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Alvin Leung Masterclass Part 3: The Rest! English Breakfast, Foie Gras with Pat Chun & Sugar Spheres

What a lot of fun this series of posts has been. A trip down the culinary rabbit hole and an inspiration (for me at least, but I hope for you too). I am rounding up this three parter with the other gorgeous dishes covered in the masterclass: Alvin Leung’s Extreme Chinese take on the English Breakfast, Pat Chun Vinegar with Foie Gras, Tomatoes & Ginger Parfait and Sugar Spheres crafted with our own hands.

Alvin Leung Masterclass

Extreme Chinese English Breakfast? Alvin extracted the flavours and ideas and put together an indulgent and very glamorous take on the greasy spoon breakfast. Lotus seeds (like chickpeas but nuttier) with bacon, a sweet carrot puree which perfectly substituted ketchup but with more vibrancy, strips of sous vide duck and mustard foam. Extreme Chinese English Breakfast? Yes, please!

Alvin Leung Masterclass

Pat Chun Vinegar was a new ingredient to me. A sweetened vinegar unique to Hong Kong, it’s used in a traditional post-natal dish of Pork Knuckles & Ginger Stew, made from pork knuckles, eggs, ginger and sweetened vinegar. It is eaten both as a health food and as a celebratory dish after the birth of a child. Rich in calcium and protein, it replaces nutrients lost during childbirth. Here it is combined firstly with tomatoes and roasted, then foie gras fried with a flour coating is added. Eaten foie gras first, then tomatoes, and finally ginger parfait. It is rich, intense, sweet, and finally refreshing. Now, I just have to source some Pat Chun vinegar to make at home.

Alvin Leung Masterclass

Finally some sugar spheres, which were fun and dramatic. Kept under heat, pumped with a hand pump and cooled throughout so it didn’t burst, this was the most fun, but the most pointless bit. I managed to burst it within minutes too. New skill aquired though, I will try and use it practically soon.

Alvin Leung Masterclass

Alvin Leung Masterclass

So, that’s it! Alvin Cheung is a new culinary hero of mine and the best news of all is that he is opening a Bo Innovation in Mayfair this November. So you can try all of this exciting food there. Watch this space for more info!

http://www.boinnovation.com/

http://www.discoverhongkong.com/festivehk2010/eng/wine_dine/overview.jsp

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Alvin Leung Masterclass Part 2: Xiao Long Bao

Following on from yesterdays post: Alvin Leung Masterclass Part 1: Dead Garden, here’s Part 2 on Xiao Long Bao.

Alvin Leung's Interpretation of Xiao Long Bao

Nosey as I am, during the Dead Garden presentation, I spotted what looked like a bath of small egg yolks. Hmmm. I wondered what they were!

Egg yolks! First instinct but incorrect, closer inspection revealed that they were too orangey brown and a funny shape, not perfectly round. I wondered some more about what they were.

Patience is a virtue but it ain’t one of mine. So I watched attentively, and impatiently waited for the reveal. At last it came, they were Xiao Long Bao.

Xiao Long Bao?! They can’t be. Xiao Long Bao are dumplings with minced pork and onion and soup inside. One of my favourite Chinese foods, they require precision and delicacy, for if you burst them whilest transporting them to your mouth, you will lose all of the lovely stock. I’ve done it and can assure you that it’s devestating. Well, as devestating as an eating exerience can be. The build up, the care and attention, then spillage and failure. I have mastered the art now.

But these were an interpretation of Xiao Long Bao. Little balls of porky goodness made of pork stock containing minced pork, spring onion, shallot, sugar, sesame oil and hua diao, a type of rice wine, this was starting to sound like the pork flavour from the meat in the parcel. The pork stock is then combined with xantana (one of those magical thickeners used by molecular gastronomists and enthusiasts), gluco, another specialist powder used to create an egg like consistency, sesame oil & sugar.

Xiao Long Bao spending their last minute in an algin bath

Finally, spoonfuls are placed in an algin bath for 1 minute to create the little balls of Xiao Long Bao. Decorated with a narrow tart strip of ginger that has been marinaded in Chinese Red Vinegar, representing the vinegar & ginger you would dip your Xiao Long Bao in.

Spoon in hand I was curious. I had no idea what this would be like but was intrigued.  A very tender outside burst to reveal the rush of stock and intense meaty flavour so familiar to me from Xiao Long Bao excursions, it was an excellent and very exciting version. I went back for more. Better again, I will try these at home.

Come back tomorrow for Part 3, my piece on Alvin’s interpretation of the English breakfast.

http://www.boinnovation.com/

http://www.discoverhongkong.com/festivehk2010/eng/wine_dine/overview.jsp

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Alvin Leung Masterclass Part 1: Dead Garden

Alvin Leung - Demon Chef

Alvin Leung - Demon Chef

Culinary mastermind Alvin Leung, nicknamed the Demon Chef, recently returned to London from Hong Kong to promote Hong Kong Wine & Dine Festival later this year. I was thrilled that he had returned so soon, and that there would be an opportunity for a hands on masterclass at L’atelier des Chefs.

