We meet 10 of the most exciting chefs in Asia to find out where they eat when they’re off the clock. Having made their mark with innovative dishes, these mavericks tell us their favourite places to eat across the continent ¨C from Mumbai to Singapore via Seoul, Bangkok and Manila.
For the past eight years, Kang has been putting a contemporary spin on classic Korean recipes at his now two-Michelin-starred restaurant in Seoul. In 2020, he opened a new restaurant, Hansik Goo, in Hong Kong, where he presents bold takes on traditional Korean cooking.
¡®Jang Trio is a signature dish that has been served since the first day of Mingles. It¡¯s a dessert made with three
jangs (fermented soy-based pastes): ganjang, doenjang and gochujang. Black chicken is our newest dish ¨C a silky skewer covered with aroma of burnt rosemary, morel mushroom, dark vinegar glaze and garlic aioli. These dishes showcase our mission to let each ingredient shine.¡¯
¡®I love the diversity of the food scene in Seoul, from street food to fine dining. Korean caf¨¦s and desserts are some of the best in the world.¡¯
¡®My favourite place to eat in Seoul is Joo Ok, chef Shin Chang-ho¡¯s restaurant in The Plaza hotel. He aims to capture the spirit of Korea¡¯s four seasons and highlight the complexity of the country¡¯s obsession with fermented sauces and vinegars.¡¯
The Thai-Chinese-Australian chef ¨C better known as Chef Pam ¨C cut her teeth working for Jean-Georges Vongerichten at his eponymous three-Michelin-starred restaurant in New York, before returning to Bangkok to set up fine-dining experience The Table by Chef Pam and barbecue delivery service Smoked. Her buzzy new opening, Thai-Chinese Potong, is in the former HQ of her family¡¯s Traditional Chinese Medicine business.
¡®When I was in the USA, I had a big crush on Texas-style smoked meat and did lots of research on techniques. Now, the Maillard reaction (which gives browned food its flavour) is one of the five elements of my cooking philosophy.¡¯
¡®I spend most of my time in Chinatown, and have become very fond of Lao Tang Braised Goose restaurant for comfort food. The meat is cooked in a very traditional way; I recommend ordering the goose rice, which is succulent and soft but still keeps its spice and braised aroma.¡¯
¡®I¡¯m looking forward to trying the new menu at Baan Tepa, which was ?closed for a while due to Covid. Like me, chef Tam focuses on Thai ingredients and really elevates them.¡¯
Les Amis Group
Inspired by a stint working at farm-to-table restaurant Primo in Maine, USA, Tang co-founded sustainability-focused Kausmo two years ago. The idea is to challenge unnecessary waste by using oddly shaped and over-ripened vegetables, secondary meat cuts and forgotten native greens in Asian-influenced European dishes.
¡®I would describe my cooking style as free-spirited, using simple techniques to bring out the best in each ingredient. Our dishes highlight lesser-known local herbs and flowers such as
ulam raja, wild pepper, peperomia and Tonkin jasmine. They all thrive in our tropical climate and are packed with nutrition.¡¯
¡®Hawker food is what I love most in Singapore: chicken rice at Hong Xiang Hainanese Chicken Rice,
Hokkien mee (fried noodles) at Golden Mile Food Centre, bak chor mee (noodles with minced meat) at Simpang Bedok and laksa at 928 Yishun.¡¯
¡®One of the newest restaurants I¡¯m looking forward to visiting is Revolver. Its use of fire, smoke and spices in a progressive Indian-inspired menu is really exciting.¡¯
Toyo Eatery, Manila
Having started out at Heston Blumenthal¡¯s Fat Duck in the UK, Navarra opened Toyo Eatery in 2016 with his wife May, who oversees the front of house. Since then, he has made his name championing Filipino flavours. The couple are also behind Panaderya Toyo, a bakery-caf¨¦ nearby.
¡®Rural Filipino cooking uses wood and charcoal, and it¡¯s a practice we follow when preparing many of our dishes. We also use
kilaw ¨C the process of soaking ingredients in anything acidic ¨C and have a specific technique for ageing and processing fish.¡¯
¡®Growing up, I always ate grilled pork skewers. Go around different Manila neighbourhoods in late afternoon and you¡¯re bound to come across clouds of smoke from street-side grills. My wife and I live within the central business district and there¡¯s a branch of the Ineng¡¯s restaurant nearby for our barbecue fix.¡¯
¡®I enjoy the simplicity of a traditional
silog; it¡¯s a portmanteau of sinangag (garlic rice) and itlog (egg), and comes with meat, seafood or vegetables. You can have fried chicken silog, beef tapa silog, bacon silog¡. the list goes on.¡¯ facebook.com/toyoeatery
Hong Kong-born Tam swapped a degree in engineering for the world of patisserie and later fine dining. As co-head chef at Bo Shanghai (with her partner Simon Wong), she became the first female in mainland China to win a Michelin star. In 2020, the pair opened Obscura, a boundary-testing modern-Chinese restaurant.
