As a food writer and the restaurateur behind Kin’s Kitchen, in Wan Chai, there’s little doubt Lau Chun has a profound interest in Cantonese food. His pantry shelves at home are stocked with classic, flavour-packed ingredients including bean paste and fermented bean curd from local sauce-maker Koon Chun, as well as an array of soy sauces from around Asia.
While cooking at home, Lau often uses bean paste for dishes of steamed pork spare ribs and grilled fish.
“These sorts of ingredient all have a lot of umami. A little goes a long way,” Lau says.
His shelves also hold items one might not expect of a Chinese cook, such as a whipping siphon.
“I keep an open mind about techniques and ingredients. I experiment with very old, classic recipes, as well as cutting-edge ones,” Lau says. “These might not be common or easily detectable by the diner, but that is how I create new dishes.”
A dish of sous-vide beef short ribs with fermented tofu and stilton cheese sauce is one such successful experiment, and has ended up on his restaurant’s menu.
Cantonese food is characterised by subtle flavours that retain the integrity of the ingredients. Yet, for someone known for his expertise in the cuisine, Lau has a proud collection of spicy condiments that are far from delicate in flavour, from Hungarian paprika to Cajun-style hot sauces, the latter bought mostly in North America.
He has speciality bourbon-spiked sauces as well as streetside bargains.
“I bought one [a Cajun-style hot sauce] in Canada [while on holiday a few months ago] from a food truck. They said it was about to expire, so it was heavily discounted.” He opens the bottle and smells it. “It still smells great. Sauces keep well.”
Aside from bringing condiments back from his own travels, Lau says, “Friends buy me food souvenirs, too. Rice, especially.”
Kin’s Kitchen has a rice menu, a rarity in Chinese restaurants, where the grain is often seen as just a standard accompaniment. Paella and risotto rices feature among Japanese and Taiwanese varieties.
“I just got some rice bran from [Tawaraya] the company that mills our rice for the restaurant. I’ll be using it to make Japanese-style preserves,” he says.
One of the newest additions to Lau’s pantry is a soy sauce from Tawaraya.
“It’s a base for sauces, like soba sauce, so it has been cooked with good-quality kombu, bonito flakes and sugar, and it’s a naturally, slowly fermented soy sauce that’s made without artificial additives.
“I’m interested in anything that shows craftsmanship. I prefer things that are handmade and produced in a natural way. I always want to know how things are made.”