Tricks of the Trade with Chef Willin Low

Willin Low––chef-owner of Wild Rocket and one of the world’s emerging culinary stars (according to HK celebrity chef Jacky Yu)––offers some advice to home cooks who want to kick up their game a few notches.

By Lisa-Ann Lee | Mar 18, 2010

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  • Tricks of the Trade with Chef Willin Low
    Chef Willin Low
  • Tricks of the Trade with Chef Willin Low

You used to be a lawyer. How long did it take you to adjust to the rhythm of working in a professional kitchen?
It took me about three months to find my feet and another three to get my act together. Cooking in a professional kitchen is all about efficiency and mise-en-place.

You did time at the Garibaldi Group before you struck out on your own. What are some of the things you learned while working there?
First and foremost, never hold anything hot with a wet towel. I learned how to survive in this delicate and potentially explosive environment, how to be able to be at peace with everyone and yet not get bullied by anyone! The pastry chaps think that the hot side chaps are unrefined, the hot side guys think that the pastry guys can never make the cut in the hot kitchen, and everyone thinks they have the most important job in the kitchen.

We want to step up our game in the kitchen. What should we do? What are some of the tools that every serious home cook should have in their kitchen?
Eat! The more you eat, the more you develop your sense of taste and only then can you be a good chef! I think every kitchen should have a heavy-bottomed pan and pot, a non-stick frying pan and a good knife.

How many knives do we really need and is an expensive brand always better?
One good chef knife is all you need—think of all the great Chinese chefs with one big chai dao. The best knife is the one you enjoy using the most; it doesn’t have to be expensive, but it has to be sharp. Chef Roberto Galetti [of the Garibaldi Group] used to tell me: “A sharp knife is a safe knife.”

We’ve heard that chefs use a lot of butter to bolster up the flavor of their dishes. How else can we make our dishes more flavorful at home?
Have a good stock (see recipe below) on hand! Cook noodles with it, make sauces with it—no need butter!—Lisa-Ann Lee

Chicken Consomme Congee by Willin Low
What you need: 4 chicken carcasses
2 chicken thighs
1 celery stalk 
1 carrot (roughly cut into 4 pieces)
1 onion (peeled, halved)
1 teaspoon black pepper corn
5 cups of water
Salt to taste

Method:
In a large pot, put all ingredients in and bring to boil. Bring the heat down to let the stock simmer. Remove all scum that floats to the top. After 15 minutes or until the thighs are cooked through, remove the thighs and let them cool. Once cooled, shred the meat from the bones. Marinate with sesame oil and light soy sauce. Set aside. Return the bones into the stock. Continue to simmer for two hours.

1 1/2 tablespoons short or medium grain rice
1 1/2 cups water

Put rice and water into a saucepan, bring quickly to the boil. Stir, then reduce heat but allow rice to remain at a brisk simmer. Place lid on pan, leaving it slightly open so the congee doesn’t bubble up and spill over. In 45-50 minutes the congee should be quite thick and ready. Spoon into four bowls, top with shredded chicken and garnish with deep fried shallots and spring onion, pour hot consomme over and serve!

EAT YOUR WORDS

Mise-en-place: Arranging and organizing equipment and ingredients so they are conveniently located, ensuring no unnecessary movement as time is of the essence.
Chai dao: Vegetable knife

Willin Low is the chef-owner of Wild Rocket