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New Series: Martin Yan’s Hong Kong

November 2nd, 2009 by Rebecca Harper Editor

Looking for a quick international getaway that doesn’t require a trip to the airport? Check out Martin Yan’s Hong Kong and get to know the flavors of this world-class island city. In each episode, the congenial “Yan Can Cook” chef shares some of his favorite places in Hong Kong with the Hulu audience — and along the way, he and his chef friends share their favorite recipes. Best of all, cooking demonstrations and travel tips are served with a healthy amount of Chef Yan’s trademark wit. We had the opportunity to speak to Yan about his Hong Kong adventures by phone last week; check out our conversation below. — Rebecca Harper (), Editor

Hulu: First, can you tell us why you decided to do a series about Hong Kong?
Chef Yan:
Well, if anybody has traveled to Hong Kong, it’s a city that not only never sleeps, but it never slows down. Hong Kong has always been considered the gourmet paradise and the Mecca of great foods. Being an international city and colonized by the British for over 100 years, Hong Kong is the crossroads of all the great foods. You have some of the best Western restaurants, French restaurants, Italian restaurants, Russian restaurants, Southeast Asian restaurants, and you also have the best Chinese restaurants. They actually refer to Hong Kong as the “fragrant harbor.” There are more restaurants per capita in Hong Kong than anywhere else in the world.

How did you decide which dishes and which parts of Hong Kong to focus on for this series, since Hong Kong is such a diverse large city?
I actually trained in Hong Kong. When I left Guangzhou, China when I was 13, I actually spent six years in Hong Kong working in restaurants. And after I graduated from college, I went back to Hong Kong to work. I worked for a food magazine, so I have a lot of fond memories, and I have some favorites of Hong Kong. Normally what I do in the Hong Kong Series, basically, is to feature the uniqueness of Hong Kong and what makes Hong Kong so different. Each show actually has a theme — for instance, bamboo. In Hong Kong, when they build high rises, they don’t use steel racks. They use bamboo scaffolding, all the way up to the 30th or 40th floor, so it’s very, very unique. You see people climbing up and down the bamboo scaffolding. And then the whole theme is on bamboo, talking about the use of bamboo in China and Southeast Asia. We talk about using bamboo shoots, cooking bamboo shoots, when whole bamboo is used, and when the bamboo leaf is used to wrap Chinese tamales in dim sum restaurants. Each one is about what makes Hong Kong so unique.

In another program, we talk about water. Hong Kong is an island, a peninsula island that is all surrounded by water. You water everywhere: you see deep water, you see the bay, the harbor, and then you see seafood restaurants everywhere. There’s an abundance of seafood from all over the world, not only the surrounding area. The whole series is about life, food, lifestyle, arts and the excitement, and what makes Hong Kong so unique.

Which episodes are your favorites?
They’re all my favorites. Otherwise, I wouldn’t put them in the series. I’m a world traveler. Normally my focus is not just on featuring one subject matter and one theme, but also to give people a broad understanding and an introduction to a great city. You see London, Paris, Tokyo, and New York and Los Angeles… Hong Kong is probably if not the most, then one of the most exciting cities in the world. You ask anybody who has visited Hong Kong, and they never forget all the excitement, all the energy. You go to New York – -and I love New York, I love London — but you only see part of New York, or part of London. You only see the theater district or Times Square, a certain area that never sleeps. But in Hong Kong, the entire city never sleeps. If you’ve ever been to Hong Kong, you’ll notice that it’s not just part of Hong Kong, but the entire city of Hong Kong is always bustling. There’s 7 to 8 million people living in a place that’s smaller than Chicago.

How often do you travel to Hong Kong?
I go there eight times years. I just landed, and I’m going back there in November and December. I do shows in China and Hong Kong, and I bring a lot professional chefs. I bring a leisure, gourmet tour as well as professional chefs to Hong Kong and China.

And why did you decide to put this series on Hulu?
Hulu is a great medium to reach a good audience. People who are interested in information, interested in entertainment would be browsing around Hulu and watch the programs. It’s also a new medium and excited. I’m very excited to partner with Hulu, and hopefully this is not the end, but the beginning.

I read that you’ve hosted over 3,000 cooking shows …
Yeah, I’ve done more cooking shows than most people. Not necessarily all people, but most people. I started doing the cooking show in 1978, 1979, for 30 years now.

How do you keep finding new ideas?
Well, I travel a great deal. I’m passionate about food and I love to eat, and I have a lot of friends everywhere. Everywhere I go, people always give me the best. Because of that, they inspire me. Being a guy that loves to eat — some people love tennis, some people love hiking, some people love swimming or surfing. I happen to love to eat and love to cook. Also, when you eat different food, like Cuban food, or Russian food, or Burmese food, you also understand the culture and the backdrop of the people. It’s a fascinating thing, a study of anthropology, of history and lifestyle when you go to a restaurant. Like when you go to an Indian restaurant, you see the decor. You go to a Thai restaurant and you see the wood carvings and the embroidery. You go to a Vietnamese or Cambodian restaurant, you see something. So the restaurant is a reflection of the culture and heritage. Just like people collecting stamps, you can study a lot about the people and their history. Food and restaurants are the same. Food is an expression of the chef and the owner. It’s how they want to present themselves and what kind of target audience they want to reach. For me, it’s always a cultural and culinary journey when you go into a restaurant, and it’s the same thing when I travel and when bring the program to people. I constantly learn from the chef, from the people, from home cooks. You cannot possibly know all the cuisine and the culture in the world, so by traveling, I bring all my memories and all my experiences with the people to the audience. I hope Hulu will continue to be in the forefront of bringing all this information and excitement and entertainment to people.

And when you’re at home, are you the one that cooks?
I always cook for myself. People always ask my wife, “Who cooks at home?” My wife always points her finger to me. When I’m home, I cook. I have three refrigerators and two sinks, and a big counter and a professional cooktop in my house. Everything is given to me by GE Monogram, so I can cook at home. I entertain a lot at home. When I’m home, I invite all my friends and neighbors to come and have dinner. A lot of times, I ask everybody to get involved, though. I normally cook one or two items, and they bring the dessert and salad and everything. Food and cooking brings everyone together. I hope my program on Hulu will bring more excitement and fun to the people that love food and travel, because all my programs are a combination of traveling and food and cooking.

Last comment: Nov 19th 2009 1 Comment
  • Logan Oliphant says:

    I have watch Martin Yan for many years, and I never get tried of watching him. I’m so glad that you have him on HULU. I hope to see more shows that he as made over the years on HULU, and would like to buy DVD collection of his shows. Martin, may you continue to cook and entertain, for as long as you can stand the heat of the kitchen.

    Thank You My Friend.