Celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Ken Hom wok
There are only a handful of chefs who have revolutionised the eating habits of a nation. Ken Hom’s 1982 BBC Chinese cookery series Ken Hom’s Chinese Cookery achieved just that and the accompanying recipe book has gone on to sell more than 1.5 million copies.So Ken really is a living legend of gastronomy and I was honoured to be invited to meet him backstage at John Lewis to celebrate Chinese New Year and the 30th anniversary of the Ken Hom wok.
We talked about his childhood, Ken was brought up by his mother in the China Town district of Chicago and went to work in his uncle Paul’s restaurant at the age of 11. His mum would create a three-course meal every day in her tiny kitchen, just using her wok and cleaver and it was this home cooking approach that gave Ken such strong culinary roots. These days Ken is an admirer of the next generation of chefs such as Andrew Wong of A.Wong in Victoria who takes a more regional approach to his cooking. But Ken is also as happy to rustle up a carbonara in his wok as something Chinese. He also spilt the beans on his short haul and long haul spice kits that he takes with him wherever he travels.Ken’s current restaurant is the pan-Asian MEE restaurant at the Belmond Copacabana Palace Hotel in Rio de Janeiro which has recently picked up a Michelin star. But today he was at the John Lewis stove. Ken helped develop the flat-bottomed wok in 1986, so that it would better adapt to UK hobs. and by 2005 one in seven people in Britain owned a Ken Hom wok with an estimated 8 million woks having been sold worldwide. Today, the flat bottomed non-stick wok is also recommended for electric, ceramic stove tops and heat induction burners and for its great versatility.Ken showed us how to cook three dishes, a beef with peppers and black bean sauce, a spicy egg fried rice and a Thai chicken and pineapple dish with coriander. The approved KH technique is to
- Heat up the wok for 5-10 minutes before cooking which gives the food a smokey taste
2. To bear in mind that “If it’s not sizzling it’s not sexy!”
The food was delicious and bore that undefinable Ken Hom stamp that I remember from watching the shows and cooking from his books over thirty years ago.It’s not often that you get the chance to meet one of your heroes and when they are as lovely as Ken it makes it extra special.