Hong Kong on a Plate

Last week, one of the events I covered for Speed was Hong Kong Tourism Board’s (HKTB) “Best of All, It’s in Hong Kong” global brand campaign launch that invites foreign visitors to #DiscoverHongKong like a local. It was timely because S and I are booked to go to Hong Kong in a few weeks.

The event wasn’t held in Hong Kong but at Ascott Bonifacio Global City. To recreate the Hong Kong feel, they named our tables after Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway (MTR) stations. I was seated at Kennedy Town, which is a relatively new area in Hong Kong for good restaurants. The highlight of the launch was a gourmet lunch treat made up of dishes curated by Chef Margarita Fores of Cibo.

Fores was awarded Asia’s Best Female Chef by Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2016, sponsored by S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna. She is the only Filipino and female chef featured in the campaign advertisement of HKTB.

Under the “Best of All, It’s in Hong Kong” campaign, HKTB highlights four areas where visitors can enjoy a trip to Hong Kong: food, shopping, family activities, and outdoor activities. Sure, the first three are no-brainers, but do you know that you can get a good hike out of Hong Kong?

Hong Kong is very familiar to Filipinos. Many of us had our first international trip there because it was relatively easy and affordable to get to and explore. And for the longest time, it has been second home to countless OFWs and migrant Filipinos.

Aside from that, Chinese food is deeply ingrained in the Filipino food culture, so Cantonese cuisine isn’t anything new to many of us. But Fores was still able to put a surprising spin on the usual dishes available in Hong Kong, making sure to add a Filipino touch as well, primarily through her choice of ingredients. See the menu below and take note of the table setting that took a Chinese New Year theme.

This, being a Hong Kong-Philippines fare, mixes/adds the cooking process/flavors of one with the ingredients/dishes of another. Simply put, it’s a fusion, no matter how much you may hate that word.

The adobo got me curious–one, because of the fried battered  pumpkin flower (it tastes good!) and two, because of katigbi, a kind of grain that is apparently being promoted as an alternative to rice. In English, it is called Job’s tears and is also known as Chinese barley. Its other names are coixseed and adlai. I would love to see this in more dishes and learn how to cook it But first, where is it available?

I especially liked the Handmade Egg Taglierini, which was Fores’ Asian take on Bolognese and was inspired by Cathay Pacific Business Lounge’s famous Dan Dan Mien. The egg noodles, and the minced pork and cured goose liver ragu combined Asian textures and flavors in an Italian guise. It was delightful and mind-boggling at the same time.

If I heard her correctly while introducing the dish, she handcarried the sausages from Hong Kong’s Yung Kee restaurant, which is known for this signature offering and, of course, roast goose.

What I cannot forget was one of the desserts: the Salted Egg Panna Cotta. It used pili milk, was topped with coconut caramel, had small sago, and had candied Batangas coffee. The last was made to look like a thin coral standing in the middle of the custard, but mine fell before I got to take a picture.

Can you imagine the different flavors and textures in that single dish? The coffee coral was hard and bitter, the caramel thick and sweet, the sago gelatinous, and the custard soft and rich. They all complemented each other very well. It was heaven. It was divine. It was comfort in a glass. I kept on putting in my mouth one scoop after another because I just can’t quite grasp and get enough of it. It was like the first time I tasted salted caramel popcorn but 100 percent more perplexingly amazing.

Yes, that was the best part. The sad part? I don’t know where and when I would taste that panna cotta again.

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