In Hong Kong, the typical trip from farm to table requires a plane ride. But a handful of restaurants are changing that.
“We have our own farm in Sheung Shui, supplying part of our vegetables such as winter melon, kai-lan [Chinese broccoli or kale], Chinese cabbage, tomatoes, bitter melon, taro, et cetera,” Danny Yip, owner of The Chairman, says. His eatery is a discreetly elegant, 56-seat Cantonese restaurant in Central that’s been showered with accolades since it opened in 2009.
“We like natural flavors,” he says. His eatery makes its own XO sauces, chili jams, pickled ginger and even salted eggs.
It’s not only the vegetables that are homegrown. “Local chicken and pork have more flavors than the supplies from mainland China, as they have been fed much better,” Yip says.
But taste isn’t Yip’s only concern: “Using local produce is more environmentally friendly.”
These sentiments are shared by chef Vinny Lauria of Stone Nullah Tavern, Posto Pubblico and Linguini Fini. The restaurants are run by Integrated Hospitality Management, which is a company that’s doing more than any other to get local, organic food on the table in Hong Kong.
“First and foremost, it’s flavor,” Lauria says. “It’s grown a few miles from our restaurants, and it’s picked that morning at 5 a.m., and it’s delivered at 8 a.m.,” which means there’s no time for ingredients to lose flavor or nutrients.
“I try to work within my parameters as much as I can,” he says. Lauria uses an import-only philosophy when necessary, while expanding the roster of local crops. “We’re trying to work with the farmers to bring in certain things that have never been grown here.” They harvested their first broccoli rabe this year, and artichokes are in the pipeline.
Lauria says that when he first got to Hong Kong, no one was even talking about local ingredients.
But then, he says, “It became this huge trend, which is definitely not a bad thing.”
Here’s where to go:
Widely considered the best Cantonese restaurant in Hong Kong, the signature dish here is steamed flowery crab in Shaoxing wine. You’ll want to book a table well in advance.
8 Kau U Fong, Central
It’s impossible not to be charmed by Peggy Chan’s Sai Ying Pun café. Her all-vegan menu draws inspiration from many cuisines — Indian, Japanese, even American — but the result is surprisingly coherent and imprinted with her personal style. Chan sources from Zen Organic farm, as well as Homegrown Foods, which is run by Integrated Hospitality Management.
12 Fuk Sau Lane, Sai Ying Pun
Casual and boisterous, Linguini Fini serves its namesake pasta, along with pizzas and other Italian fare (think roasted chicken wrapped in lardo and a respectable porchetta), best accompanied by a platter of organic seasonal vegetables.
1/F The L Place, 139 Queen’s Road, Central
This loud and lively trattoria is anchored by a horseshoe-shaped bar and packed with pasta lovers. It’s Italian in spirit, with plenty of New York energy, but the ingredients are Hong Kong all the way. The pastas, mozzarella and some charcuterie are made in house, too.
28 Elgin Street, Central
On historic Stone Nullah Lane in Wan Chai, Vinny Lauria has introduced New American cuisine to Hong Kong, with a market-driven menu of sharable plates.
G/F 69 Stone Nullah Lane, Wan Chai
Working out of a heritage building in Wan Chai and sourcing ingredients from her own organic farm in the New Territories, autodidact chef Margaret Xu’s contemporary Cantonese specialties include an aromatic yellow earth roasted chicken, and roasted suckling pig, both cooked in a terracotta pot of her own design.
18 Ship Street, Wan Chai
Photo Courtesy of Integrated Hospitality Management