If you live in Australia and want to learn about Asian cuisines and food culture, Tony Tan is your guy. The Malaysian chef, who has called Australia home for decades, was steeped in food culture from a young age; his childhood was spent in his Chinese-born parents’ restaurant, and he combines the technical nous learnt training in England and France with a career spent cooking the cuisines of Asia, from Malaysia to China, Vietnam and more. These days he shares his knowledge at his cooking school in Trentham, Victoria.

Tan’s 2017 cookbook Hong Kong Food City continued to position the chef as an authority, with 80 recipes spanning all dimensions of Hong Kong’s multifaceted food culture: from its hawker stalls to its luxurious hotels, its Chinese roots and its colonial history. Recipes for mapo tofu sit alongside chicken bao, dumplings and egg tarts. This recipe, from that book, is informed by one found at T’Ang Court, a famed Cantonese restaurant in Hong Kong’s Langham Hotel paying tribute to what it calls China’s golden age of cuisine.

“Cantonese chef Kwong Wai Keung, who heads up the three-Michelin-starred T’ang Court Restaurant in the Langham Hotel, is revered by his peers and known for executing some of the most beautiful Chinese cooking in Hong Kong,” writes Tan. “This lobster dish is a revelation. Marrying members of the humble onion family with luxe lobster is a stroke of genius and the result is incredibly delicious. The lobster is deep-fried briefly to seal in the flavour, then, in the same oil, a sliced onion is cooked with the Chinese technique called guo you, meaning ‘waving through the oil’. It’s very much a restaurant practice, but skipping this step and stir-frying the onion instead doesn’t make a huge difference at home. If you like to spoil yourself and your loved ones, this dish will do it.”

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Cantonese lobster with spring onion, shallots and red onion

Serves 2–4
Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus lobster-freezing time
Cooking time: 30 minutes

Ingredients
1 800g live lobster
Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
3 red Asian shallots (about 120g), thinly sliced
1 red onion (about 120g), thinly sliced
5 spring onions, white part only, cut into 5cm lengths
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
A splash of Shaoxing rice wine, to deglaze the pan
Thinly sliced spring onions, to garnish

Sauce
250ml Shaoxing rice wine
2 tbsp light soy sauce
½ tsp sugar

Method
Kill the lobster humanely by placing it in the freezer for a couple of hours to put it to sleep, then placing it on its back and splitting it swiftly with a sharp knife. Chop the tail section in half lengthways and remove the intestinal tract. Cut each half section into bite-sized pieces across the shell. Discard the head (unless you like to deep-fry it for presentation).

Heat the oil in a wok or deep-fryer to 170°C or until a cube of
bread turns golden in 10 seconds, and deep-fry the shallots until just golden (5–8 minutes). Transfer to a sieve with a slotted spoon to drain, then transfer to a plate lined with paper towel.

Add the sliced onion to the same oil for 5 seconds and remove with a slotted spoon. Drain and set aside.

Increase the heat of the oil to 190°C and deep-fry the lobster in batches until the shell turns red. Remove and drain on paper towel.

For the sauce, combine the ingredients in a small bowl.

Carefully pour the oil into a heatproof container (reserve for another use), leaving 1 tbsp in the wok. Add the spring onion and garlic and stir-fry briefly until aromatic, then return the lobster to the wok. Deglaze the wok with a splash of Shaoxing wine. Return the onion to the wok and add the sauce. Cook over medium heat until the sauce thickens and coats the lobster. Transfer to a serving plate and shower with the crisp shallots and spring onions before serving.

Images and recipes from Hong Kong Food City by Tony Tan. Photography by Greg Elms. Murdoch Books, RRP $49.99.