British-Chinese celebrity chef Andrew Wong, of A.Wong restaurant, is redefining the perception of Chinese cuisine in the United Kingdom. Born in London and raised in the kitchens of his restauranteur parents, each dish he creates draws inspiration from his family as well as specific regions of China that offer diverse, and underappreciated dishes. The Hotel Icon in Kowloon hosted Wong for a three-day popup last month, where he delivered a plethora of eclectic flavors. He spoke with #legend about his background, the sources of his inspiration and creating a perfect dish.
Where do you stand on the idea of fusing Western and Chinese cuisine?
We do not fuse Western and Chinese cuisine. Instead, we take traditional and historical Chinese dishes and try to have some fun with them. We try to adapt them to suit the region we are in. For example, in London, we would change a dish differently to when we are cooking in Hong Kong.
Can Hong Kong improve its Chinese cuisine offerings? If so, how?
Hong Kong is the culinary hub for Chinese cuisine around the world, every chef looks to it as a marker. Therefore, it's important, for me anyway, that there always remains a hard-core group of chefs who protect the past from people like myself. What we do relies on their work in giving people reference points to my reinterpretations. Therefore, I don't think that any improvement is needed specifically. But I would say that any traditional Chinese chefs should always attempt to change things for the better and not purely for the sake of change.
What is your favorite dish on your menu?
Currently our chicken foot dish because it's delicious in my opinion but, more importantly, it’s on the menu to nudge British diners to explore ingredients that are common to the Chinese palate, yet still relatively taboo to them.
Where do you find inspiration for new dishes?
Everywhere, but in particular, I draw inspiration from my last trip, from the food of Hong Kong and the passion of amazing Hong Kong chefs like Paul Tsui from Above and Beyond.
Other than yourself, who is your favorite chef?
Too many to name, I am incredibly blessed in that so many of my kitchen idols have come to eat at the restaurant and are now good friends.
What is your personal comfort food?
Recently, it has been 猪仔包, toasted buns with butter and condensed milk.
What are your culinary pet peeves?
Gold leafs, super sizing and foraging for the sake of foraging.
What's your favorite food genre other than Chinese?
Can a return to traditional Chinese food promote a healthier lifestyle?
Yes! The beauty of Chinese cuisine is that it has many health benefits! Vegetable dishes and the method of steaming fish provide many nutrients that are essential to a healthy lifestyle. It's an area that I'm exploring and I find amazingly inspiring.
What's the worst culinary mistake you ever made?
Too many to count.
Who are your legends?
Being a family man, I’d say my mother, my mother-in-law and my wife.