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  • Writer's pictureTania Wee

Join Asia's first & only female Michelin Chef, Vicky Lau on a culinary trip through Yau Ma Tei

Quality food is made from quality ingredients and Chef Vicky Lau knows this well as her Michelin starred restaurant, Tate Dining Room, is known for its creative twists on Hong Kong’s seasonal products curated around Hong Kong’s culinary identity. Known for its fusion of Chinese-French cuisine and bridging the traditional with modern, owner and chef Vicky Lau is considered an icon in Hong Kong’s culinary scene.

In the first episode of the four-part series, “Hong Kong Chefs’ Playbook” a collaborative effort by Hong Kong Tourism Board and Michelin Guide, Lau, together with host Debbie Wong, take us on a trip through Yau Ma Tei, the bustling historical district in the heart of West Kowloon. It is the perfect escape for every chef-at-heart as the pair guide viewers in discovering local hidden gems that stand as the backbone of many chefs and restaurants in Yau Ma Tei.

Before we get to cooking, we first need the essentials.

Dubbed as a cook’s paradise, Shanghai Street is swamped with stores brimming with pots, pans, and almost anything one might need in a kitchen. Known for its quality and affordable price points, this street is heaven for anyone that loves to cook.

Walking along the street, you’ll find shops dedicated to equipment for different kinds of food. From all-wooden utensils to stainless steel equipment, there’s a store for every cook, be it a dim sum master or a pastry chef. Shops also house top-of-the-line gadgets for mixing, blending, frying, and other machines you want in a kitchen or restaurant.

Man Kee Choping Board best known for their sliced-up tree trunk chopping boards

A key destination for every chef on a trip to Shanghai Street is Man Kee Chopping Board. The establishment has been around for over half a century, offering quality and custom-made chopping boards made from a variety of woods to suit the needs of any cook. The wood acts as a sponge absorbing each hit of the knife, making it safe and ideal for chefs that do a lot of chopping.

Owner Mike Au shares tips on the proper maintenance of the wooden boards, gifting one to Chef Vicky which she could use at her restaurant. Such wooden chopping boards aren’t as popular as they used to be, so Man Kee’s is truly a hidden gem for those who still appreciate the benefits of a good block of wood for their cooking.

Now with all the right tools, it’s time to gather the ingredients.

Not just a fruit market. The Yau Ma Tei Wholesale Fruit Market is also a grade 2 historic building.

Just a few minutes down the road from Shanghai Street is the Yau Ma Tei Wholesale Fruit Market. Established way back in 1913, the market was recognised as a Grade II Historic Building in 2009, and many of the buildings in the area --despite many additions and renovations, still retain their original facades from back in the day.

To quote Chef Vicky, “if only the walls could talk”, as a trip to the market is like a trip back in time, with all the historical architecture and the Yau Ma Tei Theatre right across the street. The market is at its busiest during the early hours of the morning when fruits pass in and out of the market for delivery and is definitely the best place for a chef such as Vicky to find inspiration for her dishes.

Speaking of inspiration, chefs also find this in the meals that they eat. After the trip to the market, Chef Vicky and Debbie take us to Lau’s go-to for claypot rice, and the restaurant she would always bring visiting friends to when in the country.

For claypot rice perfection, Chef Vicky pours dark soy sauce around, in a circle

On Temple Street lies restaurant Hing Kee Claypot Rice, home to over 60 variations of the comfort dish for over 40 years. Learn a little about the traditional comfort food from Chefs Vicky and Debbie before being treated to a front-row view of Chef Vicky’s skills at Tate Dining Room.

Every chef has their own secrets to making their food taste the best. From ingredients sourced specifically from local markets to knives welded by the most talented craftsmen, the journey of one’s meal from its conception in a cook’s head to the plates on your table is a long and hearty one.

Chef Vicky in action at her two MICHELIN stars restaurant, Tate Dining Room

Find out what Chef Vicky has cooking in the kitchen and more about the unique Yau Ma Tei in HKTB and Michelin’s new series “Hong Kong Chefs’ Playbook”, premiering on 21 September on @DiscoverHongKong and @MichelinGuideWorldwide on Facebook.

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