Cover The fish market inspires much of Vicky Cheng's cuisine (Illustration: Stephen Collins)

Fresh seafood and roast goose are just some of the homegrown Hong Kong delicacies that get VEA’s chef-owner excited

As part of our series celebrating the vibrancy and community within Hong Kong’s dining scene, we spoke to several of the industry’s leading lights about why they love the city’s unique food culture. Here, Vicky Cheng—chef-owner of Michelin-starred Chinese-French restaurant VEA and newly-opened Chinese fine dining restaurant Wing—reminisces about his go-to place for roast goose and why local seafood never fails to excite him.

Tell us about your favourite Hong Kong food memories.

One of my fondest memories of growing up in Hong Kong is eating tong chung beng, which used to be very popular and every child’s favourite; it’s like a rice-paper crêpe wrap that uses a very specific, technically-made hand-pulled sugar, with coconut and sesame. I left Hong Kong by the age of nine and when I returned after so many years, tong chung beng was no longer popular and wasn’t widely available anymore. That’s why I decided to make my own version at VEA, so I could showcase this memory and share it with my guests.

What are some of your favourite local ingredients to use?

I go shopping a lot in many different markets across Hong Kong; I visit Wan Chai Market daily for beautiful seasonal fruit and vegetables, Ap Lei Chau Market twice a week for local fish and seafood, and Kowloon City Market occasionally for Chiu Chow and Thai ingredients.

I really love local seafood. There is obviously a lot of local produce here, but seafood in general is just something that I truly enjoy exploring—the wild species from the sea, which aren’t grown [in farms] or genetically modified. Exploring this type of seafood, whether it’s fish or shrimp, is very exciting for me because once I discover and taste something new—or new to me, anyway—I get really excited to share these ingredients with my guests.

One fish that I’ve started to use at Wing is lion head croaker; we only opened the restaurant recently, but it’s already become a hit. It’s a small little fish, and if you don’t know how to eat fish, it’s not so easy to eat—but if you do, you’ll really appreciate it. This is something I grew up eating with my grandmother and it’s a type of fish that is very popular in Shanghai. Even the largest of its kind is still maybe only the size of your palm, so it’s something that is very precious—small but delicious, and full of flavour—and every time I see one, it immediately reminds me of my grandmother.

If you could only visit one restaurant in Hong Kong again, what would it be—and how does it sum up what you love about the city’s food scene?

I think there are so many great restaurants in Hong Kong—so much uniqueness, so many fine dining and casual choices, and so many different types of ethnic cuisine – that it’s really difficult for me to pick only one. But when you put it that way, if I was going to be leaving Hong Kong, then among the many great restaurants I’d like to visit [one last time here] would have to be Yat Lok.

I understand that there are lots of other great roast goose and roast meat restaurants here—but I think if I knew that I was leaving Hong Kong, it would be very difficult to get that same quality of roast meat anywhere else in the world so for that reason, I’d pick Yat Lok.

Also, many years ago, before I opened VEA, I used to work at a restaurant on Stanley Street, so Yat Lok is probably my most-visited restaurant in Hong Kong! I knew that if I was in a rush and didn’t have much time for lunch or if I had just a spare ten minutes in my day, I could pop in and out and it was always fantastic. That restaurant definitely holds a special memory for me about living in Hong Kong—and the goose is just delicious there, of course.

Vicky’s Picks:

  • Wan Chai Market, 258 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, +852 2575 0192
  • Ap Lei Chau Market, Ap Lei Chau Municipal Services Building, 8 Hung Shing Street, Ap Lei Chau, Hong Kong, +852 2554 9736
  • Kowloon City Market, Kowloon City Municipal Services Building, 100 Nga Tsin Wai Road, Kowloon City, Hong Kong, +852 2383 2224
  • Yat Lok, G/F, 34-28 Stanley Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2524 3882