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  • Writer's pictureSasha Huang

The Praya: Redefining Cantonese Cuisine with Head Chef Samuel Ng

INTERVIEW



Elegantly named after the city's historical past as reclaimed land from the sea, The Praya now finds its home within One-Eight-One Hotel & Serviced Residences, celebrating its heritage while redefining modern Chinese cuisine.


Led by Head Chef Samuel Ng, the restaurant elevates Chinese gastronomy by incorporating Western culinary techniques into traditional Chinese recipes. Originally from Brisbane, Australia, Chef Ng brings a wealth of experience from his time in award-winning restaurants. With a deep appreciation for both culinary traditions and cultures, Ng doesn't hesitate to blend the two, just as The Praya draws inspiration from both worlds. Today, we sit down with Chef Samuel Ng to explore his passion for cooking, his connection to The Praya, and his love for Cantonese cuisine.



1) What is the inspiration behind The Praya?


“Praya” means land reclaimed from the sea in Portuguese and is a reference to the name of the waterfront promenade at Shek Tong Shui where the restaurant is located. It also has a symbolic meaning: to seek inspiration from places near and far. We apply the same inspiration to the contemporary Hong Kong cuisine served at The Praya – which we define as food with a mixture of global culinary influences.



2) How do you aim to elevate Cantonese cuisine at The Praya?


To most, elevation means using ultra-luxurious ingredients with fancy plating, but my definition of elevation is somewhat different. Here at The Praya, quality of ingredients is very important, no doubt. In fact, we locally source roughly 80 percent of our ingredients and make the vast majority of our food in-house so we can be sure everything is prepared exactly the way we want and the highest quality is consistently achieved. There are many ways to elevate a dish, using ultra-premium ingredients is only one of them. We elevate a dish by treating individual ingredients with the respect and technique they deserve, maximising the potential of each ingredient to the fullest, and preparing the dish in an innovative and unconventional way.



3) What are your must-try recommended dishes at The Praya and why?


There are so many! But if I have to narrow down to two dishes, the first one would be the Longjing tea-smoked pigeon. For this dish, we use the King Pigeon, which is the largest type of pigeon. It is first braised in white master stock, tenderising and turning the meat delicate pink and then in black master stock which gives it rich meaty flavours. But that's not it. The pigeon spends the next 24 hours in a dry-aging chamber where the flavours become even more concentrated. To give it a little extra kick, the pigeon is smoked in Longjing tea leaves as the final step.


The second dish would be the Master stock beef quintet, Grandma's chilli oil. If you’re a beef lover, you have to order this. It’s a large dish with five cuts - short rib, intercostal, skirt, tendon and tongue. You will be able to taste the best parts of a cow with one dish. Our master stock is made primarily with local pork, Chinese spices, and a mixture of goose and duck fat. Remember to dip the beef in a little bit of chilli oil - it is a match made in heaven and it is a flavour bomb passed down generations from my grandmother’s side.



4) What's next for you and The Praya in the coming months?


There is plenty of exciting news for The Praya in the second half of 2023 and 2024. Right now, I’m focusing on perfecting our dishes and keeping myself busy by exploring forgotten recipes.



5) What are some of the best parts about being a chef?


There are so many things that I am grateful for being a chef! I guess being a chef presents plenty of opportunities to meet many interesting people from all walks of life and experiencing different cultures through the window of food. Being able to get my hands on ingredients that are normally inaccessible by the general public is also a great perk of being a chef. As a chef, I can freely express who I am through the dishes I create. And finally, I love working with a team of like-minded people – it is what motivates me to wake up every day.




"We’re not in the business of food, but rather the business of people. I believe that a restaurant is about the connection of people and the experience we give to our guests."

- Head Chef Samuel Ng of The Praya





6) What's something you learned since the opening of The Praya?


I’ve learned so much by exploring what I don’t know. As the saying goes, “the more you know, the more you realise you don't know,” and this is very true when it comes to creating a new dish. I guess what I want to say is there is a lot of knowledge that is hidden in the unknown and it can only be discovered through countless hours of trial and error and seeking inspiration from culinary books. I also learned that running a kitchen is extremely unpredictable.


Unpredictability is what makes my job interesting and keeps me on my toes. It just improves my ability to adapt to different situations. We’re not in the business of food, but rather the business of people. I believe that a restaurant is about the connection of people and the experience we give to our guests.



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All imagery is provided by The Praya.



Address: Level 3, 181 Connaught Road West, Shek Tong Tsui | Website: thepraya.hk | Phone: +852 3181 1666 | Email: reservation@thepraya.hk | Instagram: @theprayahk | Facebook: @ThePrayaHK

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