Kewei's Kitchen

The final countdown…our last month in Spisehuset

BLOG #8

How time flies. April will be our last month of popping up in Spisehuset. I know, I know…it’s been a journey. No doubt, you’re all wondering about what our next move will be, but let’s have a little revisit first. What did we learn?

Authenticity and creativity works together

Copenhagen is a hotbed of creativity. In some countries, creatives can be subject to criticism. People who have too much time on their hands, scoff the cynics. But not here. It’s taken seriously. And openly encouraged.

At Kewei’s Kitchen, it has also aligned rather neatly with the creative juices that I think imbue our humble little foray into the foodie market. I would never kid myself that we are anywhere near the top of the game. Far from it. But I do like to think that we are making our own little contribution to the city’s vibrant food scene, and helping our ever so welcoming guests to get a wider understanding of what Chinese flavours can be.

Of course, creativity is by its definition experimental, but it should over time lead to ever higher standards of excellence. Not everything I’ve tried has come off (fortunately, I have a willing husband on whom I can guinea pig all my innovations!), but the more one experiments, the better it seems are the results. Practice makes perfect? I like to think so, but I’d also say playing with the ingredients and regain the flavour of home only drives me even further in my ambition to bring interesting, tasty food to the Danish table. And I will never stop that.

Take for instance our new fish balls soup that we tried out on one of our favourite guests last week. He loved it. His table loved it. Home-made and hand-beaten, they come in a delicate vinegar, white pepper and ginger soup with a hint of soy. It’s one of our ‘experiments’ in creativity inspired by the famous Wenzhou dish. However, there’s no way I can get the Chinese river fish in Denmark, so I tried with a few Danish fishes, and in the end we replaced with cod. It’s not quite the same, I know. But I would also rather think that I’ve created something new. This is when I think it, the authenticity and creativity works perfectly together. You ought to try it. It’s on the menu now.

Hand-beaten fish soup | Photo by Kewei Zhao 

Hand-beaten fish soup | Photo by Kewei Zhao 

Our mouth-numbing steak too continues to earn rave reviews.The authenticity is in the use of the amazingly vibrant Sichuan peppercorn to achieve a fiery heat and numbing sensation. However, in most of Sichuan dishes, they combine chilli and sichuan pepper together which you will not be able to get the numbing sensation without burning from the spicy chillies. In our creation, we lifted the flavour of Sichuan peppercorn out and paired with a premier cut of steak, which transform the juiciness of the steak into an explosion of flavours. Sometimes it can be that simple and by giving these peppercorn a solo moment, we also let our guests to fully experience this new addictive sensation. It’s a dish that we are very proud of.

Mouth-numbing steak | Photo by Kewei Zhao 

Mouth-numbing steak | Photo by Kewei Zhao 

Excellence and excellence only

Excellence resonate through Danish life. The cycle lanes, the trains, the infrastructure, interior design. It’s even in the work/life balance. Danes will vote with their feet if they don’t like what they are getting. That certainly applies to dining out. The food, the environment, the ambience and of course the service together create the whole dining out experience and we aim to bring you the best as we can.

In our short journey from Kødbyen’s street food market in July 2017 (whatever happened to the summer?) to Easter 2018, we’ve had some incredible luck. Not every new venture, gets the chance to start off in a restaurant so ambient and beautiful as Spisehuset. If ever a restaurant was designed to epitomise hygge then this is it.

It was its hygge qualities that actually first pulled me in. I spotted Spisehuset while wandering around the ‘grey’ area of Kødbyen. Intrigued, I popped in to book a table for my husband and I only to discover they weren’t open that night. And the light bulb went off in my head. We got talking, I explained my vision for Kewei’s Kitchen and from there, we organised a launch in October 2017 that eventually became formalised in November. Sometimes, things can swing on something as small as this. And we’ve never regretted for a moment our tie up with a brand that absolutely embodies quality and excellence.

Spisehuset as a venue has proved perfect for romance and rather wonderful too for big events like our recent hosting of the International Rotary Club on March 26. It’s a venue designed to incubate fun, sparkle and, above all, a good time for all. Provide food to match, and then you are on to a winner. With our commitment to innovation and quality, we like to think we are on the road to doing just that.

