A late night of yakitori and Japanese whisky doesn’t stop Richard Ekkebus from rising at 4am and heading to Fukuoka’s Nagahama fish market to explore the latest catch: glossy buri (Japanese amberjack) that have been fattening through the cold winter, or colourful gurnard with their blue-tipped fins. But it’s the Spanish mackerel, with its mother-of-pearl sheen, that most excites the chef. “The fatty belly will work well as a tartare, and we’ll simply blowtorch the dorsal fillet. And we’ll do something with the citrus from Miyazaki.”
The culinary director of Amber at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental is on a three-day reconnaissance mission to the southernmost of Japan’s main islands, Kyushu, to visit farmers of the abundant land. The purpose? To source the best ingredients to showcase next month at Taste of Hong Kong, the annual four-day expo of the city’s vibrant dining scene. “Kyushu has become my garden and my sea,” explains Ekkebus, whose whirlwind trip focuses on Fukuoka and Miyazaki. Inspiration abounds as we explore innovative farms dedicated to raising wagyu, clams and large, plump Ebisu oysters, groves of sweet Hyuganatsu oranges (said to be a lucky mutation of the more commonly known yuzu fruit), and rich fields of round white Japanese turnips called kabu.
“I want to tell a story and not just present food."—Richard Ekkebus
Ekkebus and his team will be showcasing such ingredients at Taste of Hong Kong, as well as four unique dishes that incorporate what he has gleaned from his travels, enabling visitors to experience the flavours of Kyushu through Amber's unique point of view. Some of the planned dishes will include a soup of potatoes, clams and wakame, and Miyazaki wagyu beef seasoned with seaweed and served with pickled Hakata cabbage. Masterclasses will be given on each dish, enabling diners to learn about the provenance of its ingredients while tasting it. “I want to tell a story and not just present food,” says Ekkebus.