Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Explosions of flavour

Mar 28. 2019
Taste of Hong Kong 2019 drew more local gourmets than ever before.
Taste of Hong Kong 2019 drew more local gourmets than ever before.
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By Kitchana Lersakvanitchakul

Top chefs line up to offer their very best fare at the annual “Taste of Hong Kong” festival

The fourth edition of “Taste of Hong Kong” – one of the biggest gastronomic festivals on the island which sees Michelin-starred chefs showcasing their signature dishes and exclusive menus at Central Harbourfront Event Space near Lai Yuen Amusement Park –wrapped last Sunday on a high note, with lots of local residents and tourists lining up to experience more than 60 mouthwatering dishes from 15 top restaurants and enjoy live music. 


Some of the food and beverage tents at Taste of Hong Kong

This was the first time I had attended the event and I thoroughly enjoyed sampling dishes both the wonderful and weird dishes as well as the desserts. They included Gelato Messina’s “Milk Tea Bombe Alaska”, an interesting blend of Hong Kong milk tea ice cream with yuzu gel and crumbs dipped in torched meringue, “Mini Dr Evil’s Magic Mushroom” (chocolate gelato, peanut butter cookies, feuilletine grass and caramel mini mushroom), “Pavlova Sundae” (coconut meringue topped with lychee gelato, vanilla cream, fresh kiwi, passionfruit, yuzu and strawberry gel), and from Seedlip, whose slogan is “what to drink when you’re not drinking”, such interestingly named non-alcoholic cocktails as “Granny Smith’s Garden” and “Wimbledon’s Cup”.


Hong Kongers enjoy eating and drinking at the event.

The list of participating restaurants was long and varied and included Artemis & Apollo (Greek), Bibo X Silencio X The Ocean (fusion), Chom Chom (Vietnamese), Francis (Middle-East), Gelato Messina (international), Ichu Peru (Peruvian), John Anthony (Guangdong cuisine and dim sum), Old Bailey (food of Jiangnan), Sausage Commitment (Western), Pici (Italian) and Little Bao (modern Chinese). China’s Hoi King Heen from Guangdong, and two Japanese restaurants Zuma and Haku all did a roaring trade with long queues forming outside their tents. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to sample any of the limited edition “icon dishes” which were exclusively created for this event only.


Wolf is a taste theatre where chefs are invited to demonstrate their creations.

Top chefs included Frenchman Olivier Bellin, owner of the two-Michelin-starred L’Auberge des Glazicks, Leung Fai Hung from the one-Michelin-starred Hoi King Heen, Bjprn Frantzen from The Flying Elk, and chef May Chow from Little Bao who won the Asia’s Best Female Chef award in 2017.


While walking around the festival, I was invited to try to Uncle Saba’s Poppadoms, an Indian thin and crispy snack slathered in Mykonos chilli, which was super spicy but also very tasty. The owners of two brands sharing the “Small Producers” had plenty of snacks for the non meat-eaters and the festival, in a nod to banning single-use plastic, had placed drinking fountains at strategic spots.


Two young entrepreneurs at the Small Producers booth show off their vegan food.

Hong Kongers turned out in force every night, taking selfies in front of the bright yellow sign proclaiming “Taste” in the festival’s centre with brightly lit high-rises as a backdrop. Most also stopped at Wolf, a taste theatre where chefs from each of restaurants demonstrated their recipes. 


Thailand got a look in a well, with the “Royal Umbrella Rice” booth presenting Thai jasmine rice and other products such as frozen mango from health & wellness brand Amarize. 


Taste of Hong Kong boasts free drinking fountains.

“Vit Suthithavil, managing director of Panther Entertainment, told me we should do something new to promote our product and last year introduced me to IMG, which is considered the world’s number one event organiser. Prior to Taste of Hong Kong, we co-sponsored the HSBC LPGA golf tournament in Singapore,” Sumeth Laomoraphorn, chief executive of CP International, told me.

“Hong Kong is a food paradise where tourists like to try different tastes so it’s important that Thailand has a footprint here too.


Live performances added to the fun.

Taste of Hong Kong has been organised for four years and this year we are promoting the jasmine rice and other products. That’s all. Although we weren’t among the selected restaurants, we had our food show every day at 7pm and focused on gaeng massaman [a rich, relatively mild Thai curry] served with jasmine rice that impressed Hong Kong people and other event-goers. Thai food is of good quality but we do not do enough to promote jasmine rice on the world stage. This is the first time that we are proving that Thailand’s jasmine rice can be a global brand.


CP International's Sumeth Laomoraphorn at his Royal Umbrella Rice booth, the first time the company has participated in Taste of Hong Kong.

The 60-year-old chief executive adds that Hong Kong has been a market for Thai jasmine rice for 40 years but the export volume is decreasing every year as Thailand loses out to rice from Vietnam and Cambodia. “The is because we have never taken steps to brand Thai jasmine rice. We must make Thai jasmine rice outstanding.


Hong Kongers line up to sample frozen mango at Royal Umbrella Rice booth.

“Jasmine rice differs according to the country. It is like wine. If we have 10 wines from, say, France, Italy, Spain, Argentina, Chile, or California, you will be able to identify what countries they are from. The main point is building a brand, and this time it is about a global brand of ‘khao hom mali Thai’. Here we have Hong Kongers and international tourists tasting Royal Umbrella Thai jasmine rice. But building a brand takes a long time.”


Sumeth is now planning to bring the Taste of Hong Kong concept to Thailand. It will take place at Iconsiam at the end of the year and be called either Taste of Bangkok or Taste of Siam.


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