March 25, 2019

Hong Kong feast straight out of a martial arts classic

On the picture, chefs and students of Hong Kong’s Chinese Culinary Institute turned the gastronomic fancies of Jin Yong’s novel “The Legend of the Eagle-Shooting Heroes” into reality. The ham used to make “Twenty-four Bridges of Moonlight” can be seen in the centre of the picture.

Any kind of food, it would seem, can be found in culinary paradise Hong Kong, from Michelin-starred restaurants to tasty and authentic street food.


The 2017 guide references 49 different cuisines and 61 starred-restaurants, including six awarded three stars, a rich offering indeed for a territory 30 times smaller than Belgium. Only a selected few food fanatics would be zealous and bold enough to attempt recreating in real life the fanciful and extravagant dishes that existed only in fiction, and this has never been done outside Hong Kong.

When the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Brussels (HKETO, Brussels) decided to crown its 2017 celebrations to mark the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region with a martial arts-themed gala dinner, with dishes inspired by Jin Yong’s classic, The Legend of the Eagle-Shooting Heroes, Hong Kong’s Chinese Culinary Institute (CCI) was quick to accept the challenge.

Founded in the year 2000, the CCI is the biggest educational institution in Hong Kong, offering programmes for both beginners and for professionals wishing to upgrade their skills. They can learn the main Chinese regional styles of cooking, each with its dedicated kitchen and served in the institute’s own restaurant. Particular emphasis, of course, is placed on Hong Kong’s own Cantonese cuisine, renowned for its delicious and endlessly varied dim sum dumplings. Such is the institute’s reputation for excellence that once they graduate, students are quickly snapped up by restaurants and hotels in Hong Kong and the region – the CCI boasts a 96% employment rate.

With its practice of encouraging a creative approach and a modern interpretation of classic dishes, the CCI was excited rather than daunted by the challenge of turning the gastronomic fantasies of Jin Yong’s masterpiece into reality. CCI chefs, assisted by their students, used their skills and talent to create and cook an eight-course feast of aromatic dishes with poetic references, served at two gala dinners hosted by HKETO, Brussels, one in Paris on 19 October and the other in Brussels on 24 October 2017.

This is how one of these culinary delights, so delicious that it earned its name from a line of a Tang poem – “Twenty-four Bridges of Moonlight”, is made. Twenty-four holes are scooped out of a Jinhua ham, which are then artfully filled with 24 little spheres skillfully carved from a piece of tofu. Bound and steamed, the ham produces a wonderful, savoury taste, absorbed by the tofu. Having served its purpose, the ham is then discarded, and the 24 white moon-like spheres can be served.

This was just one of the dishes cooked by the book’s heroine, Huang Rong, for renowned martial arts master Hong Qiqong. Knowing he was a gourmet in constant pursuit of sensual enjoyment, she used her remarkable cooking talents to tempt him to agree to teach her lover Guo Jing the 18 powerful kung fu moves known as “The Art of Taming Dragons”. The story is as familiar to Hong Kong and other Chinese people, growing up reading Jin Yong’s books and watching the many television series and films derived from them, as the tales of King Arthur and the Round Table are to people in the West.

The enjoyment of guests at the gala dinners was further enhanced by the expert performances of martial arts athletes from the Hong Kong Wushu Union, all gold medallists in various competitions.

Special Representative for Hong Kong Economic and Trade Affairs to the European Union, Ms Shirley Lam, introduced some of Hong Kong’s achievements over the past 20 years. She told guests, who included members of the diplomatic corps, the European institutions, the Belgian government, business people, academics and the media, that Hong Kong enjoys a unique advantage under “one country, two systems”. “We benefit greatly from strong links with the Mainland of China and, at the same time, we retain our separate legal, financial and economic systems. We have used our experience and skills in doing business with the outside world for over half a century. Our international outlook and connectivity and the high degree of autonomy we enjoy has given us an edge”.

Ms Lam said that the best is yet to come for Hong Kong, as the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government continues to strive to make the city even more competitive and connected.

“Our Chief Executive Mrs Carrie Lam, in her first Policy Address delivered on 11 October, outlined a full range of proposals to promote and facilitate Hong Kong to be an ideal place for companies to expand their business, and also a more liveable and smarter city for our people and visitors.”

Ms Lam also spoke about the new measures to make the tax system even more business friendly, the Government’s strategy to boost innovation and technology development, mega infrastructural projects that are underway and the unique opportunities Hong Kong will enjoy under the Belt and Road Initiative and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area development.


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