I identify as British, but I have used food to explore my heritage and reconnect with my Chinese roots. As a result, I cook food that represents that connection. I was born and raised in Manchester but most of my childhood was spent in the Lake District, where my parents owned and operated Chinese restaurants that I worked in while growing up.
Now I’m finding my own way to tell my stories through food. I'm part of the second generation, so while there is a sense of familiarity with many of my dishes, it's my take on my Cantonese heritage. I am constantly researching, finding ways to improve my technique and creating new recipes, drawing on my experiences to create original dishes that are an accumulation of myself at that moment in time.
I think it's so important that the second generation takes their food culture into their own hands to change perceptions of the cuisine. Gone are the days that Chinese food is considered as gloopy, sweet, battered food — it’s so much more diverse than that. We are now more educated, with an understanding that we need to change the language of food. Eventually, I would love to move food into the gallery space to create installation dinners exploring themes of my heritage in depth.
I cook a predominately vegan Chinese-inspired menu at Pamela in Haggerston from Wednesday to Saturday, 6pm to 10.30pm. Here you will find dishes such as Doubanjiang mushrooms, hummus with deep fried wonton skins, fried cauliflower with sesame sauce, pickles, and black bean chilli oil and herbs. The latest non-vegan addition to the menu is poached king prawns, chicken and Thai basil wontons, served with house-made chilli oil and chives. I have recently extended my residency so I will be staying for a few more months — lots of time to come visit me!
Poached King Prawns, Chicken and Thai Basil Wontons
King prawns, shelled & deveined 750g
Chicken thighs, 2 pieces
Oyster sauce 1 T
Shaoxing wine 1 T
Soy sauce 1 T
Sesame sauce 1 t
Thai basil 60g
Pinch of salt, sugar and white pepper
Defrosted wonton wrappers, one pack (I prefer the green Happy Belly wonton skins brand)
Chives, finely chopped for garnish
1. Roughly cut up the king prawns and leave to one side.
2. Mince up 2 chicken thighs with 1 tablespoon of oyster sauce, Shaoxing wine and soy sauce. One teaspoon of sesame oil and pinches of salt, sugar and white pepper and add the Thai basil leaves. Mix until it becomes a uniform chicken mince.
3. Add the chopped king prawns until they are evenly distributed within the chicken mince.
4. Using defrosted wonton wrappers (I don't make my own!), take a wrapper and fill the middle with about a rounded teaspoon of the mixture.
5. Dip your finger into the whisked egg or water and moisten the edges of the wrapper. Then fold in half while scrunching up the wrapper, making sure to smooth out any air pockets and pressing to seal all the edges.
6. Bring water to boil in a pot. Once it's at a rolling boil, add the wontons but not too many at once as you’ll crowd the pot. Turn down the heat and let them poach for a couple of minutes.
7. Once the wontons have been floating for approximately 30 seconds, check to see if they're done. You can see if they’re cooked by checking the prawn in the wonton: if you can see the pink of the flesh through the thin wrapper skins, they are done.
Serve by adding chilli oil, black vinegar and any greens you have at hand (spring onions, chives, coriander, anything) and eat immediately!