Celebrated Chinese chef Ken Hom recently appeared at Bentalls in Kingston, Editor Paul Critcher asks him how to make the perfect rice…
What’s your favourite London restaurant and why?
Probably China Tang at the Dorchester because the restaurant offers real home-style cooked Chinese food. An inspiration of my good friend, Sir David Tang, I always feel he has somehow managed to bring the right touch lacking
in many Chinese restaurant in London. And the ambience is great fun as well. Finally, because China Tang has a great wine list to accommodate its delicious food
Can you give a couple of tips for wok cooking?
Make sure you have everything prepared before stir-frying in the wok and then ensure that your wok is very hot BEFORE you add the oil. And most important, don’t panic!
What dish would you serve to impress a loved one and why?
It sounds so simple but a great steamed fish perfectly cooked with the right seasoning. Why, because it is light, easy to digest and you won’t fall asleep later when the fireworks begin!
If you were given the choice, what would be your last meal?
A huge amount of caviar to start, then a perfect steamed fish, Peking duck with all the trimmings.
What ingredient is most underrated in the UK?
Probably garlic. Everyone seems to think it is smelly but garlic can enhance any dish. How can one live without it?
What’s the secret to perfect rice?
The secret of preparing rice without it being sticky is to cook it first in an uncovered pot at a high heat until most of the water has evaporated. Then the heat should be turned very low, the pot covered and the rice cooked slowly in the remaining steam. As a child I was always instructed never to peek into the rice pot during this stage or else precious steam would escape and the rice would not be cooked properly thus bringing bad luck.
Here is a good trick to remember: if you make sure that you cover the rice with about 2.5 cm (1in) of water it should always cook properly without sticking. Many packet recipes for rice use too much water and result in a gluey mess. Follow my method and you will have perfect steamed rice, the easy Chinese way.
What cuisines other than Chinese do you enjoy?
Every type of cuisine in the world: French, Italian, Moroccan, Brazilian, Mexican, Thai, Japanese… if it is cooked
properly, it must be delicious. I love to eat!
What’s the next big thing in Chinese cooking?
The discovery of the richness of regional Chinese food, for example Hunanese.
Spicy or sweet? SPICY!
Try Ken’s Stir-Fried Spinach with Garlic
- 750 g (1½lb) fresh spinach
- 1 tablespoon groundnut or vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Wash the spinach thoroughly.
- Remove all the stems, leaving just the leaves.
- Heat a wok or large frying-pan over high heat until it is hot.
- Add the oil, and when it is very hot and slightly smoking, add the garlic and salt. Stir-fry for 25 seconds.
- Then add the spinach.
- Stir-fry for about two minutes to coat the spinach leaves thoroughly with the oil, garlic and salt.
- When the spinach has wilted to about one-third of its original size, add the sugar and continue to stir-fry for another four minutes.
- Transfer the spinach to a plate and pour off any