Friday, June 14, 2024
HomediningHow one young chef is spotlighting Hakka food by combining it with...

How one young chef is spotlighting Hakka food by combining it with Mexican and European elements

At the recently opened casual-dining restaurant Martin’s Kitchen on Zion Road, you’ll find an extensive menu of pizza, tacos, ribs and churros. That’s because chef Cheng Wei Liang previously worked at restaurants including Super Loco, Ce La Vi and the now-closed Salt Grill & Sky Bar and Brasserie Wolf, so he’s channelled his know-how in European and Mexican cuisines into his menu.

But there’s one more aspect of the menu that’s interesting, and that’s the dishes that are “Hakka-inspired”.

Lei cha or Hakka thunder tea rice, for example, has been reinterpreted into a chopped salad featuring greens like preserved radish, endive and haricot, to be mixed up with peanuts, tofu and spices and drizzled with a matcha vinaigrette dressing.

And then there’s Hakka Noodles, featuring springy handmade noodles with pork marinated in fermented tofu. The dish is served with a tingling hot sauce made with habanero and chipotle peppers.

Cheng has poured his heart into these dishes. Although he is Hakka, “No one taught me to cook Hakka dishes,” the 34-year-old said. His fondest growing-up memories are of the Hakka dishes his aunt used to cook at home. It was only when she died a year ago that he began to dabble in Hakka cooking. “It’s all from memory and research,” he said. And his motivation is “to pay tribute” to his aunt.

Eventually, though, his mother “came down again, with a pure heart”, to give his cooking another try.

Cheng’s earnestness is evident in the fact that at Martin’s Kitchen, “we only buy raw products and make 99 per cent of our food in-house”, even down to sauces like mayonnaise, he told us.

For now, more traditional Hakka dishes are beyond Cheng, but he hopes to learn more skills, like how to make Hakka yong tau foo.

His goal at Martin’s Kitchen is “to make Hakka food more accessible to young people,” hoping that through exposure to elements of Hakka cooking in a nice sit-down environment, they’ll be more open to learning about and understanding a culture that could slip away in time without its dedicated champions.

Martin’s Kitchen is at 56 Zion Road.


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