¡®The dishes at Obscura are designed with one simple rule: they must be Chinese at their core. We travelled around China for more than a year to better understand the terroir and the people, dining with those who have been familiar with these food traditions their entire lives.¡¯
¡®My current must-try dish is The Fifth Flavour. It¡¯s inspired by the Chinese character for umami and is represented by characters for both lamb and fish. Growing up in Canada, I would have never thought that the marriage between these two ingredients would be harmonious.¡¯
¡®A bowl of wonton noodles from Uncle Cha¡¯s is comforting at any time of the day, probably because it reminds me of my cultural heritage, which is rooted in Hong Kong and Canada.¡¯
The classically trained, Jakarta-born chef co-heads nine-year-old Locavore in Ubud, which specialises in modern European fare made using locally sourced produce (more than 95 per cent of its ingredients are Indonesian). Also under the Locavore umbrella is Nusantara restaurant, the Night Rooster cocktail bar and a butcher¡¯s shop.
¡®What I like about Bali¡¯s food scene is that it¡¯s very distinctive from the rest of Indonesia, as the island is predominantly Hindu.¡¯
¡®Some of my favourite Indonesian ingredients to cook with are
andaliman pepper, kluwak nuts and coconut flowers. One of the dishes on the current Locavore menu is marinated lamb shoulder, slow cooked in palm husk and covered with a spice mix made from andaliman pepper, seaweed, fermented tomato and coriander seeds.¡¯
¡®My favourite place to eat away from Ubud is Xia House in the Canggu area ¨C a really cool, casual modern-Chinese restaurant that does the best claypot rice.¡¯
Tate Dining Room and Mora, Hong Kong
Since opening the two-Michelin-starred Tate Dining Room in Hong Kong a decade ago, the former graphic designer has become one of Asia¡¯s top female chefs. This year she co-founded Mora, an intimate Chinese restaurant with French influences.
¡®My style of cooking is always a balance between innovation and tradition, East and West ¨C?
which is how I describe Hong Kong as a city. That abundant diversity feeds into the food here.¡¯
¡®My exploration of soy began with Ode to Soy, a lunch menu at Tate Dining Room in 2020. Now, at Mora, the menu is defined by the versatility of this ingredient, which is a pillar of traditional Asian cooking. I want to highlight soy products such as tofu, soy milk and tofu skin, which can transform other ingredients.¡¯
¡®A traditional Hong Kong restaurant I would recommend is Ser Wong Fun, which is best known for its old Cantonese dishes, especially the snake soup.¡¯
tate.com.hk ; mora.com.hk
Hong Kong-born, Taipei-based Lin worked at Quay in Sydney and Noma in Copenhagen before co-founding his first restaurant, Mume, where Taiwanese ingredients are given a New Nordic twist. Since then, he has opened steakhouse Le Blanc, Thai restaurant Baan and seafood spot Coast, all in Taipei.
¡®Mume was built around the core values of sustainability and supporting local producers. We strive to use no less than 95 per cent Taiwanese ingredients, to show local guests and the rest of the world how underrated the diversity of the cuisine is.¡¯
¡®Taiwanese food is heavily shaped by history. It¡¯s a mix of Spanish, Japanese and Chinese influences, so it¡¯s difficult to define. If visitors were to try one national dish, it should be
gua bao, the Taiwanese pork bun ¨C basically, the Eastern version of a burger.¡¯
¡®I¡¯m motivated every day because the Taiwanese love to eat ¨C it¡¯s such a big part of the culture. People greet each other by saying, ¡°Have you eaten yet?¡± rather than ¡°How¡¯s your day?¡± We talk about food all the time.¡¯
Growing up in Kashmir watching his mother and aunt cook inspired Sadhu¡¯s passion for food. After working at several world-renowned restaurants (Alinea, The French Laundry, Le Bernardin), he co-founded Masque in 2016 in an old Mumbai textile mill. His 10-course tasting menu, using Indian?
ingredients developed in an in-house test kitchen, is the first of its kind in the country.
¡®My cooking style is intuitive, impromptu; based on my palate memory and flavours I like. One of the privileges that Masque has afforded me is the opportunity to better understand how ingredients are used from region to region. I¡¯m expecting a supply of
jalpai from West Bengal, an under-used fruit that¡¯s often called the ¡°Indian olive¡±. We¡¯ll brine the fruit, make chutney and serve it with sweet potato and pickled chilli.¡¯
¡®I love how hardy and dynamic the Mumbai food scene is. The city is notoriously difficult to exist in and sometimes I can¡¯t help but think you have to be a special kind of bizarre to open a restaurant here.¡¯
¡®I¡¯m looking forward to ordering from Ammu, a new Mumbai delivery service by Amninder Sandhu. She¡¯s one of India¡¯s most talented chefs and cooks with a warmth that is evident in her food.¡¯
Motivated by her mother¡¯s love of cooking ¨C and the joy she took from watching people eat her creations ¨C self-taught Motohashi opened 10-seat restaurant Julia in Tokyo with her sommelier husband Kenichiro five years ago. The restaurant is known for its eight- or 12-course
omakase menu with wine pairing.
¡®My cooking style is borderless: some say it¡¯s French, others Japanese fusion. I try to meet producers around the country as much as possible and make dishes that maximise the power of the ingredients ¨C that¡¯s what inspires me. We use domestic produce, mainly from Ibaraki and Okinawa prefectures where we have a relationship with our suppliers.¡¯
¡®Tokyo has very few actual local food specialities; its strength lies in the variety. The level at which you can eat delicious food, from cheap restaurants to high-end, is excellent.¡¯
¡®My favourite place to eat in Tokyo is Shirosaka. I always order the
omakase menu, which is based around reinterpreting traditional chargrilled food.¡¯ juliaebisu.wixsite.com/julia