Bring out the best in your vegetables
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Chinese cookery expert Kwoklyn Wan – and brother of TV’s Gok – talks to Katie Wright about the joy of experimenting in the kitchen.
Growing up in Leicester in the ‘70s, Kwoklyn has fond memories of a childhood spent running around the city’s first Cantonese restaurant, owned by his parents, Myra and John.
“It was very much our playground growing up,” says the 48-year-old.
As they got older, the brothers, along with sister Oilen, were enlisted in the kitchen.
After cutting his teeth in their parents’ restaurants, embarking on his own culinary projects and later opening a martial arts school having also practiced kung fu since he was a child, Kwoklyn decided to focus on cooking full-time.
“I’ve concentrated on sharing my experiences and my knowledge through books, articles, and TV,” he says.
“I get to play at what I know, and to be quite honest I think I’ve become a better chef in the last five years than I’ve ever been, purely because I’m really looking at dishes, really looking at flavour combinations, different textures.
“When you’re working full-time in a restaurant, I don’t think you really look at it that way. You’re just trying to knock the dishes out because you’ve got 500 orders coming through and the phones are ringing off the hook, whereas now I get time to play and experiment.”
Now on his fourth Cantonese cookbook, Chinese Takeaway In 5 features recipes that require just five main ingredients (plus a few store cupboard essentials), an approach he says is ideal for anyone who’s looking to reduce the amount of meat they eat.
“The nice thing about Chinese food is the Chinese really have learned how to bring out the best of the vegetable, so you don’t really need to supplement them with a meat substitute.
“You just use a nice vegetable and give it the TLC it needs to bring out the flavour.”
Chinese Takeaway In 5 by Kwoklyn Wan is published by Quadrille, priced £15.