Ken Hom is a stalwart of Chinese cooking. With roots in China, the USA and Europe, Ken understands better than most the unique challenges and opportunities that arise from living in a multicultural environment. He has enjoyed a career as an author, broadcaster and overall authority on Chinese cuisine who has helped British consumers better understand the joy of cooking Oriental food at home.
How did you celebrate Chinese New Year when you were younger and how do you celebrate it now?
It was either a big family dinner with multiple courses or we would be invited to a Chinese New Year banquet in Chinatown. I still celebrate with a big dinner that I enjoy with friends in London, I rotate Chinese restaurants and love the fact that I don’t have to cook!
What is the signature/special dish you would normally have with your family at Chinese New Year?
We grew up very poor, but we always had a whole steamed fish. It is still one of my favourite dishes, even when it is not Chinese New Year.
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?
I often like to serve fish because it is easy and healthy and is a symbol of prosperity. Of course, I never leave out noodles which symbolise longevity and perhaps a chicken dish for good fortune.
Where and how did you learn to cook?
From my Uncle Paul at his restaurant in Chicago Chinatown, named King Wah. I began at the age of 11. My Uncle Paul Lee was my greatest inspiration, a father and mentor figure.
What does authentic Chinese food mean to you?
Food that is properly cooked either in a hot wok or simmered to tender perfection.
What do you envision for the future of Chinese food in the UK?
More and more part of the DNA of British food culture. Everyone has had Chinese food growing up now and no wonder it is one of the most popular cuisines in the UK.
Is there an element of British food culture that you admire or has had an influence on your work, and why?
It’s great how adaptable British food culture has been to incorporate other flavours and cuisines into their own. I love seeing British chefs using Asian sauces such as those of Lee Kum Kee.
What British ingredient are you most excited to cook with for Chinese dishes?
Salmon which is not a fish that exists in China.
What ingredient do you always have in your fridge to make Chinese food? And what is your favourite Chinese dish(es)?
My Lee Kum Kee Premium Oyster Sauce, I can easily transform any food or even left overs into tasty Chinese dishes. My favourite Chinese dish is a simple stir-fry made with the best and freshest ingredients.
Do you use oyster sauce often at home? If so, how do you normally use it?
Simply drizzled over fried eggs…..heaven on earth!
Do you have a signature dish in which soy sauce takes centre stage? If so, what is it?
My soy sauce chicken.
Do you have a signature dish in which oyster sauce takes centre stage? If so, what is it?
Chicken on a bed of crispy noodles.
Have you tried using oyster sauce or soy sauce to make Western dishes? Please explain.
I often use oyster sauce or soy sauce when I am making a barbecue sauce. They both add an extra, undefinable edge!
Beside oyster sauce and soy sauce, which are your favourite Lee Kum Kee sauces?
All their sauces, I am particularly addicted to the Chiu Chow Chilli Oil, I even travel with it.
What does Lee Kum Kee mean to you?
Authenticity and quality.
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?
A really simple stir-fry in my wok that uses anything I have at hand and is made extra tasty with my Lee Kum Kee authentic sauces.
If you could tell the home cooks of the world one thing, what would it be?
Keep it simple and stay calm.