It’s a pleasure to interview an international star – Ken Hom OBE!
Enjoy is sandwiched (in a Michelin star way) between Chinese New Year and Saturday Kitchen – of course!
Ken loves the south of England and expresses his pleasure of visiting areas outside of London to sample the ever more impressive choice of restaurants that are on offer. He remembers his first experience of the UK: “When I first visited London 45 years ago as a poor student – London was ghastly – you had to have real money to find a decent meal.
“Today there is so much choice and being a chef is a legitimate career choice – oh the power of TV cookery shows… I delight in the fact that young people want cooking as their future, it’s an incredible sea of change, and when curating a recipe there’s no need to mention alternatives, as fresh and more exotic ingredients are readily available.”
Much water has gone under the bridge for Ken since those days and much of that he has swum in – a keen swimmer, Ken says that it is a trade off – he swims so he can cook, and therefore eat more.
Reflecting on his successes, Ken’s Wok must go down as a game changer – over six million UK households have a Ken Hom Wok in the kitchen and another two million have sold worldwide. He says the game changer was his attention to detail and refusal to accept anything other than perfection when he went to market – today the Wok has evolved in terms of its non-stick qualities. Now there is nothing he likes more than a fine stir-fry; chopped chicken thighs, soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, corn flour stir-fried with black beans, garlic, ginger and stock – it’s foolproof and a delicious Wok speciality.
Another favourite is spinach and garlic – how simple and he loves the fact that many a parent has thanked him after stir-fried vegetables have been consumed by previously vegetable-phobic children, which brings him onto the latest book.
Ken likes to write – he is indeed a prolific writer and now with approaching 40 books under his belt, he is investing in the chefs of the future with a recipe book for children. With the assistance of a nutritionist he hopes to educate the masses as childhood diabetes and obesity increases – something that concerns him deeply. “These are fun dishes that are simple, and are fun to cook and eat together as a family.”
Talking of eating together, when asked where his favourite restaurant is, he says it is like choosing your favourite pet; they are all your favourites. He just loves a good Chinese – they are great in London, he can relax and let someone else take the strain and he also loves a fine fish and chips!
A market that interests Enjoy-It is the ever more dominant Chinese wine market – in terms of supply and demand, he says, “China is a huge consumer of wine – especially red – it has changed the dynamics of the Old World producers, gone are the days of the naive Chinese drinking a fine Bordeaux with Coke! Today their cellars are the envy of Europe and there are wine producers in China improving the quality of wine by the season for export.”
The largest producing region is Yantai-Penglai, with over 140 wineries. It produces 40% of China’s wine.
Ken is also involved in Action Against Hunger (Zoe’s very own charity) as an ambassador – he does much by way of selling his services through auctions and has held many an evening in Paris at his home – a private dining experience unlike any other from his own open-plan kitchen. What a treat!
We observe that Ken is a very busy man, and he says, “Well there’s no peace for the wicked!” Thank goodness Ken was so very wicked or today’s culinary landscape would be a far less colourful and enchanting place.
Ken Hom’s autobiography ‘My Stir-Fried Life’ was published in 2016.
Try one of Ken’s other favourites recipes: Buddhist Casserole