12th Feburary 2019

A family of foodies

A family reunion in Hong Kong in 2002 exposed a huge divide between our two cultures and countries – and yet it was this visit that inspired my sister and I to return to our roots and open our Sweet Mandarin restaurant. From the outset, the differences were apparent for all to see. Our family stood in a line on the pavement, open-mouthed and out of place. Our aunty took us to Ladies’ Market, where they sold ladies’ clothes, but I felt enormous next to the people around me – like Gulliver, surrounded by the tiny inhabitants of a Far Eastern Lilliput. It was clear that while we were ethnically Chinese, we dressed and looked totally different from the native Hong Kong people. In my dismay at not being able to shop for clothes, my attention turned to food and I soon discovered rows of hawker stalls selling skewered meats. I made a beeline for the chicken skewers and, as I raised the meat to my lips, all the anxiety I initially felt about our cultural differences disappeared. My raison d’être was the food; here I had found a little piece of the jigsaw. My goal in Hong Kong became clear – I was here to rediscover my roots, learn the culinary delights of the locals and bring them home to share with my customers. These moreish chicken skewers are a perfect starter; the satay dip makes them extra special.