My Life in Food: Ken Hom
'If I ever feel the pang of homesickness, I eat something with rice. It's my comfort food'
Thursday 07 February 2013
Ken Hom almost single-handedly introduced British people to Chinese Food and the joys of the wok. His first TV programme, Ken Hom's Chinese Cookery, in 1982, was a huge success and the book of the series sold millions. Still a regular feature on our screens, his documentary on the noodle for Korean TV won a Peabody award and in 2012 he presented the BBC series Exploring China: A Culinary Adventure. His guide to Chinese New Year is available from kenhom.co.uk and his Chinese meal range on sale in Tesco.
What are your most and least used pieces of kitchen kit?
Most used? My cleaver and my wok. Simply because that's really all you need. I grew up very poor, and we had a tiny kitchen and my mum made everything with just those two pieces. She would make fabulous three-course meals. A Chinese cleaver and a wok are really all you need to cook anything. It's also the reason why I don't have anything I don't use.
If you had only £10 to spend on food, where would you spend it and on what?
With £10 I would go to a fresh market and just get all the fresh vegetables I could. I would start with onion and garlic, because once you have those, you have a base. I would stir-fry vegetables, throw in a couple of eggs and have a wonderful meal.
What do you eat for comfort?
A little bit of rice. I think if I ever feel the pang of homesickness, I would have something with rice. There's something comforting about eating rice. I love salty things. I'm not one of these people who craves sweet things. I love savoury things, and so anything salty is really wonderful. So, stir-fry a bunch of Chinese greens, with garlic on top of rice – delicious to me.
If you could only eat bread or potatoes for the rest of your life, which would you choose?
Neither! Because I don't eat bread or potatoes. I think it's probably in my Chinese upbringing to eat more rice and noodles. I just feel that bread and potatoes fill me too much. I feel really stuffed when I eat them.
What's your desert island recipe?
It would be Peking Duck, with moist meat, and I would chew all the bones! And live for a few more days! I like fish but prefer Peking duck.
What's your favourite restaurant?
Well, I have several. I love China Tang at The Dorchester. I love Shanghai Blues in London and Royal China in Queensway. All my favourite restaurants tend to be Chinese, simply because, and especially when I come to the UK and to London, I really want to eat good Chinese food and the UK has some of the best Chinese food in Europe.
What's your favourite cookbook?
It's very uncontroversial but Elizabeth David's books, because they talk not just of food and wine but places, too. When she talks about Italy, when she talks about France – you really feel you're there.
Who taught you to cook?
It was my uncle Paul. I went to work for him when I was 11 and he taught me everything, about how to work and how things should taste when they're cooked properly, and he became sort of a father, surrogate father, mentor figure.
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