Food is one of the perks of living in Hong Kong. To explore the local food culture, South China Morning Post, together with the Sino Group, organised a workshop in Tai O Heritage Hotel for 55 secondary students in early July.
Tai O Lookout, a glass-roofed restaurant situated on the first floor of Tai O Heritage Hotel, is named after the tower where the marine police were stationed to guard against pirate activities. The restaurants have a few signature dishes featuring Tai O specialties such as shrimp paste and a drink called “Mountain Begonia” with colours that resemble the sunset of Tai O.
Shrimp-paste making was officially recognised as a cultural asset in June 2014 when the government announced its first intangible cultural heritage list of 480 items. It is primarily made from finely crushed shrimp or krill mixed with salt, and then fermented for several weeks. Many locals, especially senior citizens, are addicted to the salty fragrance of shrimp paste.
The restaurant has designed various dishes with the specially selected shrimp paste, such as the crispy bun with Tai O pork chop and fried chicken wings.
During the visit, students were able to enjoy the dishes. The pork chop is fried to a golden brown and then wrapped inside a warm, buttered Portuguese bun, which gives an interesting contrasting texture - extremely crispy outside and tenderly soft inside. The shrimp paste adds the crowning touch to the bun with a special taste irreplaceable by other condiments.
Shrimp paste, a popular homemade food in Tai O, is one of the secret components in numerous dishes on the hotel restaurant menu, according to Karl Law, Manager of Tai O Heritage Hotel. “Shrimp paste has a distinct favor so it is not easy to blend in different dishes. The credit goes to our Sous Chef and his creativity,” Law said.
Raymond Ting, Executive Sous Chef of Tai O Heritage Hotel, believes that Hong Kong culture has its own uniqueness will not be replaced by foreign culture.
“Hong Kong chefs are able to take what’s good from western food culture and transform it into our own local dishes. We Hongkongers are good at adapting to changes. This is something we should be very proud of,’ Ting said.
“Although Hong Kong started to develop its catering industry a bit later than the west, the government has now allocated notable resources in the industry, such as the establishment of the International Culinary Institute. Now, I see no big difference between Hong Kong’s and the culinary industry in the west. Our chefs are capable enough to compete with others all around the globe,” he added.
As both Law and Ting said, Hongkongers are the key to preserving our culture heritage and we should work together to pass on our food traditions to the next generation.