Ken Yu is Executive Chinese Chef at Kerry Hotel Hong Kong
Ken Yu is Executive Chinese Chef at Kerry Hotel Hong Kong. He has more than 30 years of experience in Cantonese cuisine, and has been at the hotel since 2016, where he oversees the hotel’s signature Chinese restaurant, Hung Tong, and the banquet operations of the hotel, which houses the biggest ballroom in Hong Kong.
We talk to him about bringing a contemporary touch to traditional Cantonese dishes, and what it’s like managing such a big events operation.
Can you tell us a little about your background in cooking? Where did you learn to cook and then hone your skills?
I started my cooking career as junior cook at the age of 15 in Hong Kong; I’m now in my 33rd year in the industry. Prior to joining Hung Tong, I held the title of Executive Chinese Chef in various award-winning Chinese restaurants in Asia, including Cuisine Cuisine at the Mira Hong Kong, Yen at W Taipei, Taiwan, and Wing Lei Palace at Wynn Palace Macau.
You specialise in traditional Cantonese cooking, but you give the dishes a modern touch – in what way do you do this?
Through my authentic Cantonese cooking I creatively transform the dishes with handpicked quality ingredients and internationally sourced items, such as our Iberico pork, as well as my methods of modern presentation.
You have also introduced experiential cooking, preparation and presentation methods at Hung Tong – can you give an example or two of what this involves?
Having been trained in traditional Cantonese cuisine, it has been an important part of the development of my own cuisine to experiment with different preparation and cooking methods to produce new and exciting dishes. An example of this is our signature lobster balls, which are served with caviar from France, sea urchin from Japan, and egg white. This dish is a combination of quality food ingredients from all around the world (France, Japan, and Hong Kong) paired with authentic Cantonese cooking methods, with a new twist on the traditional presentation.
Do you see Chinese food in Hong Kong overall changing in any way? Will there always be a place for very traditional Cantonese food in Hong Kong?
It’s becoming very diversified these days and guests have higher expectations of the chef to produce new, innovative and exciting dishes. I believe there will always be a place for traditional Cantonese food because there is still a large majority of guests who prefer the traditional dishes that they have grown up with and become accustomed to, especially during celebratory festivals and holidays, such as Chinese New year. However they are now looking for options with healthier alternatives or better health benefits, such as low fat, low salt, and low sugar, due to health issues.
You also manage the culinary operations for banqueting at the hotel, including the biggest ballroom in Hong Kong – this must keep you on your toes! How different is it managing food output at such volume compared to a restaurant?
Assuming it’s a full house in both our banquet spaces and Hung Tong, our banquet team’s output is around 15 times of that in Hung Tong (in terms of number of pax) because we have the largest event space among the hotels in Hong Kong. We are able to manage this efficiently because the banquet operation can prepare the meal beforehand as it is more often than not based on a set menu that has been pre-determined by the organisers prior to the event.
Hung Tong, on the other hand, is more on the daily consumption and the dishes produced can vary day by day. As such, the outlet’s reservations and booking status is critical for us to estimate the food we need to order from the supplier, especially as we have many ingredients on the menu that are seasonal, sustainably sourced or from small-batch suppliers. The variance on the banquet operation is smaller as we confirm all the details of the menu and setup beforehand with only minor changes subject to event status.
What’s a classic menu for a banquet? Are banquets in Hong Kong – for weddings or other celebrations – staying very traditional in their food, or becoming more modern?
Banquet menus depend on the audience, event and size of the party. With our Western menus, we usually serve an appetizer / soup / main course / dessert. For a traditional Chinese banquet menu, we usually have a 6-course menu ranging from appetizer / hot dishes x2 / soup / premium dish (e.g. abalone) / steamed fish / chicken.
Some organisers of a premium banquet will request an 8-course menu, however people avoid having a 7-course menu because 7 is an unlucky number in Chinese culture.
I would say that for wedding banquets, people more often than not hold a traditional banquet, especially in their choice of food for the menu. The dishes on the Chinese wedding menus symbolise luck and blessings for the new couple. However, something that we have seen recently is a trend in requesting Chinese and Western combined menus, especially for those banquets involving both local and international guests. For this, we are able to work with the guests to balance out the menu offering.
Thank you, Chef Yu, and all the best for your continuing success with Hung Tong and your banqueting operations.
Chef Ken Yu of Hung Tong restaurant in the Kerry Hotel Hong Kong shares his recipe for Steamed Fresh Crab Claw with Truffle and White Melon.
- 1 live crab around 1kg
- Winter melon 200g
- Shanghai pak choi 100g
- Truffle paste 20g
- Sliced black truffle 10g
- Lobster bisque 100g
- Gold foil
- Cook the crab claws in boiling water for 20 seconds, remove and place in ice water to cool down.
- Break the shell of the crab claw with the back of a kitchen knife, and remove the meat from the shell in one piece (this is important for presentation).
- Peel off the skin of the winter melon, then cut in to cylindrical shapes of around 2cm thick.
- Place the winter melon in a bowl of broth, and steam for 15 minutes.
- Cut the Shanghai pak choi in shape of flowers, then quickly stir-fry for decoration use.
- Apply corn flour on the crab claw then lightly pan-fry and cook in broth. Apply the seasoning and place the claw on top of the winter melon.
- Cook the lobster bisque thoroughly, add in truffle paste and corn flour and then pour the sauce over the claw.
- Place the sliced black truffles and gold foil on top for presentation.