Cover Skip the stress of a dinner reservation and impress your loved one with a romantic meal at home this Valentine’s Day 2022 (Photo: Getty Images)

As the saying goes, the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach. Take in these expert Valentine’s Day cooking tips from Hong Kong’s top chefs and treat your special someone with a delicious home-cooked meal—you can thank us later

With Valentine’s Day just a week away, now is the time to begin planning how to celebrate the holiday of love and hunting for gifts to impress your date. While this year’s festivities will look a little different with restaurants closed for dinner service, there are still ways to feel love and enjoy a memorable celebration indoors—you just have to be creative about it. Movie marathons, at-home spa sessions, board games...the activity options are plenty.

And if you’re deciding which gift will say “I love you” the best, why not prepare a fancy home-cooked meal that’s guaranteed to make your sweetheart swoon? No matter what you choose to cook, you'll show a lot of love just by whipping up a special feast.

To give you some inspiration, we asked some of Hong Kong’s best chefs to share their top tips for cooking a perfect Valentine’s Day dinner and their favourite date-night dishes to make. Roll up your sleeves, pour a glass of wine and let these chefs and their recipes guide you to a truly romantic celebration.  

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Angelo Agliano, Tosca di Angelo, The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong

For me, the most important part about Valentine’s Day is creating the right atmosphere. Aside from the food, a great wine, a bouquet of flowers, and candles are also essential to creating a romantic table setting.

The dish

I would suggest making a buffalo cheese ravioli with Pachino tomatoes, Taggiasche olives, and pesto. The method of making this ravioli is similar to making a relationship successful and harmonious whilst still keeping it exciting! We use burrata cheese in this recipe because of its tenderness, and mixing it with all the other ingredients is just like the act of compromising with your loved one. 

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For the pasta dough:

Ingredients: 500g flour, 500g Semolina, 250g eggs, 0.5g saffron powder, 50g white wine, 150g water, 10g salt

For the filling:

Ingredients: 250g Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, 150g Mozzarella Bufala, 50g smoked stracciatella, 50g mascarpone, olive oil, salt and pepper (in moderate amounts)

For the tomato coulis:

Ingredients: 100g onion slices, 100g tomato slices, 800g tomato sauce, 15g garlic slices, 30g shallot slices, 1g oregano powder, 60g olive oil

Method:

1. Whilst the pasta dough rests, put all the filling ingredients into a food processor and blitz. Pulse until roughly combined.

2. Cover the mixture and refrigerate for an hour, allowing the filling to firm up. Whilst the mixture cools, roll out your pasta sheet.

3. Cut your pasta sheet in half and lay both strips next to each other. Using the piping bag, carefully squeeze dollops of the filling down the centre of one of the strips about 5cm apart.

4. Place the other strip directly on top. Before sealing, gently press the dough around the filling to eliminate any excess air. Very lightly moisten the dough with your hands (you can use a pastry brush here if you prefer) and press it firmly closed.

5. A good seal is important for keeping the filling inside so take your time here. Take a square ravioli cutter (a wine glass works well for circular ravioli) and press firmly on the dough around the filling. Set aside or refrigerate your finished ravioli whilst you prepare the tomato sauce.

6. When your tomato sauce is almost ready, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook your ravioli for about 3 minutes and then drain the pasta. Transfer to the tomato sauce and toss gently to thoroughly coat in the sauce.

To make the tomato sauce:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 190°C. Arrange your halved tomatoes facing upwards in a single layer in a large roasting tin.

2. Push the crushed garlic in amongst the tomatoes, submerging it inside them where possible. Sprinkle over the sugar, salt and pepper.

3. Spoon the tomato purée evenly over the roasting tin and finally drizzle with olive oil.

4. Roast in the oven for about an hour until the tomatoes are soft and beginning to char in places. Check after 40 minutes to ensure you don’t burn the sauce.

