Cover Clockwise, from bottom left: Tang Leung Hung, Maxime Gilbert, Wu Yuk Ming, Michelle Ong and Vicky Lau (Photo: Mike Pickles for Tatler Hong Kong)

For the First Initiative Foundation’s latest event, a fusion of French and Chinese gastronomy was as symbolic as it was flavourful

“If there is something the world needs in this day and age, it is hope,” said Michelle Ong, chairwoman of First Initiative Foundation (FIF), the charitable organisation that, since 2010, has supported the arts, educational initiatives and community welfare programmes in Hong Kong and beyond. Every year, Ong’s FIF events spotlight creative talents from the city and abroad, and bring together artists, musicians and culinary greats to create what Ong called “a melting pot of culture, creativity, passion and finesse”. Her latest fundraiser, titled Hope & Harmony, was a collaboration with the French May Arts Festival. It featured an elaborate meal prepared by some of the city’s top chefs—who collaborated on a special menu for the evening—followed by a performance by the pianist Niu Niu and cellist Laurent Perrin.

For the dinner, Ong brought together four leading names of the culinary arts to create a menu that played with the concept of French and Chinese fusion. The line-up featured Vicky Lau of Tate Dining Room & Bar (recently anointed with its second Michelin star), Maxime Gilbert of Écriture, and Maxim’s master chefs Wu Yuk Ming and Tang Leung Hung. The collaboration brought out the specialities of each chef—Lau’s knack for playing on textures and imagery, Gilbert’s finely honed French technique, Wu’s decades of barbecue experience and Tang’s delicate touch when it comes to dim sum—for a menu that told a story of mutual respect, collaboration and innovation.

“I wanted all our guests to experience the one-of-a-kind fusion of these two communities, bringing them together with the power of music and food,” said Ong. “The collaboration of all four chefs has been an eclectic mix of skills and creative ideas. This idea of appreciating our differences and celebrating our similarities is what Hope & Harmony is all about.”

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A Tempting Trio

To kick off the meal, a platter featured quintessentially Hong Kong flavours with added French twists. Vicky Lau’s local crab tartlet with young pickled ginger was a beautiful canapé that combined two ingredients normally paired to achieve a perfect balance of ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ in terms of Traditional Chinese Medicine. For his contribution, Maxime Gilbert went for veal intestine—a lesser-seen but classic ingredient in French cookery—for the filling in his xiao long bao-inspired dumpling. The perfect folds in the dumpling came courtesy of Tang Leung Hung, a dim sum chef of more than 40 years. The final bite on the plate was Wu Yuk Ming’s barbecued suckling pig stuffed with minced prawn, a dish he described as a dying craft due to the tricky and time-consuming process of ensuring both elements are cooked à point.

See also: Chef Vicky Lau Launches Date By Tate, A New Gourmet Lifestyle Store

A Medley of Mains

Served in red and blue cocottes specially sourced by Ong herself, the two main courses presented to guests wove together classic French technique with distinctly Chinese flavour profiles.

Gilbert’s Boston lobster served with clam jus bouillon, mushrooms duxelle, house-cured salmon roe and saucisson was redolent of the sea, and reminiscent of the richly flavoured lobster dishes that grace many a Chinese banquet table.

Lau’s take on beef bourguignon, on the other hand, cleverly incorporated two signature ingredients that are essential in the Cantonese pantry: aged mandarin peel, which adds fruitiness and acidity to the rich beef, and XO sauce to add a layer of spiced piquancy, which is tempered by a silky cloak of pommes purée and crisp spring vegetables. “The XO sauce really blends in well with the red wine sauce, while the mandarin peel gives a lift to the dish,” said Lau. “Mandarin peel and beef is a classic combination in Chinese cuisine, but I’ve never seen it in a bourguignon style.”

See also: The Best Cantonese Desserts To Try In Hong Kong

Tropical Holiday

A nostalgic dessert for many, the mango, sago and pomelo sweet soup was transformed into an elegant dish by Tang. Served in a young coconut shell, the pudding had the texture of a delicate crème caramel, but with the lightness of fresh young coconut juice rather than the cloying richness of coconut cream.

See also: The Best Cantonese Desserts To Try In Hong Kong

Crunch Time

The final dessert of the night was the brainchild of both Lau and Gilbert: a show-stopping chocolate rocher with milk chocolate mousse and caramel, served with a chai tea mousse and chocolate sponge. “When thinking of French desserts, I go to caramel and chocolate,” explained Gilbert. For the dessert, he took charge of creating the chocolate rocher (a homage to Ferrero Rocher, a local favourite), while Lau created the silky chai ice cream and jelly, a reference to the city’s love for tea.

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