Catch On to Tony Cheng, CEO of Hainan Shaoye


Catch On to Tony Cheng, CEO of Hainan Shaoye



HOFEX — the the region’sleading food and hospitality tradeshow – kicked off last week in Hong Kong. With so many  foodies in town, we grill one of the city’s most enterprising epicureans.

Tony Cheng made his mark on the Hong Kong dining scene when he opened the much-lauded Drawing Room in 2009. A year later, Tony and his partners launched Hainan Shaoye in Causeway Bay, a restaurant serving Hong Kong’s most authentic Hainan Chicken Rice.  The concept proved so successful, a second outlet opened at Ocean Terminal, Harbour City, Tsim Sha Tsui.

We question the go-getting gourmand on his must-have ingredients, his favourite cookbooks and what’s missing in Hong Kong.

1. What are three must-have Asian ingredients?

It really depends on the season and what mood I’m in. But right now it’s:

i) Sichuan peppercorns: I love spicy food and the unique fragrance and numbness-inducing quality of  this peppercorn makes it a fun ingredient.

ii) Puning Miso (普寧豆醬): Originally from Chow Chiu, China, I’ve been addicted to this miso paste. I use it to marinate all forms of seafood. It has the same sweetness as white miso paste but with a lot more character.

iii) Lemongrass:  It’s such a versatile “herb”. You can use it in salad dressings, as a marinade, in desserts or in hot and cold drinks.

2. Name two cookbooks you couldn’t live without.

I have over 100 cookbooks, but my two favorites are ad hoc at home by Thomas Keller and On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee

On ad hoc at Home

The recipes are very sophisticated, yet the final dishes have the simplicity and warmth of home-style cooking. I particularly like the ‘Buttermilk Fried Chicken’. Once you successfully execute this dish, no other fried chicken ever comes close! Most of the dishes can also be shared, which is really the whole point of
home cooking.

On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen

This book is such a comprehensive resource . You don’t have to be into molecular gastronomy to appreciate the science of food, but this books gives you the background info to know why some dishes turn out one way while others turn out differently.

3. Which up-and-coming Hong Kong chef do you admire?

Not sure you’d classify him as up and coming, but I really like Ricky Cheung
from Le Mieux Bistro. Although he’s classically trained, he’s also extremely skilled in Chinese

4. What kind of cuisine or cooking style do you wish to see more of in Hong Kong?

I would like to see more Western-influenced home-style cooking. Thomas Keller’s ad hoc restaurant in Napa Valley serves sophisticated, family-style dishes in a laidback, no-frills setting. It’s the sort of place you could eat at everyday and Hong Kong doesn’t have anything like it.

5. What wine would you pair with an Asian dish?

Last year one of my best experiences was eating Hairy Crab while sipping Hestan Vineyards’ (Napa Valley) Chardonnay ’03. It was just crisp enough with a balanced acidity to cut through all the oiliness. Usually I stop at one or two hairy crabs, but that night I had half a dozen!

Paul Calder

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