Copenhagen International Rotary Club on March 26

Copenhagen International Rotary Club on March 26

We’ve also watched our colleagues at Spisehuset and the levels of service they bring, literally, to the table. They are good at it. Very good. And we’ve tried to learn from it. Now, we’d certainly not say that Kewei’s Kitchen is an expert in this area, but we do try our best to make our guests feel welcome. There are times when we’ve been so busy that we may have inadvertently slipped a notch or two south of the high standards we have set ourselves, but, though those moments are chastening, we welcome them not only as part of the learning curve, but also as a reminder that we’ve got a long way to go.

The last lap

So, there you have it. We’re on the last lap at Spisehuset and it’s been great for us. Creativity has underpinned everything we’ve tried to do here and we’ve had a kitchen that allows us to indulge those juices. When we find our new venue, we’ll certainly be looking to take forward that fundamental principle and maintain the passion for our food which fuels that process. The day Kewei’s Kitchen stops creating might be the day we decide to pack it in. We hope that such a day is a long way off yet. We hope you feel the same way too!

And as to our next stop? Well we do have something very definite in the pipeline. But we’ll save that for another day. Keep watching…!

Is Chinese food healthy?

BLOG #2

It’s a common misconception that Chinese food is fattening and therefore unhealthy. That of course will not come as a surprise if your experience has been limited to deep-fried spring rolls, or a battered sweet-and-sour chicken coated in a thick, sugary sauce. But do Chinese people really subsist on a daily deep-fried diet?

The answer is of course no. There are many different methods of Chinese cooking. Let’s explore a few here.

Firstly, we should begin with Chinese cooking methods. We have a short phrase “煎炒烹炸蒸煮炖” (jian chao peng zha zheng zhu dun), which sums up the seven fundamental Chinese cooking methods: pan-fried, stir-fried, sauteed, deep-fried, steamed, poached and simmered. But these seven methods are themselves only a shortened version of the overall 28 methods that make up traditional Chinese cooking. As you can see, deep-frying is only one way of doing it. And yet, it has rather unfortunately come to dominate the image of Chinese food in the western market.

The Chinese, as we mentioned in our first blog, adhere to Yin and Yang principles and this is as much so in the kitchen and food as in other spheres of life. For want of a better description, it’s all about balance. A good Chinese meal should be balanced with the right combination of protein, vegetables, carbohydrate and some good fat. It’s this fundamental principle that actually puts Chinese cuisine among the most healthy in the world.

First, vegetable dishes are not treated as an afterthought to enable us to reach our ‘five-a-day’ quota. They are as essential to the meal as the meat or fish taking centre stage and it is not unusual to see two or three plates of steaming hot, stir-fried vegetables encircling that gloriously embellished sea bass in a chilli and black bean sauce, a plateful of plump scallops on a glass noodle base, a stunning Xinjiang lamb on a bed of aromatic onions or a vibrantly colourful beef and broccoli in black bean sauce.

Soy sauce pickled beef with cucumber and carrot salad from Kewei's Kitchen

Soy sauce pickled beef with cucumber and carrot salad from Kewei's Kitchen

Secondly, the Chinese tend to have around 2-3 dishes a meal, which can help in the intake of a diverse range of essential nutrients. At the same time, it also makes eating more fun, as you get to experience many different flavours and textures. That might include a spicy hot soup, or a cold refreshing crispy salad alongside the ubiquitous soft and satisfying rice.

The Chinese also embrace fat as an essential element of any good diet. If a fat is natural, it is by definition good. If it is not, then it is probably best avoided. The classic red braised pork belly dish, slow cooked to its most tender and juicy state not only puts a smile on everyone’s face as they gather expectantly around the table, it is, especially in winter time, a source of some essential, good fat that gives your skin a real glow and keeps the brain sharp. And with that lovely feeling of warmth it gives the body and soul, there’s something kind of hygge about it, even if I say so myself!

Slow-cooked pork belly with tea-infused soft-boiled egg and cucumber pickles. Our regulars at Kødbyens summer market absolutely loved this dish!  

Slow-cooked pork belly with tea-infused soft-boiled egg and cucumber pickles. Our regulars at Kødbyens summer market absolutely loved this dish!  

