EAT: 3B, Hong Kong’s best private kitchen

So, today I’m going to finally blog about one of my absolute favourite places to eat in Hong Kong. It’s a tiny, modest place in an apartment complex located in the east side of Hong Kong (in fact, it’s situated in increasingly trendy Chai Wan, or at least very near), that has managed to evade most food lovers’ radars, nevermind the press. The reason being that it’s a quintessential private kitchen, perhaps more exclusive than most, owing to the modesty of the chef – the eponymous ’3B’, a nickname he goes under among his closest friends and family – who prefers to keep his dinners low-key and limited to a select few.

3B’s been cooking for the best part of 40 years, I’d hazard, and once ran his own restaurant – The Silver Mushroom – in Canada, before returning to his hometown of Hong Kong and quietly churning out brilliant food for the lucky ones who’ve been able to seek him out. I’ve been dining here for years, and there are few – if any – places that match up to the quality of 3B’s Cantonese cooking (and otherwise). When I used to live in London, I’d often find myself craving the house signatures; from the simplest of water-steamed eggs with dried shrimp and salted duck egg yolk, to the more complex long-simmered soups (pork and winter melon is my top pick. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, this will be cooked and served in a mini winter melon itself, slowly steamed over hours until the flesh is soft and silky.).

3B holds his dinners pretty much every day of the week. It’s pretty incredible how he manages to craft so many dishes per meal in the tiny space that is his kitchen; chopping boards are balanced atop sinks, a myriad of vessels holding sauces, spices and herbs are precariously perched about every free surface. What’s unique is that there is never any menu; once you’ve secured your reservation, he’ll give you a call a few hours before the dinner – he goes shopping for groceries soon after – and cheerfully ask just one question (the answer to which is always the same from me):

“What do you feel like eating tonight?”

Mo saw wai la [I've got no preference - anything goes]!”

Sometimes, uncannily, he’ll manage to make just what you were craving but just didn’t know it at the time – once, both my dining partner and I had, separately, developed a strange urge to have roast goose. And guess what ended up on the table that night? This chef has intuition.

Steamed fish is pretty much a staple of any Cantonese kitchen, and here the fish is always excellent. Fresh fish – never frozen – is often prepared the classic way, with a ginger-spring onion-soy sauce trinity (and obligatory splash of sizzling oil), though sometimes there’ll be a surprise. Finely chopped and fried shallots, or thin strands of fragrant aged mandarin peel. One recent meal featured dried lily bulbs and the merest whisper of white miso, which really brought out the sweetness of the fish. His soy sauce chicken (available whole/half or just wings) is also spot on, the marinade a elixir of sweet and salty flavours that coats the bird evenly every time.

In the winter months, I look forward to the hearty ‘claypot’ rices featuring tender rice grains, glossed in a sweet-salty soy and cooked with juicy shiitake mushrooms, caramelly Chinese pork sausages, and pieces of fresh steamed chicken. At least 24 hours notice is needed for this extraordinary dish.

 

3B likes to put his own creative spin on things once in a while – his glorious homemade char siu (pictured at the top of this post) for example, features dried rose petals in the marinade, as a rift off the traditional use of rose wine. And every so often he whips up some awesome European food – the best of which is his oxtail stew, long-simmered with meaty bones, tomatoes, cabbages, carrots and peppercorns. A more recent version included some pork bone for an even sweeter, more unctuous soup, with a surprising addition of mandarin peel. His roasted quail (he used to deep-fry them, but I think he’s gone the more health-conscious route now) is also brilliant, the little birds the embodiment of OMG UMAMI. My pictures of his Christmas special, turkey stuffed with glutinous rice (slowly ‘raw fried’, the Cantonese equivalent of paying attention to a risotto), are pants, but this was pretty much a highlight of 2010.

(Clockwise from top left: Pomfret with black beans and mandarin peel / Portuguese chicken curry / winter melon soup / braised pig’s tongue with shiitake mushrooms and choi sum)

 

Recently one of my favourite dishes has been a combination of salt-pepper ribs (the secret is rice flour for an extra crisp exterior), braised daikon and wood ear mushrooms, and a psychedelic amaranth broth (so healthy, and totally plays tricks with your tastebuds with its vibrant pink colour).

So now the secret’s out, how do you get a reservation? Quite simply, if you really want to, you can go through me. I guess at this point I should mention that 3B is actually my dad, there is no ‘private kitchen’ business (though technically it is a ‘private’ kitchen ;D) and all of these dishes are just the result of a lot of labour of love, and it’s not for profit. So – I might be biased, but to repeat what I said, this is genuinely my favourite place to eat in Hong Kong – home.

Happy father’s day, daddy!

 

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16 Responses

  1. Lok

    Lovely post! I am simultaneously drooling and tearing up a little! Dads are great.

    June 17, 2012 at 4:55 pm

  2. Sob! What a wonderful post. I was thinking that you’d never mentioned this amazing place before, but it turns out you have! Happy father’s day to your wonderful and talented dad…x

    June 17, 2012 at 9:39 pm

  3. Aww, this made me tear up at the end. This is such a sweet way to celebrate your dad! :’)

    June 18, 2012 at 4:46 am

  4. ChicMcMuffin

    Aw, this is so sweet! Does your dad read your blog?

    June 18, 2012 at 8:52 am

  5. What a lovely tribute to your dad. I am sold; book me in at the next dinner (and I do mean it)!

    June 18, 2012 at 9:19 am

  6. Jessica

    Awesome post! Hope you had an awesome Father’s Day with daddy Mok :) My dad’s the one who cooks in my family as well and he’s always saying he should open a private kitchen hahaha

    June 18, 2012 at 9:40 am

  7. Awh – this is really lovely, and it all looks so gorgeous.

    June 18, 2012 at 11:40 pm

  8. Lincoln Wong

    Wonderful write up! How would I be able to try your dad’s cooking. this strikes closer to home as I used to cook for my dad when I was in school in San Francisco! I had to learn how to steam fish properly as he wentbtonthe market twice a week for this treat! He’s passed on now and I do miss cooking for him.

    June 21, 2012 at 11:55 am

  9. Oh Charmaine!. This is a lovely post. The way you honor him and his profession is touching.

    I AM SO IN!. Please. I would LOVE to have that opportunity one day xo

    June 28, 2012 at 11:40 pm

  10. Hyun-woo Park

    Great post. I only found out, after reading this post today, that your dad is an amazing cook. You look just like your mum:>

    July 11, 2012 at 7:33 am

  11. donna

    this is so lovely : )

    July 20, 2012 at 2:26 am

  12. Mary

    It sounds so wonderful…I am from Australia and would love to go there…I will be in Hong Kong next week (August 25th 2012 – Sept 1st)…How can I book?

    Mary

    August 20, 2012 at 5:55 pm

  13. Charlotte Lam

    Oh no!! i was so silly and spent like 10 minutes searching 3B private kitchen in hk but den realise that its actually ur dad. Its my fault that i didnt read til the end >.<""" hahaaaaaaaaa

    August 31, 2012 at 3:16 am

  14. I’ve just discovered your blog, love it already. That end of your post was so sweet, making me hungry now! x

    October 7, 2012 at 8:03 pm

  15. omg what a great post about your dad! i was reading (and ogling) thinking WOW the dishes look amazing lol… and what a cute little pic at the end. Miss you x

    October 18, 2012 at 1:14 pm

  16. shu

    WAH CHARMAINE. GOZ JUST SHARED THIS WITH ME TO TELL ME YOUR WRITING ROCKS.

    sorry for the caps, must have caught a bit of goz-ness.

    October 2, 2013 at 11:46 pm

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