Ken Leung of Hungry Rabbit is a food blogger after my own heart (and operating in my own hometown). Recently he was kind enough to answer a few questions for my benefit and for that of Flavorful World readers everywhere. From sharing the best way to experience fresh Serrano ham to what he finds most encouraging about current NYC restaurant menu trends, he proved an insightful and engaging interviewee whose name every food lover certainly ought to know.
Flavorful World: Tell us the last food event that you attended. What was the highlight of that event and why?
Ken Leung: I’ve attended several in the last couple of months, but the one that was most significant for me was Pie Party LIVE, held on October 15. Along with Jackie Gordon, I organized and hosted the event. We conceived it during an online Pie Party, where food bloggers made pies and posted them simultaneously on July 5th. Jackie and I both participated, but we thought what a shame it was that we didn’t get to taste everyone’s offerings.
For Pie Party LIVE, we gathered over 60 food bloggers, writers, and food enthusiasts in one venue. The ticket to the party was a pie of your choice—pies, tarts, galettes, empanadas, and any pastries that were pie related.
We had baked goods everywhere. There were sweet, savory, and all that’s in between. Beside the fact that we got to sample some pretty awesome food, it was also a great opportunity to meet other bloggers and to connect with them on a more personal level. Several of them even won door prizes—food processors, cookbooks, toaster ovens, chocolate gift baskets to name a few.
FW: By now most food lovers are aware that chef Ferran Adrià’s El Bulli recently closed. At what now-defunct restaurant do you most miss eating, and what dish do you miss the most?
KL: I think El Bulli is probably on the top of that list of restaurants. There is simply nothing like it and from what I have heard and read, there will always be a void—I’ll forever miss not tasting its dishes.
As a consolation prize, I did have the pleasure of meeting the master himself in Barcelona and having two meals with him, some mutual friends, and my family. We dined at his favorite restaurant, though the name escaped me. His demonstration of how to properly eat Serrano ham by rubbing it first on your lips and sniffing it’s aroma before putting it in your mouth was something I’ll never forget. Let’s just say it was as seductive as food can be. The next day we had lunch with him and visited his laboratory for a demonstration of his food experimentation, which included mists and new implements.
FW: Are there any foods that you absolutely will not allow past your lips? What are they, and why?
KL: I consider myself a pretty adventurous eater. Growing up in Hong Kong, I do not recall turning away any food that was put in front of me. This is probably why I always have been and will be interested in food, as long as it’s delicious and real and not something filled with petro-chemicals.
Having said that, wheat grass is something I avoid. This is not from lack of trying—my stomach just doesn’t understand that healthy green goo.
FW: As a food lover based in New York City, tell us about the most encouraging menu trend you’re noticing among area restaurants. What is the most discouraging menu trend?
KL:The most encouraging trend is small plates or tasting dishes that allow you to order more food and share with your friends at the table. You really get to know the heart of the restaurant that way. As for the opposite, I can’t think of anything that I’d consider discouraging. There might be a dish here and there, but I’m not coming up with any trend that I would petition it to be gone for good.
FW: Tell us two cuisines/styles of cooking of which you would love to see more culinary fusion?
KL: There have been so many different fusion food over the past decades that pretty much anything and everything has been tried. In America, there’s a running cultural exchange between Jewish and Chinese. The history of these immigrants runs deep. They both enjoy each other’s cuisine, yet I haven’t seen much of their culinary being fused. (Wonton knishes, anyone?)
Just the other day, though, I made fried rice with smoked herrings from Russ and Daughters. It was very similar to the salted fish in Chinese cuisine but the smokiness added a new dimension to the familiar rice dish.
FW: What first inspired you to start blogging about food and culinary culture?
KL: It all started as an organizing tool for my food related adventures. While my interior design business was a bit slow due to the dip in the economy two years ago, my partner encouraged me to start a blog to chronicle the food that I cooked for him. The beauty of food always intrigued me, so I wanted to express my design skills in a different medium.
FW: If you could select any two cooks, chefs, or food personalities living or dead to help you prepare a three-course dinner menu for your friends and family who would you choose and why?
KL: The list is long, but Julia Child would be a great choice for her culinary skills and her sense of humor. Susur Lee will be a nice chef to have. Since he grew up in the same city as me, I would love to hear his impression of life in Hong Kong. and my family would enjoy the food tremendously.
FW: Excluding the name of any of your pre-existing blogs, websites, or print/online personas, tell us what name you would give to your memoir about your culinary exploits?
KL: It would have to be Memoirs of the Cornwall Kitchen. Cornwall is the name of the street that I grew up on in Hong Kong. My food memories and habits began from that house. I would love to dedicate the book to my parents for their encouragement in my culinary exploitation.
FW: When you aren’t cooking and/or eating delicious foods, how do you most enjoy spending your time?
KL: I love to exercise, this includes dancing, martial arts, yoga, kickboxing, and forza (the art of samurai sword). Through regular workouts, I manage to achieve a balanced healthy lifestyle. I consider my diet sensible in general, but it also allows me to indulge in sinful desserts and rich luscious food.
*Note to Readers: Want to follow this remarkably talented food blogger down the bunny trail? Catch his latest recipes, musings, and food photography at http://hungryrabbitnyc.com/. You’ll want to ‘Like’ his Facebook page and follow along on Twitter also. As food writing goes, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more delicious reason to go down the rabbit hole.