While Hong Kong’s import-oriented food economy means we have access to plentiful produce all year round, there are certain ingredients that appear at peak quality this time of year, whether it’s locally farm-grown vegetables or seafood caught fresh off our shores. To help ward off home cooking fatigue, we’re starting the new year with tips from our star chefs on the best produce to liven up your table this month. Hunt down these ingredients, and you’ll have good reason to get back in the kitchen.
Palash Mitra, New Punjab Club
At the moment I am eating and cooking a lot of vegetables, from beets served warm with a citrus dressing; to carrots for our halwa; and kohlrabi, its mustardy crunch great in kachumbar and stews. Green peas are prime right now, and mandarins for making into dressings, jams and chutneys, or for juices and smoothies. For seafood, I’d recommend Asiatic carp, pomfret, herring and prawns—for frying, grilling or cooking in the tandoor. Fenugreek is also a wonderful, leafy herb you can experiment with; we use it to add fragrance to butter chicken or tikkas. Personally at home, I am eating a lot of winter cheese like comté and Swiss cheeses for raclette; cooking them in the tandoor/grill and pairing them with beets and nuts is good fun!
Jowett Yu, Ho Lee Fook
This month, I’d recommend getting your hands on live Australian lobster. Since the ChAFTA (China-Australia Free Trade Agreement) in 2015, 90% of Australian lobster has gone to China, causing the prices in Australia and Hong Kong to inflate and pricing everyone out of this delicacy. There’s recently been a price crash since China put a high tariff on them in a diplomatic spat. Thankfully, to everyone else’s benefit, they have become affordable for such a premium product. I like to eat them sashimi-style, with a touch of yuzu soy.
Braden Reardon, Carbone and Buenos Aires Polo Club
I’m inspired by the beautiful winter citrus season for Buenos Aires Polo Club, and have been using a variety of Meyer lemons, blood orange and Buddha’s hand to bring out the delicate nuances in the ponzu base for our Tuna Causa. Sadly due to Covid restrictions we aren’t serving this dish currently, but these flavours mature and develop umami for the sauce that will make it amazing once it’s back on the dinner menu. There’s something fun about tasting this ponzu base daily and watching it mature.
Yen Chan,| La Vache!
My favourite produce of the season would have to be root vegetables. Personally I like to make squash with chili for an easy, winning combination. I bake them until golden and tender, or purée into a soup for a nourishing meal. Another ingredient to seek out is crab, one of the best things available in the seafood market right now. For fresh seafood, you don’t need much seasoning; just steam and serve!
Luca Marinelli, Osteria Marzia
Artichokes and mantis shrimp are my two favourite ingredients in the market right now. These ingredients combined bring back a lot of memories for me as a young cook running around in one of the best restaurants in Italy… I love to make fresh fettuccine all’uovo (egg pasta) with artichokes, mantis shrimp, sweet pecorino and guanciale ham, just as I did back in Italy.
Billy Otis, Taqueria Super Macho
Currently in the wet markets you can find fresh pea shoots, called “dau miu” in Cantonese. Only available from November to around Chinese New Year, they are truly a special green. They are perfect for being stir-fried with a little bit of garlic. Their natural sweetness and vegetal flavour provide balance for heartier meat and vegetable dishes that often find a seat at your winter table.