5. When cooked, scatter over the chopped basil and gently crush the tomatoes with a fork to form a lovely thick sauce.

6. In a dry frying pan, gently toast the pine nuts until they begin to brown and then turn off the heat.

7. Serve the sauce with your freshly made ravioli and scatter over the toasted pine nuts. Garnish with a slice of Parmigiano Reggiano and some fresh basil leaves. 

Ray Choi and Devon Hou, Cobo House

To make your date even more interesting and enjoyable, go grocery shopping together for the ingredients you need for the meal. Quality ingredients are key to bringing out the dish’s full potential, so do keep an eye out for all the fresh, seasonal goodies while food shopping.

Get creative with how you cook. You can make ordinary dishes extraordinary by experimenting with seasonings and different food combinations.

The dish

Cooking together is an excellent way to spend quality time with your significant other. Therefore, we can’t think of a better way for couples to get intimate than experimenting with a slow-cooked recipe at home: chocolate spiced marinated beef short ribs, with red wine and dark chocolate pepper sauce and chimichurri. 

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For the short rib:

Ingredients: 50g salt, 40g chocolate powder, 35g brown sugar, 30g ground ginger, 20g Sichuan pepper, 10g coriander powder, 20g sugar, 20g smoke paprika, 10 garlic powder

Method:

1. Mix all the ingredients and marinate the short rib for 3 hours before cooking.

2. Put the short rib into a vacuum bag, seal it and set 58°C for 36 hours to pre-cook. Pan-sear the rib until it’s golden brown before serving.


For the chimichurri sauce:

Ingredients: 10g chopped shallot, 6g chopped red chilli, 20g chopped garlic, 50g red wine vinegar, 2g salt, 15g chopped coriander, 15g chopped parsley, 10g chopped oregano, 70g olive oil

Method:

1. Finely chop the shallot, red chilli, garlic, and herbs.

2. Mix all the chopped ingredients and herbs with olive oil.

3. Add red wine vinegar before serving, so the colour remains green.


For the red wine pepper sauce (sauce reduction, part one):

Ingredients: 160g shallot 550g red wine, 225g apple vinegar, 15g white peppercorn, two pieces of bay leaves

Method:

1. Fry the shallots. Reduce all the liquid until it is slightly reduced to almost dry.  


Sauce reduction, part two:

Ingredients: 100g beef jus

Method:

1. Mix in the reduction with beef jus in a small pot, and bring it to a boil.

2. Remove the pot from heat. Season with 10g of 70% chocolate to melt.

3. Strain the sauce before serving. 

Jayson Tang, Man Ho, JW Marriott Hotel Hong Kong

Cosying up at home with your significant other and enjoying a home-cooked meal together can be so much more romantic than dining out at a fancy restaurant. To set the mood and enhance the experience, table decorations and lit candles are essential. I would also suggest choosing two to three simple dishes that don’t require long hours of preparation. Prepare as much as you can in advance, so you can spend more time with your partner on the big day.

The dish

Chilled lobster with green apple and salmon roe is a great appetiser for any Valentine’s Day meal. It is refreshing, easy to make that will make for a perfect prelude to your romantic evening.  

Ingredients: 1 whole lobster (around 500g), 1 green apple (sliced), salt, 100g cider vinegar, 50g sugar, 50g mayonnaise, 50g salmon roe

Method:

1. Cook the lobster meat in boiling water for 12 minutes. Let it cool down for a while and slice it into pieces.

2. Keep green apple slices from browning with salt and then rinse the salty flavour off with water. Then, soak the green apple slices in apple cider vinegar.

3. Place the pickled green apple slices, chilled lobster meat and salmon roe on the plate. Top with egg yolk dressing and it is good to serve. 

Jacky Chung Chi-keung, Yue, Sheraton Tung Chung Hong Kong

When planning a romantic home-cooked meal, you should opt for easy-to-follow recipes to make the cooking process as streamlined and as fun as possible, especially for couples who don’t cook very often. Even if the meal is simple, it can still be memorable!

