By NIKA ROQUE
September 12, 2019
More than utilizing expert techniques, Conrad Manila’s fine dining restaurant China Blue’s renowned chef Jereme Leung explains that cooking is all about understanding culture through food.
The top culinary personality presented his tried and tested approach to cooking through a masterclass for professors of the Hotel, Restaurant and Institution Management department of the De La Salle College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB).
“I’ve done this for more than 30 years, so cooking to me is a lot more than food. In the most primitive state of people — of any population, of any culture — food is something that fulfills hunger. You eat so you survive. Beyond that, food is also the best way to express [one’s] culture. Every culture has got their regional cuisines, it has to say something about the heritage, the region, the ingredients available,” Leung defined cooking in an interview with The Manila Times.
“To me cooking, apart from being with food, is also a cultural exchange. It creates a lot of opportunity and platform for people to share different cultures. Food is one of those things that everybody loves to share and talk about unlike politics or finance,” he continued.
His process in creating a new dish involves going around the local area to search for ingredients and then experimenting with how these can be applied to Chinese cuisine.
Malunggay and other ingredients
The chef also aims to introduce unknown Chinese ingredients along with signature substances of the area, such as how malunggay leaves and Filipino herbs were used in some of the dimsum dishes of China Blue during the restaurant’s previous season.
Taking traditional Chinese ingredients and cooking techniques, Leung turned to teaching a very traditional dish from Hong Kong which is the taro dumpling. This particular dish was chosen because dumplings are a favorite among Filipinos.
With the original recipe being around since the early days of the British invasion, Leung analyzed it after studying the original recipe and made some adjustments to make it healthier and fit the taste of the locals.
Taro is present in both the dough and in the filling which has rich mushrooms and dried shrimps. Leung also added charcoal to the dough for the health benefits and vitamins.
“[The dumplings] derive from a traditional recipe and this is what we are pretty good at with the team. We encourage people to think out of the box, however you can improve on a recipe but you cannot throw away the heritage,” he explained. “We still want the same texture of a traditional recipe but make it better.”
Another signature of Leung is presenting his dishes in an elegant way. The taro dumplings take the shapes of fruit baskets and swans, just a few ways of how the food at any of Leung’s restaurants is presented. And sharing the recipe at the masterclass was meaningful for the chef, since those who learned would be able to share it with their friends and family.
“My goal by having restaurants throughout the world is also to create a platform where people can share their culture in the context of good food,” he ended.
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