There’s an important point here. The Chinese look on food as if it were medicinal. Some of the most vital ingredients in Chinese cooking are ginger, garlic, spring onion and chillies. All of them have been proven to have great health benefits. If you have a cold, Chinese people will tell you to eat some raw garlic or drink some ginger tea. And if you have a sore throat, Chinese people will probably make you some pear dessert soup. Most of the time, when the Chinese have a stomach problem, they will probably eat lots of porridge and soup. However, Chinese porridge is not made of oats but a mix of grains, such as rice, green beans or barley. It also tends to be more ‘soupy’. Needless to say it is delicious! Liquid based foods are of course filling in a way that does not necessarily leave its mark on your waistline either!

Three good meals a day is another essential element of the Chinese diet and they tend to eat until they are full. In other words, the western obsession with clearing everything on the plate does not really register on the Chinese table (not that we in anyway condone excessive waste!).

(By the way, veganism, vegetarianism and gluten free requirements are not yet really in vogue for China. But Kewei’s Kitchen can and already has catered extensively to meet our guests needs.)

 A special dish for our vegan friends. Steamed okra, tofu and glass noodles in ginger and garlic sauce. 

 A special dish for our vegan friends. Steamed okra, tofu and glass noodles in ginger and garlic sauce. 

Not convinced? Well, how’s this for a litmus test. The Chinese as a rule do not have a health culture in the body beautiful sense that is typical in the western world, yet, despite eating three excellent meals daily, their obesity rates are relatively low. In fact, obesity has only begun to be a problem in China with the advent of fast-food culture.

A Chinese person who eschews that phenomenon tends not to be fat. After all, ask yourself this question. How many obese Chinese people have you seen?

Kewei

P.S. By the way folks, this is our last blog of the year so we'd like to wish all of our loyal guests and followers a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. Of course, if you want to see us before then, why not pop by Spisehuset this weekend and book a table. We'd be delighted to see you!  

China’s winter food

BLOG #1

Depending on where you are in China, the weather in winter can vary between chilly and finger-numbingly cold. Where I grew up in the north of China in the Heilongjiang province capital of Harbin, temperatures of minus 30 were not uncommon.

In traditional Chinese philosophy, winter represents the most Yin aspect, in essence, the cold and shadowy aspect of the universe. To achieve harmony between your body and the cold season, the Chinese have a phrase “秋收冬藏” (qiu shou dong cang) , which means harvesting in autumn and storing in winter. If you apply this concept to what you eat in winter, then it is clear. Warm, hearty and slow-cooked food helps your body store energy against extremes of cold.  

Certainly when I was a child, stews were a mainstay. Lamb, chicken and beef, preferably with the bones and some fat. Not processed fats I hasten to add, but proper healthy fats. Root vegetables, such as potato, carrot, turnip and ginger, mushrooms and roasted nuts were also a vital element in creating a consistency and body in the stew, perfect for reinvigorating the flesh.

Another important element for winter food are spices, which provide incredible health benefits, complex flavours, aroma and colour to the dish. Typical winter spices include star anise, cumin seed, cinnamon, cloves and pepper.  

This leads to this week’s new addition to the menu - Xinjiang aromatic lamb chops. Good quality lamb marinated with Shaoxing wine, Chinese five spices, cumin seed, cayenne, Sichuan peppers, and soy sauce, cooked on a smoking hot grill. It’s tender, juicy, mouth-tickling, and… You need to try it.   

Aromatic Xinjiang lamb chops                                                               

Photo from Kewei’s Kitchen

Another one of my favourite winter dishes is chicken, mushroom and chestnut stew. Ask any northerner in China and they will know this dish. The chestnut yields a semi-crunchy texture that blends nicely with the slipperiness of the mushroom and the tender flavour of the slow-cooked chicken. We like to keep our bones in our stews and as a kid, I’d often suck on the soft marrow at the end of the meal. But don’t worry, no-one’s expecting you to do that in Denmark!   

What about winter drinks? In Europe you have hot-mulled wine. In northern China we drink warm BaiJiu (BaiJiu is China’s equivalent of vodka but comes in at 56%). It is not boiled alcohol, but a small jug of BaiJiu soaked in hot water which raises the temperature without losing any alcohol percentage.

Who's up for BaiJiu?       Source: TaoBao        

Who's up for BaiJiu?   

Source: TaoBao       

And if you had the impression Chinese food is deep fried and oily, these dishes should prove otherwise. Certainly, light use of oil is one of the principles we adhere to at Kewei’s Kitchen!

Ultimately, to get an understanding of how we approach food in China, it really is all about a balance of the Yin and the Yang. It’s not rocket science in the end. If it’s cold outside, it’s important to have winter warmers.

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