Chinatown boy Chef Steven Lee speaks on his global culinary conquests
A UK National Award winner, Lee has also been invited to showcase his delicacies in various popular UK cookery shows on television.
Born and raised in the bylanes of Kolkata’s infamous Chinatown, chef Steven Lee grew up with an inheritance of the Hakka Indo-Chinese cuisine that he further modified over the years. Keeping the multi-cultural diversity of the UK gastronomes in mind, Lee introduced Indo-Chinese at his new venture in London — Hakka Garden. A UK National Award winner, Lee has also been invited to showcase his delicacies in various popular UK cookery shows on television. He also has a number of awards in his kitty. We catch up with the proudly Tangra boy to find out more...
Share your experience of running a restaurant in the UK. How difficult or easy was it?
After working for years in Kolkata, Bengaluru and Mumbai, in 2001, I got the opportunity to go to the UK with the help of a celebrity chef from Bengal. And the rest is history. London restaurants are very different compared to that in India. In the UK, they have stricter rules and regulations in place, particularly those related to hygiene issues. But the experience is equally exciting. After working for so many restaurants here and running a restaurant in partnership, finally, I am thrilled to open my own restaurant.
Did you have to reduce the spice content keeping the UK palate in mind, when you cook there?
Though people in London favour meals with fewer spices, I did not reduce the spice level in the delicacies served here. The majority of my customers prefer spicy Indo-Chinese food over bland Chinese cuisine. However, I did my best to cut the spice content down while maintaining the essence of the original flavours for those who specifically request for the same.
Apart from Indo-Chinese cuisine, what is your go-to cuisine?
In my lifetime, I have eaten and prepared a wide range of cuisines. Indian food is, without a doubt, my go-to cuisine. My taste buds are also enticed by homemade Bengali food and British food, particularly any type of steak.
What are those five ingredients that are always there in your kitchen, ingredients/spices that you can’t do without?
I enjoy using fresh, unusual ingredients in my cooking. However, my kitchen always has ginger, garlic, and chilies among other stuff.
Tai Pai Prawn
Prawn Strips 500 gm | Corn Flour 2 tbsp | Dry Red Chili 4-5 | Chopped Garlic 2 tbsp | Green Capsicum (juliennes) 1 cup | Red Capsicum (juliennes) 1 cup | House Special Schezwan Sauce 4 tbsp | Water 1⁄2 cup | Coriander 2 tbsp
■ Add water to corn flour to make the batter for the prawn strip fries. Dip the prawn strips in the batter and fry them in oil.
■ Heat a wok and add 2 tablespoons of oil to it. Add dry red chilli in the heated oil and fry them for a few seconds.
■ Add garlic to the fried red chillies and stir for a few seconds. Then add a dash of soya sauce to the fried red chillies and garlic.
■ Stir the mixture and add the house special Schezwan sauce. Mix the sauces well and add the long cut green and red capsicums. Cook the mixture properly.
■ After the mixture is cooked properly, add the already fried prawn to the mixture. Stir well and cook it for a few minutes. Garnish it with coriander leaves.
Chow Chu Calamari
Calamari 500 gm | Flour 2 tbsp | Cold Sparkling Water 1⁄2 cup | Baking Powder 1⁄2 tsp | Salt to taste | Vegetable oil 500 gm | Green Chilies 4-5
■ Cut the calamari into small 3 inch size small pieces.
Cut the calamari approximately in equal pieces to cook it evenly.
■ Add salt and baking powder to the flour mix thoroughly. Then add 2 tbs
vegetable oil and cold sparkling water to make a semi-liquid batter.
■ Take a deep pot and heat the oil until the temperature reaches 325 degrees.
■ Fry the calamari until it is golden brown.
■ Heat the wok and add 1 tbsp oil. Then add a dash of green chilies.
Let it fry for a few seconds. Add the fried calamari and salt to taste.
■ Garnish it with some spring onion and serve it hot.