In Margaret Xu’s garden

The new Cantonese cuisine at Yin Yang in Hong Kong. Contemporary, sustainable, healthy

11-03-2015
Margaret Xu outside Yin Yang, her restaurant in Ho

Margaret Xu outside Yin Yang, her restaurant in Hong Kong, a small white house on the beach, capable of giving new lymph to traditional Cantonese cuisine. Her passion for the vegetable garden was such that it generated a small organic farm, supplying the entire restaurant

It’s night time in the “New Territories” in Hong Kong and from the Ting Kau beach you can see the moon mirrored in the sea. A romantic and relaxing scenery, much different from the chaotic atmosphere of the centre of Hong Kong, even though we are only a few kilometres away. From the beach you can enter a secret garden, luxuriant and thick with aromas. A small white house, all lit up, overlooks the garden and the beach: this is Yin Yang, Margaret Xu’s new restaurant. It’s not easy to find, it would be easier if it were in one of the congested streets in the centre. This is the place Margaret chose to celebrate her concept of “new Cantonese cuisine”.

Once a designer, this young woman started to cook as a hobby, and also by chance she began to cultivate fruits and vegetables on the rooftop of her flat in Hong Kong. Her passion for the vegetable garden grew so much it generated a small organic farm which today supplies Yin Yang. The chef learnt the ropes studying traditional cuisine in town, directly from its best representatives: the housewives from the rural villages on the outskirts of the island-city. Her teachers were humble home cooks who know traditional cuisine very well as well as the many secrets you cannot find in cookbooks. Their techniques have no intention to show off, yet they taste of good sense.

Omakase rice

Omakase rice

Xu acquired the traditional Cantonese techniques and renewed them, so as to make them contemporary, sustainable, healthy. Her cuisine is in a way familiar to us; the philosophy on which Yin Yang is based is, indeed, that of renewing the most ancient gastronomic culture in Hong Kong with fresher and local ingredients. In the restaurant, seating around twenty people, the kitchen is more than open view, it is right in the middle of the room. Everything is prepared in front of the guests, except for one thing. Behind them, well in view, one can see the earthenware urns in which the chicken is roasted, with a long and slow cooking enhancing taste and textures to the highest level.

Margaret’s cuisine is special in that every day it adapts to what she picks in her vegetable garden, what she catches from the sea and she finds in the market, to the meat her trusted organic supplier brings. Everything is ultra-local, and the menu changes daily based on the available raw materials. One of the dishes that is never missing from the menu is indeed the chicken cooked in terracotta, served in three different textures: the very tender breast, the legs and the skin, cooked separately and extremely crispy.

Dining at Yin Yang is like eating at Margaret’s home, you can look at her while she’s cooking, she comes to chat by the table. In her dishes one can find every part of one ingredient, as in the starter where in the middle, a perfectly fried prawn head stands out, having the main role, crispy and similar to a chip despite the carapace, beside a sauce in which you can dip the head, a reduction of all the left-over parts of the crustacean.

This is an out-of-the-ordinary approach that is worth discovering, to enjoy new flavours and surprising textures but also the benefit of giving value to parts that would otherwise be thrown away. Cooking and eating in a healthy and sustainable way has never been so rich of flavour.


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Tecniche, ingredienti e iniziative della ristorazione attenta all'ambiente e agli ideali di Expo 2015, viste da Lisa Casali