When it comes to Chinese food in Australia, we know our Cantonese, and we're getting a strong grounding in Sichuan cooking, but what of the lesser-known cuisines? Neil Perry does his bit at Spice Temple, there's a growing number of restaurants representing Xinjiang, Yunnan and more, and now Victor Liong of Melbourne's Lee Ho Fook is throwing his hat into the ring, flying the flag not just for the food of Zhejiang, Shandong and Fujian, but for greater recognition of the varied schools of cooking across China.
"We were talking about how diverse Chinese cooking is and we found that there are actually eight kinds of cuisines," says Liong. "So we thought we'd do a tasting menu on a Monday and see if we could do something interesting."
Starting 18 August, Monday dinners will put the spotlight on a particular regional cuisine, with six courses of dishes reinterpreted in Liong's signature modern-Chinese style.
"Lee Ho Fook has basically been about taking the newer-style techniques in cooking and applying them to traditional flavours," he says. "We're not trying to do really traditional stuff; we're trying to do flavour interpretations of regions, which will be pretty cool."
And there's excitement in the drinks department to boot: each dinner comes with the offer of matching artisanal, organic-leaning wines, ciders and ales.
The cuisine of Anhui, for example, will be paired with "natural and orange-type wines" to match the region's "funky" reputation. "It's landlocked, it's got a few restrictions and we thought that style of winemaking or beverage would go with the same spirit," he says. "Instead of going for the obvious choices like big, Barossa shiraz with some of the richer flavours, we thought we might go with a quirky Bordeaux or a little bit left-of-centre-type pairings."
The dinners kick off 18 August with Anhui, followed by the robust eats of Shangdong, the opulent food of Jiangsu, the more sophisticated Zhejiang, the ever-popular Canton, the diverse cuisine of Fujian and the rustic flavours of Hunan, finishing off 6 October with hot and numbing Sichuan cooking.
"It's Monday night," Liong says, "there's not much happening, and everyone does six-course menus and matching wines but who does Sichuan food with perry, scrumpy and cider from the south of France?"
For more information and to book, call the restaurant on (03) 9077 6261 or visit their website.
Lee Ho Fook, 92 Smith St, Collingwood, Vic
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