Dining Out 3 minutes 10 May 2024

Gourmet Hidden Gem: Man Yuen

Tucked away in a public housing estate mall in Wong Tai Sin, East Kowloon, Man Yuen Restaurant has already made its mark by gaining a MICHELIN Bib Gourmand recommendation just one year after opening. Of course, the team behind the restaurant takes full credit for this achievement.

Those visiting Man Yuen for the first time may be left feeling perplexed as there seems to be nothing interesting between the bus stop or MTR station to the restaurant — just the typical layout of Hong Kong public housing estates with convenience stores, supermarkets and elderly homes nearby.

As you navigate this concrete jungle and ascend to the second floor, you’re now met with an entirely different scene: themed around Lion Rock, the restaurant interior exudes a sense of antiquated elegance; the spacious glasshouse adorned with a wooden plaque is an intriguing contrast to the neighbouring elderly home.

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Despite its remote location and been open for only a year, Man Yuen has already attracted many gourmets, thanks to its legendary team of culinary talents.
Despite its remote location and been open for only a year, Man Yuen has already attracted many gourmets, thanks to its legendary team of culinary talents.

Despite its remote location and having been open for only a year, Man Yuen has already attracted many gourmets, thanks to its legendary team of culinary talents. Its operations director is Poon Kin-wai, who previously served as a project manager for six years at three-MICHELIN-Starred Forum, where he established extensive connections.

Upon its opening, the restaurant welcomed many celebrity diners who were willing to travel across Hong Kong to pay a visit. Head chef Edmond Lam, who has won the Silver award in the Hong Kong region of the Global Chef World Elite Competition, has worked at prestigious venues like Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Moon Koon Restaurant and Renaissance Hong Kong Harbour View Hotel. The restaurant’s siu mei (roasted meat) specialist is chef Ma Yat-ming, who was previously at China Tang and The St. Regis Hong Kong; while dim sum chef So Sun-yuk has worked at MICHELIN-recommended restaurant Lei Garden and three-MICHELIN-Starred restaurant Jade Garden.

RELATED: 3 Must-Try Dishes at Forum Hong Kong (Other Than Abalone)

Man Yuen 文苑飯莊 潘健偉 CK.jpg

So what brought them to the quiet and out-of-the-way community of Tin Ma Court? “Many high-end Cantonese restaurants are located on Hong Kong Island, and we wanted to bring high-quality and modern Cantonese cuisine to the Kowloon area,” says Poon Kin-wai (right photo), fondly known as CK to his colleagues and customers.

To be hidden away in Tin Ma Court, and yet still being recognised by the MICHELIN Guide with a Bib Gourmand has been extremely encouraging for the team. It proves that quality speaks for itself and is a testament to the team’s hard work. Moving forward, they will continue to maintain the high standards to keep their customers coming back.

RELATED: What Is The MICHELIN Bib Gourmand Award?

Man Yuen’s menu focuses on refined Cantonese cuisine with highlights such as their exquisite abalone dish. They also offer traditional handcrafted and home-style dishes. It is their emphasis on meticulous cooking techniques and high-quality ingredients that sets them apart.

For instance, dim sum chef So says the freshest ingredients can be purchased in the morning from the nearby Lok Fu and Kowloon City wet markets. One of the restaurant’s signature dishes is pork liver siu mai, which is crafted with a special young pork liver with a more tender and powdery texture. If they’re unable to find this at the market in the morning, they will not serve the dish that day. The combination of pork liver, 25-year-old Huadiao wine, minced ginger, and pork filling has become a nostalgic dim sum classic.

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Man Yuen's "King of Stir-Frys"
Man Yuen's "King of Stir-Frys"

Head chef Lam believes their "King of Stir-Frie" — stir-fried Chinese chives with dried shrimp and squid — is their most representative dish. Typically, this dish is made with Chinese chives, dried shrimp, tofu, and squid, with the flavours brought together through wok hei (the flavours and aromas imparted by a hot wok on food during stir-frying). However, Man Yuen’s version incorporates giant dried ocean prawns and large fresh prawns, as well as sakura shrimp, Chinese cabbage, Chinese chives, cashew nuts, and homemade shrimp paste. Lam explains, “We want to make an elevated version of the ‘King of Stir-Fries’, while retaining the unique essence of its flavour and fragrance.” Despite the common practice of finely chopping the ingredients of this dish, Lam insists on taking his approach.

Pomelo Peel with Shrimp Roe is another one of their Cantonese classics. Lam says that they use thick-skinned pomelo peel from the Philippines. The peel is soaked for two days and then dried to remove any bitterness. After deep-frying in high temperature, the peel is simmered in an extra rich broth for four to five hours. The broth is made by slow-cooking dace, dried shrimp, ham, and dried flounder, lending umami and a delicate aroma to the lightly flavoured pomelo peel. Today, only a few restaurants still make this dish due to its laborious preparation process, and to preserve this traditional recipe, Lam insists on making everything from scratch.

RELATED: MICHELIN Inspectors Share Their 10 Favourite Dishes from the Newly Listed Bib Gourmands in the MICHELIN Guide Hong Kong & Macau 2024

Man Yuen's Roasted Suckling Pig with Homemade Satay Sauce
Man Yuen's Roasted Suckling Pig with Homemade Satay Sauce

Another signature dish at Man Yuen is their Roasted Suckling Pig with Homemade Satay Sauce. which is made to order. Siu mei chef Ma explains that Vietnamese suckling pigs are used for this dish, each weighing approximately 2.5kg. Although the pork is lean, it has a tender and smoother texture. The preparation of the pork takes three days. After cleaning and keeping only the meat and bones, the pig is marinated, skewered, and glazed with a maltose and vinegar solution before being air-dried.

The solution for glazing the skin is made from white vinegar and maltose. When exposed to high heat, the fat would burst, creating a dense layer of bubble-like texture — a unique Cantonese cooking technique known as “sesame skin” — that is crispy, melts in the mouth, and will not soften even over time. Afterwards, the chef slow-roasts the pig until it’s 90% cooked. Then, a mixture of peanut sauce, coconut juice, and a satay sauce made from a secret recipe is brushed onto the pig before crisping up the skin. This process is a test of skill and requires the pig to be rotated from time to time to ensure that it’s evenly cooked. Each pig needs to be double-roasted to achieve the exquisite crunchy texture.

While suckling pig is typically marinated only with seasonings like five-spice powder, Man Yuen’s version has incorporated their house-made satay sauce to give the dish a distinctive and memorable flavour. The team at Man Yuen is committed to using traditional cooking techniques and high-quality ingredients, while also innovating to create new flavours, and this dish perfectly showcases the restaurant’s distinct style and positioning in the culinary scene.

RELATED: The Vanishing Treasures of Cantonese Cuisine and Where to Find Them

All images courtesy of the restaurant.

The article is written by Gloria Chung and translated by Iris Wong. Read the original article here

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