Alvin Leung is quite a character (as I discovered at Identita!), in fact character does not do him justice. Born in the UK, raised in Toronto, Canada and starting his career as an engineer, he travelled the world trying the food in The Fat Duck and El Bulli among others, before embarking on his professional culinary career. Self taught, his restaurant Bo Innovation has gained two michelin stars. Quite an achievement, he is the only self taught chef, apart from Heston Blumenthal, to have attained this.

The last time I saw him he really got my culinary brain ticking. I was inspired to go explore and use the techniques and ingredients that he had used. What would he have in store for us today, I wondered?

We had two hours and Alvin demonstrated four dishes, then we got involved. Creating his interpretations of the English Breakfast, a Dead Garden, Xiao Long Bao and Pat Chun Vinegar with Tomatoes, Foie Gras and Ginger Parfait it was fantastically creative and inspiring. We also made some crazy sugar spheres which I smashed within minutes and not intentionally (I swear!).

These, as you can imagine, were complex and detailed, and I am sure you want to hear about them all, so I am not going to do them the injustice of squeezing them all into one post. I’ll start with the Dead Garden, and come back soon with the others.

Alvin making the dead tree

Alvin making the dead tree

The Dead Garden is a quirky Hong Kong interpretation of the garden dishes featured on many menus now and inspired by Rene Redzepi of Noma. Alvin stated that Hong Kong is full of dead gardens, and so he had to do this. My interest was piqued and I watched excitedly as he started with a layer of spring onion and coriander foam, then added soil made from pureed dried porcini, lemon, lime and flour, finishing with a layer of worms and a dead tree. The caterpillar fungus was sauteed and cooked with a little water until al dente forming the worms, the enoki mushrooms were sauteed and dehydrated overnight, then frazzled them in liquid nitrogen until frozen and crystalline. These formed the tree.

Porcini soil

Porcini soil for the Dead Garden

Finished Dead Garden with some residual liquid nitrogen

Finished Dead Garden with some residual liquid nitrogen

How brilliant is that?! And it tasted great too. The freshness of the green foam with the intense earthiness and umami hit of the porcini soil and the slippery mushroomy worms, finished with the brittle enoki tree. A great combination of textures and balance of flavours. I really must get to Bo Innovation in Hong Kong.

Cheers! Our very own mini Dead Gardens.

Cheers! Our very own mini Dead Gardens

Come back soon for Part 2: Alvin’s interpretation of my favourite Xiao Long Bao.

http://www.boinnovation.com/

http://www.discoverhongkong.com/festivehk2010/eng/wine_dine/overview.jsp

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Identita, London: The International Chefs Conference

Identita

I bounced back from Ireland to the International Chefs Conference, Identità, at Vinopolis. Traditionally held in Italy, it has been held in London for two years now, and is an inspiring couple of days, with chef demonstrations, talks, tastings, and an excellent selection of Italian produce to sample. More bijoux than most food conferences, there was a clear focus on quality and excellence. When I heard about it, I couldn’t resist going along for both days so cleared my diary, and made my way.

There is so much that I could tell you about, I’ll start with some photos and highlights.

Identita

A brilliant and hilarious demo from quirky Hong Kong chef, Alvin Leung. A self taught 2* chef who cooks at his Hong Kong restaurant Bo Innovation, Alvin cooked his interpretation of the English breakfast with lotus root stuffed with bone marrow, lotus seeds and 1000 year old egg. He kicked it off with a martini and his sous chefs name was Devil. He was funny, fresh, and inspiring. I found myself laughing a lot and desperate to try his food. What a commendation!

<Identita

A fantastic demonstration by Gennaro Esposito, a chef from Southern Italy where he cooks at his 2* restaurant La Torre del Saracino. He presented a dish cooked with a new shape pasta that he designed with Pastificio dei Campi, deemed a grand cru pasta by Italian food magazine Gambero Rosso. Having tasted it, and already a fan, I can absolutely agree and applaud that. Gragnano, the town where the pasta comes from, is to pasta what Parma is to ham. With perfect bite and body, it really puts other pastas to shame. If a pasta could feel shame, of course. I feel shame for bad pasta!

Identita

Identita

Meeting Gennaro Esposito after his demonstration about the pasta and his dishes after which he insisted I try some sensational charcuterie, as you can imagine I didn’t need much persuading. The prosciutto and salami were perfection, but the lardo, well that just whisked me to another place, far from London and Vinopolis. Slippery with a grip, rich as foie gras, and delicately flavoured with herbs. Gorgeous stuff.

Identita

Identita

A Grana Padano cheese and wine matching where three vintages of Grana Padano cheese wre matched with several wines. It was the first time I had tried a 27 month old Grana Padano and loved it’s crystalline crunch and rich flavour. The wines were excellent too, especially an outstanding Amarone.

Identita

A demo from Jason Atherton and he announced his new restaurant that will open in Mayfair later in the year – name TBC.

Identita

Meeting people from Slow Food Italy, trying the food, speaking to the chefs and learning so much – more on that soon, it’s a post in itself.

Identita

Crazy cresses, micro herbs and numbing buds. More on that soon too!

http://www.identitalondon.com/