Food, Top Feature

Spice up your life

Chefs from Cookhouse, Pen Yen and White City House share tips on how to
incorporate Asian flavours and techniques

Asian food was tipped as one of the biggest trends for 2018, and it seems the prediction has come to pass. “As of late Asian food has had more of a presence, despite being one of the oldest genres of cuisine,” says Kady Yon, UK executive chef.

The flavours and textures of this highly diverse continent are in demand with our members and guests everywhere from The Ned, where Kaia has consistently been one of the most popular restaurants, to New York’s Ludlow House, which has seen huge success with its DuckedUp concept.

“DuckedUp is a destination in New York,” says Ludlow’s general manager, Soraya Larson. “We have the only Peking duck oven in North America, so people come to have celebration meals.”

After two years, Soraya puts the success of DuckedUp down to its loyal kitchen team, including Liu and Mingh, whose skillful duck-carving she describes as “something really special”, and Sang and Mr Yu, who make all the dim sum in-house.

But you don’t have to be an expert to experiment: new flavours and ingredients have cropped up on several Soho House menus, with White City House largely focused on southeast Asian cuisine. We asked three leading chefs for their tips.

Chris Thompson, White City House

Regular visits to Rayong, Thailand, while growing up sparked executive chef Chris’s passion for Asian cooking. He honed his skills at Gordon Ramsay’s Maze and Duck & Waffle, and most recently created the Asian-inspired White City House menu.

“These days, chefs tend to move around between restaurants with very different styles of cooking. Asian influences are much more common in a European brasserie now than they were ten years ago, for instance.

“With flavours on the White City House menu spanning from France to Hong Kong, I like to use Japanese knives. Honesukis and gokujos are more agile for meat, while Nakiri knives allow for unrivalled precision when it comes to chopping vegetables. My favourite is the yanagi-ba: a long, sword-like knife used for sashimi.

“Other ancient tools have their place in my kitchen too – shamojis for cooling rice, zarus for draining noodles – but my knives are my babies. I carry them around in a leather case and protect the blades with a saya; a protective wooden sheath.”

Sergei Leonenko, Pen Yen
Having risen through the ranks from commis at Nobu in London to head chef at Pen Yen, Farmhouse, Sergej has mastered the art of Japanese presentation with the best of British ingredients.
“Across Asia, but particularly in Japan, food’s purpose goes beyond the most immediate sensory denominator of taste. In every plate of food we consider all five senses.

“Even more important is balance. Just like how silky smooth is met with crunch, and bitterness always with some kind of sweetness, the reds of meat and fish are often balanced with greens and yellows. For the perfect plate, nothing is complete without a contrast of textures and colours.

“Thanks to the Cookhouse Garden at Soho Farmhouse we have amazing resources to brighten our plates. At Pen Yen, food is presented in a much simpler way than you might find at a robata grill in downtown Tokyo, but we do incorporate the traditional set of compositional rules known as moritsuke to many of our dishes, be that in our colourful donburi bowls, sashimi salads or a clean plate of spring gyoza.”

Gerard Molloy, Cookhouse

Before joining Soho House, Gerry ran cookery schools for British supermarket Waitrose and spent five years as a chef at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. Since October he has been training Soho Farmhouse members and guests in global cooking techniques.
“Asian-inspired courses are really popular. People who have travelled to Malaysia, Vietnam or Thailand want to recreate those flavours at home.

“We did a really successful Korean session where the group made their own bibimbap and prepared kimchi to ferment at home. We also tried gochujang, a paste made from chillies grown at high altitude.

“I first learnt about Asian ingredients at Le Manoir, where we had an Asian garden. They’re at the heart of this style of cooking; in Thailand for example you’d never use salt and pepper, you’d balance with tamarind, lime juice or fish sauce.

“A lot of Asian cooking is about the prep, and that goes back to the knives. I ran a session on this with Victorinox, talking about the different designs. A santoku blade, which has little indents that trap in air, is great for stir fries or street food because you get a cleaner cut. The knife must be very sharp so that if you’re making sushi it rolls off nicely and you get a nice end result. Or for crispy duck, you need to score it with a good, sharp knife to render it down so it’s crispy but not fatty.”

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