minutes before the clock ran out. "We divided all the procedures between us evenly," they said.

Trista was happy to see their dish in shape this time as it wasn't quite a success when she made it a while ago with Florence. "I think we got the proportion of the starch right this time," she says.


Edgy moments of folding

One of the trickiest parts of making har gow is to fold the edges properly.

Tutor Pauline Wong said each edge should contain nine to 11 folds, and the secret was to use only the thumb and index finger.

Talk is easy, but many contestants found it hard to keep an even distance between the folds. Many har gow turned out to have a straight edge rather than a curved one, looking like ham sui kok (chewy pork dumpling), but a steamed version.

The sizes of the har gow also varied, with some bulging to burst, while others thin like a slightly thickened rice noodle roll. "The wrapping part is really hard," said Joyce Ho Wing-yau, next to her teammate, Mia Kwok Tsz-lam. "It's hard to wrap it as nicely as Pauline did, especially when you've never done it before."


Tutor: Pauline Wong

Kitchen experience: 20+ years, 22 years of tutoring experience, published four cook books

Speciality: Chinese cuisine, especially dim sum

Comments: "I think the contestants really have improved a lot since day one."

Advice: Contestants have to spend more time studying and understanding the features of their ingredients. They must cook more, and expose themselves to the cooking world as much as possible.


Contestants' farewell

Congratulations to all the contestants who have made it this far. But unfortunately, for three contestants and teams, their journey ended here:

Names: Joyce Ho Wing-yan (left) and Mia Kwok Tsz-lam
Ages: Both 15
Speciality: Chinese cuisine
Difficulties: Wrapping proved tricky.
Lessons learnt: More dynamics to their cooking style as they went through six cooking classes; pay more attention to details such as how to pick good ingredients from the market (taught in Annie Wong's class in 3rd round)
Message to contestants: "You all need to try your best!"


Names: Wicky Leung Po-wing (left) and Yuki Yim Ching-ki
Ages: 15/16
Speciality: Dessert/Chinese cuisine
Difficulties: Lack of practice
Lessons learnt: Learn different new skills, correct all the mistakes
Message to contestants: "Don't miss any learning opportunities if you get to go overseas to learn from the masters."


Name: Jacky Leung Cheuk-ki
Age: 18
Speciality: Chinese cuisine
Difficulties: Cooking dim sum was unfamiliar
Lesson learnt: Pick up new skills; how to colour chicken, put more thought into the dish and how to decorate the plate.
Messages to contestants: "Cook with passion. Show your personality with your dish."

Next week, 12 contestants and teams will compete in the semi-final. They have to prepare their own ingredients, and impress judges with their own signature dishes. Six teams will be sent home on Wednesday. The final six will fight for a dream cooking trip to Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.

Stay tuned to the feeds on our Facebook and Twitter, on Wednesday from 2pm to 5pm for instant updates and photos. Check out next Friday's Young Post for the full story.


Complete coverage of:
Round One
Round Two
Round Three
Round Four
Round Five
Semi-final
Final

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