Chinese culinary influence in Colombo | Sunday Observer

Chinese culinary influence in Colombo

Chinese food is gaining momentum in Colombo. It has been one of the strongest culinary choices outside our rice and curry when it comes to eating out. Making raves at Hilton Colombo is 28-year-old Ong Shi Yong. He is the resident Chinese chef. I met up with him during the ongoing Chinese New Year celebrations.

He was busy performing a traditional routine of mixing a large salad that is infused with ginger and fermented pickles. Yong has been in our island for only 4 months but he already loves it here, enjoying his work.

Born in Selangor, Malaysia he remembers his father being a good cook. As a child he used to help his daddy in the kitchen. Before long his family knew that Yong was bound to be a chef someday.

Pursuing his passion he went to culinary college for two and a half years, and graduated with a diploma in catering in 2009. He then completed his internship at the Kula Lampur Hilton. This was his first experience with the Hilton hotels. He later moved onto work at the famous Chynna restaurant in Malaysia.

Chinese food is a reflection of many regions. Cantonese cooking styles have deeply influenced this young chef. Ong Shi Yong is keen to create his food trying to cater to the Sri Lankan palette, using traditional recipes with a mild twist. He is responsible for all the Chinese food laid out at the buffet at Graze restaurant.

I asked him what he does during his free time. The bubbly chef says he loves to go to the beach early in the morning and also to the Buddhist temple. Having taken his first trip to Kandy he remains mesmerized by the serene tea plantations.

It is not an easy transition for anyone to come and work in another country, especially in a commercial kitchen. Yong is happy to see the talent and teamwork of his colleagues. He says he will soon add new Chinese desserts to the buffet, which up to now have not been made popular in Colombo.

As we conclude our chat over a cup of green tea this dynamic young man says his next wish is to ride an elephant! Yong is certainly set to enhance Chinese cuisine, and we wish him success. (DJ)