When Ken Hom visits the UK, there's one souvenir he insists on stocking up on - writes Jeananne Craig.

"They make the best Chinese sausages here. That's what I'm carrying in my luggage," the chef says over green tea in the ultra-plush Dorchester Hotel in London, his base when he's in the UK capital.

"I get them in [London's] Chinatown. They're wind-dried sausages and I cook slices of them in rice, finished off with a fried egg. It's like my mum's cooking."

The hugely successful cookery star has travelled the world with his work (and also has homes in Paris and the South of France), but it's clear he hasn't forgotten his roots.

Born in Arizona and raised in Chicago by his mother Ying Fong, a Chinese factory worker (Hom's father died when he was a baby), he grew up "within a Chinese cocoon".

"I definitely consider myself Chinese more than American. I didn't speak English until I was six, and I lived in Chinatown until I was 20," the softly-spoken chef says.

Hom began working at his uncle's restaurant aged 11, and taught cookery before kick-starting his TV career - and introducing many people to Chinese food for the first time - with the 1984 BBC show Ken Hom's Chinese Cookery.

Along with his presenting career, there have been numerous cookbooks, a wok and accessory range, high-profile consultancy work and a ready meal collaboration with Tesco.

The busy 65-year-old - who was successfully treated for prostate cancer in 2010 - will be taking a break, however, to celebrate Chinese New Year on February 19.

"I've been coming to the UK for almost 30 years to celebrate it. I usually have a Chinese New Year party and I go and eat with lots of friends," he says. "It's an excuse to eat and have a good time."

Hom's top dishes for the festivities include fish ("it's de rigour because fish means prosperity"), noodles ("they mean long life"), chicken and duck.

When he's hosting his own dinner parties, he keeps things simple.

"I usually make no more than two dishes, and I have lots of wine and champagne. That's the secret!" he adds with a glint in his eye.

"When people are planning for a dinner party, they make complicated things, they get all stressed out. I say never make a dish you've never made before. Make a tried and true dish you know you can do."

It's seems unlikely that this calm and measured chef has ever found himself in a flap in the kitchen.

"I'm relaxed all the time," he admits, smiling. "I'm not working; I'm cooking. I find it quite relaxing. I have a big kitchen and a table that seats 14 people, and nothing's more pleasurable to cook for than a group of friends. Food is a uniting force."

Want to try some of Hom's recipes to celebrate the Year of the Goat? Here are three to impress your friends with...


(Serves 4-6)

  • 1.5kg Boneless pork belly, with rind
  • For the marinade:
  • 2tbsp coarse sea salt
  • 1tbsp ground roasted Sichuan peppercorns
  • 2tsp five spice powder
  • 1tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2tsp sugar

Pierce the rind side of pork with a sharp fork or knife until the skin is covered with fine holes

Insert a meat hook into the meat to secure it.

Bring a pot of water to a boil, and using a large ladle, pour the hot water over the rind side of the pork several times. Set the pork belly aside.

Heat a wok until it is hot, then add the salt, peppercorns, five spice powder, pepper and sugar and stir-fry the mixture for three minutes until it is hot and well mixed. Allow the mixture to cool slightly.

When it is warm enough to handle, rub this mixture onto the flesh side of the pork.

Hang the meat to dry for eight hours or overnight in a cool place or in front of a fan.

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6/400F/200C. Place the pork on a rack, rind side up over a tray of water. Roast for 15 minutes.

Then reduce the heat to gas mark 4/350F/180C and continue to roast for two hours. Then turn up to gas mark 8/450F/230C for 15 minutes.

Remove and allow the pork to cool. Then carve it into bite-size pieces, arrange on a platter, and serve.


(Serves 4)

  • 225g boneless, skinless chicken breasts, finely shredded
  • 1 egg white
  • 2tsp cornflour
  • Salt and white pepper
  • 225g thin Chinese fresh egg noodles
  • 300ml groundnut or vegetable oil (plus an additional 2-3tbsp of oil)
  • For the sauce:
  • 175g fresh bean sprouts
  • 2tbsp Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 2tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1tbsp light soy sauce
  • 300ml chicken stock
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1tbsp cornflour, mixed with 11/2tbsp water
  • For the garnish:
  • Coarsely chopped spring onions

Combine the chicken, egg white, cornflour, one teaspoon of salt and half a teaspoon of white pepper in a small bowl. Mix well and leave in the fridge for at least 20 minutes. Blanch the noodles for two minutes in a large pan of salted boiling water, draining them well.

Heat a frying pan until it is hot and add one-and-a-half tablespoons of oil. Spread the noodles evenly over the surface, then turn the heat to low and allow them to slowly brown. This should take about five minutes. When the noodles are brown, gently flip them over and brown the other side, adding more oil if needed. When both sides are browned, remove the noodles to a platter and keep warm.

Heat a wok until it is very hot, then add the larger quantity of oil. When the oil is very hot, remove the wok from the heat and immediately add the chicken shreds, stirring vigorously to keep them from sticking together. After about two minutes, when the chicken has turned white, quickly drain it in a stainless steel colander set over a bowl. Discard the oil.

Clean the wok and reheat it over high heat. Add the bean sprouts, rice wine, oyster sauce, soy sauce, chicken stock, one teaspoon of salt and half a teaspoon of black pepper and one tablespoon cornflour mixed with one-and-a-half tablespoons of water.

Bring to a boil and stir in the cornflour mixture. Bring it to a simmer again, then return the chicken to the sauce and give the mixture a few stirs. Pour the sauce over the noodles, garnish with the spring onions and serve at once.


(Serves 4)

  • 450g firm white fish fillets, such as cod, sole or salmon fillets, or a whole fish, such as sole or turbot
  • 1tsp coarse sea salt or plain salt
  • 11/2tbsp fresh ginger, finely shredded
  • For the garnish:
  • 3tbsp spring onions, finely shredded
  • 2tbsp soy sauce
  • 1tbsp groundnut oil
  • 2tsp sesame oil
  • Fresh coriander sprigs

If you are using a whole fish, remove the gills. Pat the fish or fish fillets dry with kitchen paper. Rub with the salt on both sides, and then set aside for 30 minutes. This helps the flesh to firm up and draws out any excess moisture.

Next, set up a steamer, or put a rack into a wok or deep pan and fill it with 5cm of water. Bring the water to the boil over a high heat. Put the fish on a heatproof plate and scatter the ginger evenly over the top. Put the plate of fish into the steamer or onto the rack.

Cover the pan tightly and gently steam the fish until it is just cooked. Flat fish will take about five minutes to cook. Thicker fish or fillets such as sea bass will take 12-14 minutes.

Remove the plate of cooked fish and sprinkle on the spring onions and soy sauce.

Heat the two oils together in a small saucepan. When they are hot and smoking, pour the hot oil on top of the fish, garnish with the coriander sprigs and serve at once.

Ken Hom's range of chilled ready meals are available from Tesco. To download Ken's booklet for Chinese New Year, visit www.kenhom.co.uk.