Ken Hom talks to Hologram about his ‘stir-fried life’, cooking skills, and life lessons from his mother
Words by Ellen Manning
Photographs by Jamie Gray
He’s travelled round the world, cooked for 6,000 people at one time, and is probably one of the world’s authorities on oriental cooking. But that didn’t stop Ken Hom from hanging out near Rugby this week, sharing his stir-frying skills and anecdotes at a demonstration at Leekes on the outskirts of Coventry.
The store has its own demo kitchen and has celebrity chefs drop by fairly regularly as they tour the UK. And for Ken Hom, getting out and about is as much a treat for him as for his audiences. “It’s a great way for me to interact with people,” he told Hologram when we met him. “Usually I’m on TV, so you can see me but I don’t see you.”
During an hour-long insight into the world of wok cooking at Leekes, Ken cooked up a Chinese-style curry, a spicy fried rice and a vegetable stir fry. With smoke and steam billowing from his wok, he told the audience: “The secret to stir-frying is to get your wok hot!” A bit of a difficulty in his early shows, apparently, with health and safety bosses stationing three firemen on set just in case he burnt the studio down with his blistering hot wok.
For Ken Hom, cooking is meant to be fun. You should be inspired and not worry about playing by the rules. “When you cook you should think outside of the box,” he says, with the friendly grin that propelled him to stardom years ago and keeps him in demand even at the age of 68. That may be easy for someone who has an OBE for ‘services to culinary arts’ to say, but his session was a reminder of why he became a hit in the first place with his showcase of just how easy stir-frying can be. Three dishes, prepped and cooked from start to finish – faster than people on Ready, Steady, Cook would have managed, he joked.
The chicken curry was well-spiced and tangy, with a crunch of asparagus reminding you this was no ordinary takeaway dish. The fried rice – complete with additions of beansprouts, fruit and basil – was a punchy balance of flavours, and the stir-fry a rainbow of colourful, crunchy veg that reminds you you just don’t have enough green stuff in your life.
In fact, his stir-frying was so speedy he had time to sup on a glass of bubbles at the end as he took questions, telling us some of the anecdotes that feature in his autobiography, ‘My Stir-Fried Life’, that came out a few weeks ago. They include the time he was caught shoplifting at the age of 10. Instead of shouting or screaming, his mother had the most effective punishment going, spending the next two weeks crying each night for hours until he felt so guilty he begged for forgiveness. It worked – he’s never taken anything again!
For recipes and news on Ken Hom, visit his website kenhom.com
Ken Hom appeared at Leekes Coventry. For information on other upcoming demonstrations, visit their website at leekes.co.uk
Ellen Manning (ellenmanning.co.uk) is a freelance writer with many years of experience in press and PR. She is a well-known food blogger in the Midlands and her reviews of nearby restaurants and eateries can be found here www.eatwithellen.com.