The dish

If your sweetheart has a penchant for Chinese delicacies, this abalone dish is a great addition to your love-day menu. Flavourful and easy to prepare, the dish will add a luxe touch to the meal, too. 

Ingredients: Canned 3-head abalone in saltwater, asparagus lettuce (cut it in flower shape), peppercorns (in pieces and a small bunch), ½ tsp Sichuan pepper oil, ½ tsp green pepper oil, 1 tsp concentrated chicken bouillon, a few drops of sesame oil

Method:  

1. Steam the abalone and put it in the fridge for 6 hours.

2. Cut the abalone into thin slices.

3. Cut the asparagus lettuce into 1cm dice, and use a little knife to cut them into flower shapes. Add it to the boiling water and cook for 10 seconds. Place it in iced water.

4. Mix all the seasonings (peppercorns, Sichuan pepper oil, green pepper oil, concentrated chicken bouillon and sesame oil), and season the abalone and asparagus lettuce. Mix well.

5. Carefully stack the abalone slides and roll them up to create a flower shape.

6. Place the asparagus and a small bunch of peppercorns on the side as decorations. 

Jack Chan, Celestial Court, Sheraton Hong Kong

Do research on what your other half likes to eat. Then plan the meal with the right amount of food, don’t overdo it. An impressive main course accompanied by some pasta would be nice enough. In my culinary world, I like fresh and light dishes with balancing flavours, textures and presentation.

Mixed vegetable side dishes could be a good option too, as they can be prepared quickly and are delicious to eat, plus its vivid colour would brighten up the plate. Lastly, remember to reserve enough time for meal preparation to avoid getting messy that evening.

The dish

Some of the ingredients can be prepared and refrigerated in advance, so you can save time and energy for the sweet talk. Also, you can use an air fryer to make this dish if you do not have an oven at home. This dish is especially recommended for gentlemen because crab picking can show your effort, caring and attentiveness—qualities that will win her heart. 

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Ingredients: 2 pieces of crabs (approximately 225g each, the size of your palm), 110g onion, 4 pieces of white mushrooms, bacon, 2 tbsp cream, 2 tbsp milk, ½ tbsp white roux, salt, eggs and breadcrumbs (in moderate amounts)

Method:

1. Cut the onion and mushrooms into thin slices. Cut the fatty end off and dice the bacon.

2. Sauté the onion slices and mushroom slices separately with a pinch of salt. Remove from the cooking pan and pat dry.

3. Pan-fry the diced bacon until it turns golden and crispy. Mix the onion, mushrooms and bacon in a cooking pan. Add the milk and cream. Sprinkle in a dash of salt and sugar.

4. When it comes to a boil, add white roux to thicken the mixture. Set aside to cool down.

5. Steam the crabs for 20 minutes and do the crab picking. Add the crab meat to the mixture.

6. Trim the crab shells and stuff them with crab cake mix.

7. Brush a layer of liquid before coating the surfaces completely with breadcrumbs. Add another layer of liquid egg and wait for 30 minutes before putting the crab into the oven. 

9. Bake for 13 minutes at 160°C in the oven or at 180°C in the air-fryer. If you use a conventional oven, take a look at the crab after 8 minutes. If you find the top has turned golden already, cover it with aluminium foil, so the crab meat can be cooked thoroughly without further darkening its colour.

Tips:

  • Select the crabs that are rich in white meat rather than brown meat because we only use white meat to cook this dish.  
  • The mix of onion, mushrooms and bacon can be prepared and refrigerated in advance. Do not cook the crab meat with these ingredients because they will damage its delicate texture and fresh flavour

To make the white roux (you can also find ready-to-cook white roux in the supermarket):

Ingredients: 100g butter, 50g flour

1. Steam the butter.

2. Pour the melted butter into a cooking pan when it is still hot.

3. Add flour and mix well.

4. Cook with very low heat until it solidifies. 


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