School of Wok founder, author and TV chef Jeremy Pang comes from three generations of Chinese chefs. Being surrounded by food connoisseurs since birth, Jeremy developed his passion for food early on, attributing his love of food to his father. Over the years Jeremy’s expertise in the food industry has continued to gain recognition and awards, including both School of Wok and the School of Wok wok range.
His recipes have been featured in a wide variety of national and international publications, along with regular national TV appearances. Jeremy’s ability to bringing food to life with a refreshing laid back, straight-forward approach has helped him to build a dynamic specialist cookery school, develop delicious recipes, and create innovative teaching techniques that are making their way through the culinary world.
How did you celebrate Chinese New Year when you were younger and how do you celebrate it now?
When I was younger, the days seemed so much longer! For Chinese New Year it was all about family time. We would spend time visiting family and friends throughout the 2 weeks of Chinese New Year and have feast after feast – whether out and about or in people’s homes, we would always have a banquet of amazing food. Now, it’s very different; as School of Wok has grown, most of my time is taken up by working. Although I’m still completely surrounded by banquets and feasts now, I am cooking for others and teaching people how to recreate these meals! These days Chinese New Year is more of a quiet affair where my mum may cook a feast for the immediate family and our children.
What is the signature/special dish you would normally have with your family at Chinese New Year?
Lobster noodles (long noodles signify long life of course!)
In Chinese food culture, certain food items has special symbolic meaning, does it affect how you prepare a meal for special occasions, such as for a family reunion and inviting old friends around?
Yes definitely. On special occasions, our meals usually include the following:
And maybe a sweet and sour something – because it just tastes so good…
Where and how did you learn to cook? Who/what is your biggest inspiration?
My dad was an amazing cook (although he didn’t become a chef in the long run), his mum used to own a takeaway in North London, and my grandad on my mum’s side was a professional baker and dim sum chef.
My dad was my true inspiration for creativity in the kitchen, along with my mum who installed discipline (in most things in my life). Piecing the two together helped me to learn to cook. When I was younger, my dad would never tell me what was in the dishes, we would have to guess which ingredients made up each dish – that was true palate training at its best.
What does authentic Chinese food mean to you?
The balance of flavour, colour and texture. Sharing food. Pure joy.
What do you envision for the future of Chinese food in the UK?
People are starting to understand the versatility of Chinese food and that it’s not necessarily ‘complicated’, just different to Western techniques. I see the Chinese food in restaurants becoming more specialist, fewer dishes on their menus and with a cleaner finish rather than gloopy sauces and doused in lots of oil. I think it generally will be much cleaner and that many chefs will be cooking Chinese food who may not be Chinese at all. Much like any other cuisine, it’s a practical skill that can be taught and learnt.
Is there an element of British food culture that you admire or has had an influence on your work, and why?
London is in many ways in its own bubble. My thoughts on British food culture as a whole, are that there is an intrigue and real interest in tradition and also an acceptance of other cultures. Comfort food is a big part of British food culture to me (roast dinners, pies, a good fry up, fish and chips) and that lends itself to many crossovers in Chinese cuisine that people do not realise. Friday night Chinese takeaways for example, still so popular and maybe the most popular type of takeaway in the UK. Chinese food has been in the UK for so many decades and embedded itself as one of these comfort foods / comfortable meals to eat on a regular basis. This type of eating culture certainly lends itself to my work and how I create new Chinese dishes for the British public.
What British ingredient are you most excited to cook with for Chinese dishes?
Worcester sauce or ketchup. For a healthier option, kale works well with lots of Chinese dishes.
What ingredient do you always have in your fridge to make Chinese food? And what is your favourite Chinese dish(es)?
Lee Kum Kee Premium Oyster Sauce. My favourite dish is claypot chicken & mushroom rice.
Do you use oyster sauce often at home? If so, how do you normally use it?
Yes – it’s great for a simple stir fry if you have no time, and also adds a savoury flavour to balance out a dish. If used just for a vegetable stir fry with nothing else, it completely accentuates the natural flavour of the ingredients.
Do you have a signature dish in which soy sauce takes centre stage? If so, what is it?
Dark soy braised pork belly with fermented tofu.
Do you have a signature dish in which oyster sauce takes centre stage? If so, what is it?
Lobster noodles with ginger & spring onion – the oyster sauce mixed with lobster shell flavour makes the dish.
Have you tried using oyster sauce or soy sauce to make Western dishes? Please explain.
Yes – a dash of oyster sauce in a Bolognese tastes amazing!
Soy sauce for chocolate sauce; using dark soy and soft brown sugar mixed with butter and dark chocolate makes a great deep chocolate sauce.
Beside oyster sauce and soy sauce, which are your favourite Lee Kum Kee sauces?
Lee Kum Kee Hoisin Sauce – great for simple drizzle sauces and also to balance out saltiness with sweet yet savoury flavour.
What does Lee Kum Kee mean to you?
The most authentic Chinese sauce brand in the world. Lee Kum Kee stays true to how Chinese cuisine should taste.
What do you normally cook when you're at home? And what would be your ideal dish that can cook up in under 15 minutes?
Steamed fish with ginger and spring onion with steamed rice and stir fried vegetables on the side.
If you could tell the home cooks of the world one thing, what would it be?
Keep it simple, but never rush your cooking. Enjoy it instead.