If Chef Jowett Yu seems familiar, it’s probably because he’s graced the kitchens of some of Australia’s hottest restaurants – from Tetsuya’s to Merivale’s Ms. G.
Unlucky for us, the owners of one of Hong Kong’s biggest restaurant groups, Black Sheep, took notice of his flair for Asian flavours while travelling in Australia. He relocated to the big city of Hong Kong, and took the helm of what has become one of Hong Kong’s most beloved restaurants: Ho Lee Fook.
‘Ho lee fook’ was inspired by old-school Hong Kong Cha Chaan Tengs (tea houses) and translates to ‘good fortune for your mouth’.
Here, Chef Jowett pays homage to his Taiwanese heritage and passion for Chinese cooking, with one of the restaurant’s star dishes inspired by his mum’s dumpling recipes. This appears on the menu as Mom’s ‘mostly cabbage and a little bit of pork’ Dumplings.
We chatted to him about food, fresh produce and what to order when dining at Ho Lee Fook.
What’s unique about the food scene in Hong Kong? Any emerging trends you’ve noticed recently?
Hong Kong is a very dynamic and evolving place for restaurants and there’s a huge amount of choice. I’ve been seeing a lot of novelty dim sum in the city lately, such as cartoon character steamed buns, but I’m not sure if the trend will stay.
Where is your favourite place to buy produce?
Hong Kong wet markets, for sure. I like Sai Ying Pun, Wan Chai and North Point.
What are your favourite ingredients to cook with?
I love cooking seafood and vegetables, and you can find amazing live seafood in Hong Kong.
How would you describe your cooking style in one sentence?
I’d say that I don’t let trends, style, and technique get in the way of deliciousness.
What are your main inspirations when coming up with new dishes? What is your testing process?
I take inspiration from everywhere and all cuisines. It can be something I’ve tried in the past or on a recent trip. I formulate an idea and then begin to write a recipe, but the hardest part is getting my chefs to replicate it and keeping up with the production and operations.
Where do you like to dine in Hong Kong for: 1. Takeout 2. Fine dining.
- I don’t really eat takeout but I do enjoy dai pai dong [open-air food stall] dining – Tin Cheong in Sham Shui Po is a favourite.
- Belon, I often dine here later at night at the bar counter and see what Chef Daniel Calvert is up to.
For newcomers to Hong Kong, where do you usually direct them in terms of food and drink?
It’s hard to say, but I ask them what they want and send them to the places that specialise in certain items. Otherwise, Yat Lok for a roast goose lunch is always a good call, but I warn people to go early and eat quickly to avoid the wrath of the owner.
What are you looking forward to in the coming months?
The weather cooling a bit in Hong Kong – I can finally comfortably walk outside.
What is your favourite dish on the Ho Lee Fook menu right now?
Probably the grilled Chinese-Jamaican jerk threadfin – my head chef, Kelvin, came up with the idea, we trialled it out and I think it’s absolutely delicious.