Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Hong Kong Cooking: Take a Wok around Asia's New Culinary Capital

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Hong Kong Cooking: Take a Wok around Asia's New Culinary Capital

Article excerpt

Chinese emperors traditionally employed palace chefs from the Canton region (the area that includes Hong Kong), and for good reason. In China, Cantonese food is seen as the tastiest, freshest, and finest of all the country's regional cuisines. As Hong Kong shook off its sweatshop image in the 1980s and became a prosperous international financial capital, its food scene became more sophisticated and chic (as did its burgeoning gay scene). Before its handover to China ill 1997, however, most of this former British colony's top restaurants were sequestered ill its foreign-dominated megahotels. Today, ultramodern Hong Kong is one of the priciest cities in the world, full of upscale restaurants that could rival those in Paris or New York City. In fact, it's quickly becoming known as the culinary capital of Asia.

For foodies, the trip to the East is worth every penny. The culinary adventure begins oil the flight: Upscale Cathay Pacific Airways uses Hong Kong as its hub and prides itself in serving "the best Chinese food in the air" on its plush business-class flights. I loved the elegant little dim sum breakfasts--Hong Kongers, by the way, usually eat dim sum in the morning at loud and lively dim sum restaurants where elderly waitresses stroll around with carts while hollering out their specials.

One thing to understand about Cantonese fare is its underlying concept of yin and yang. In Taoist culture a balance between the two creates healthiness, and this carries over into eating. Vegetables are seen as "yin" (which pertains to female and cool energy), whereas meat is considered "yang" (which pertains to male and warm energy), while rice and noodles are seen as neutral. Therefore, most Cantonese meals will have equal parts yin, yang, and neutral to achieve the right healthy balance.

With this cultural emphasis oil the philosophy of food itself; rather than where and how it is eaten, Hong Kong restaurants traditionally have left much to he desired in terms of relaxing atmosphere or gushing service. That's beginning to change with a new crop of smart and happening eateries. In addition to the artsy, hip (read: very gay) area of Lan Kwai Fong on Hong Kong Island, quite a few gay-friendly restaurants and bars have risen tip in the last few years in evolving and fashionable NoHo (the area north of Hollywood Road).

The Michelin-starred Nobu chain just opened a Hung Kong restaurant in December 2006. Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, the pioneer of Japanese haute cuisine ever since his first Nobu opened back in 1994, has set tip shop within the Intercontinental Hotel on the Kowloon side, with stunning views directly overlooking Victoria Bay. Nobu's newest restaurant in his mini-empire (the 15th worldwide location) features all the refinement and omakase (from the heart) that diners have come to expect. The inventive Japanese dishes offered at his other outposts are all here, although future plans may include Chinese tastes. His black cod with miso, yellowtail with jalapeno, tiradito Nobu style, and lobster with pepper sauce are as fantastic as always. …

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