Inspiration travel. By Richard Ekkebus

At Amber our food is strongly rooted in the French gastronomy but due to the proximity of Hong Kong to Japan and in particular Kyushu, we work a lot with Japanese ingredients from that region. My Japanese trips are a huge source of inspiration, it is the seasons and the Japanese products that influence our cooking, not that much their cooking techniques – we are maintaining our French identity. We also practically never use typical Japanese flavour profiles and in the rare cases when we do, we do it in a very subtle way.

I travel to Japan always taking my Moleskine with me to write down all interesting products newly discovered at the markets. l visit markets with Kenji who is my purveyor and who sources everything I need – fish, vegetables, fruits, herbs, condiments, knifes, books – you name it! Also my iPhone is making good use on these trips – I photograph and document everything. When I am back to Hong Kong those photos become an useful tool for my orders to Kenji.

Richard Ekkebus. Photo: Andrew Loiterton for The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong
Richard Ekkebus. Photo: Andrew Loiterton for The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong

When the products arrive to our kitchen, we get inspired by them. The crucial point is always the product – we tend to play with it and prepare it in various ways to understand how the product fits best into our cuisine. This is sometimes a very long process of multiple tastings.

On my last trip with my colleague, at the fish market in Fukuoka, our eyes caught a small fish called kibinago. We were convinced that these miniature fish, smaller than anchovies, but plum-like as sardines at their peak, could be amazing in flavor and texture. On this trip we also visited matcha tea producers and people who harvest seaweed. Following this trip was created a dish which combined all these products – kibinago, matcha tea, seaweed and buckwheat (from the soba we had).

Jerome Galis green asparagus with raw & marinated kibinago, seaweeds, nori purée, seawater foam & matcha. Photo: Andrew Loiterton
Jerome Galis’ green asparagus with raw & marinated kibinago, seaweeds, nori purée, seawater foam & matcha. Photo: Andrew Loiterton

The green asparagus just came to season in France, so it was time to play with it. We work with one of the most amazing green asparagus producers, Jerome Galis, whose products are shipped multiple times a week from France to us. Over the past years we always kept a meat jus or aged ham combination with asparagus, so it was time to move to something different. Asparagus works amazingly well with fish, so we shaped the dish combining the barely touched raw kibinago, with matcha, a selection of seaweed (in particular fresh nori) and buckwheat into a coherent, delicious and great looking dish. We wanted something creamy without the cream, so we enriched the dish by adding the seawater foam made from distilled sea water from my home region Zeeland.

Richard Ekkebus, Amber (Hong Kong)

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