Saturday, November 7, 2015

Hong Kong chef and seafood master David Lai
gives us his top tips for shopping and exploring local fish markets.
In Hong Kong's Sai Ying Pun neighborhood, new seafood
restaurant Fish School pays homage to an important piece of local heritage:
the bustling wet markets, where vendors hawk everything from giant threadfin
salmon to live crab, all hauled in fresh each morning.
The concept evokes the city's rich history of trading, thanks to its
location along the South China Sea.
"Hong Kong began as a fishing
village," chef and co-owner David Lai told T+L.
"And a lot of that
tradition remains, even though it happens on a smaller scale.
Many fishermen
families still go out to sea and bring their catches directly to the wet
markets.
This rarely happens in big cities anymore." Lai was born in Hong
Kong, but trained in the San Francisco Bay Area.
He returned to his hometown
to work under Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse at Spoon at the
Intercontinental Hong Kong before launching his own restaurants.
Since
returning to his native city, Lai has also cultivated deep ties with local
fishermen, from whom he sources impeccable ingredients for Fish School's
menu, which features unique Western-style twists on classic Hong Kong seafood
like cuttlefish tagliatelle and monkfish liver with foie gras pressé.
Below, Lai's tips on how to shop at a Hong Kong wet market like a local:
Travel to South Hong Kong Ap Lei Chau Market, located on Ap Lei Chau
Island in Aberdeen Harbour, is great because there's a good range of seafood
available and it's relatively clean and accessible without being
touristy.
People can buy seafood on the ground floor and then bring it to of
the restaurants upstairs to be cooked.
Chef David Lai
Seek out wild fish I look for places that sell wild local fish.
In a
typical market, 70% of the fish are farm-raised and another 20% are
imported.
There's nothing inherently wrong with farmed fish but the ones
commonly available are often raised with low cost in mind.
It takes a bit of
experience to figure out which is which, as there are no easy ways to tell.
Follow the crowds Look for the busiest shop and observe what other people
are buying.
These businesses are usually busy for good reasons.
Know your seasons Most fish are seasonal.
Throughout the year we see
different kinds of fish coming and going.
For example, we see many flounders
in the first few months of the year and then they disappear.
In the summer,
when it gets warm, the crabs are most active.
In the fall, we have yellow
croakers, and then we move on to thread fins and sea bass and so on.
Chef David Lai
Try the sea bream, it's classic Hong Kong Sea breams are more common
in Hong Kong and it is one of my favorite fish.
It has robust flavor and
texture.
At the restaurant we bake it gently in sea salt to preserve its
character.
Get excited about eel I love moray eel; it's really rich and
fatty.
It's not a commercially valuable species so I see them only a few
times a year.
The fish has a lot of bones so it's not easy to sell; most of
the time I keep it for myself. Get Hong Kong chef and
seafood master David Lai's top tips for shopping and exploring local fish
markets.

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