For our second Mother’s Day recipe series – where five Hong Kong chefs share their moments with mum as well as simple and nostalgic dishes that make them think of her we head to funky Chinese fusion restaurant Ho Lee Fook to chat to Jowett Yu about his earliest memories of cooking and the best tips he got from mum.
Who inspired your love of cooking?
My grandmother inspired me to cook. Growing up, I would watch her cook with gigantic woks in the Taiwanese countryside. The toasty smell of wood-fire would permeate the kitchen. My grandmother was very intuitive and cooked everything from the land. She raised ducks, geese and chickens on the farm, and they would go from running around the farm and end up on the dinner table within the same afternoon. She also grew vegetables and rice on the farm. She could hold an egg up to the sun and tell us when the egg would hatch into a chook — like I say, very intuitive.
What are your earliest memories of cooking?
My mom taught me how to make an omu-rice when I was ten years old. I would come home from school hungry for a snack, and I always loved omelette rice with ketchup. One of my favourite memories with my mom was helping her make dumplings on weekends. We would sit together making dumplings throughout the afternoon and freeze a huge batch.
Jowett Yu's mother making dumplings
What is your favourite dish cooked by your mother?
My favourite dish would have to be white-cut chicken with soy paste. It was a simple dish but the best way to taste the flavour of the free-range chickens we raised ourselves.
What’s the best cooking advice you got from her?
When I told my mom that I was putting her dumplings (see below for recipe) on the menu at Ho Lee Fook, she gave me a half-hour lecture, questioning how I was making the dumplings and what ingredients I would be using. She questioned me on everything, from the cut of pork, the filling, the seasoning, and the skin. I will never forget that conversation. She wanted to make sure I didn’t ruin her reputation.
Jowett Yu of Ho Lee Fook
If you could take your Mum out for Mother’s Day in Hong Kong, where would you take her?
I would choose a Cantonese seafood restaurant by the water in Sai Kung or on Lamma Island. That is a true Hong Kong experience for me.
What would you say to her for Mother’s Day?
Hey mom, when it's safe for me to come home, we will come and visit you as soon as possible. I know you miss your grandson more than me, but that’s ok, he’s much cuter.
Mom's 'mostly cabbage, a little bit of pork' dumplings
Approx. 25 dumplings
350g pork mince
½ shredded green cabbage
1 large egg
20g oyster sauce
15g sesame oil
2g white pepper
10g salt for the filling, plus 2tsp for the cabbage
10g chopped coriander
30g thinly sliced spring onion
Cornstarch (as required)
1 pack dumpling wrappers
150ml Chinese light soy sauce
15g shacha paste
45ml white vinegar
30ml sesame oil
- Set up your wrapping station with a bowl of water and a brush, the dumpling wrappers, and a floured tray for the finished dumplings.
- For the filling, add two tablespoons of salt to the cabbage in a bowl and set it aside for 10 minutes to allow the salt to draw the liquid out of the cabbage. If you don’t do this the liquid will escape during cooking, leaving you with watery dumplings.
- Next, in a large mixing bowl, combine the pork mince, egg, coriander, and spring onion. Season with the salt, white pepper, sesame oil, and oyster sauce and mix until fully incorporated. Set the mixture aside to marinate for 10 minutes.
- Back to the cabbage. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
- Roughly dice the cabbage then stir it into the mixture. The mix should be sticky to the touch. If it is too loose, add some cornflour until it’s the right consistency
- Place a wrapper on your palm and spoon a heaped teaspoon of filling onto the centre of the wrapper. Fold one half over to form a half-circle and lightly brush the edges of the wrapper with water to help it stick together. Be sure to glue the edges together tight so the dumplings don’t burst during cooking.
- Use your thumb and index finger to make a pleat towards the centre. Make five to six pleats on the right side of the dumpling. Make sure you give each pleat a gentle pinch at the seam to ensure a good seal. Repeat the same process on the left side of the dumpling. Store your finished dumplings on the floured tray.
- Fill, fold, pleat, repeat.
- To cook your fresh dumplings, Ho Lee Fook-style, get a pan of water to a rolling boil. Add the dumplings and turn the heat down to a simmer. After one minute, bring the water back to the boil, then turn back down to a simmer. Repeat this process until the dumplings start to float, which means they’re done.
- If the water is too hot, the skin will cook faster than the filling, leaving the skin overcooked once the filling is done. This technique produces a springy filling and perfectly cooked skin every time.
- For the dipping sauce, combine all ingredients together, and mix until the sugar is dissolved.
For more Mother’s Day recipes, check out the Stir-fried eggs recipe by chef Chan Kai-ying of Chilli Fagara.