The Inside Scoop with Hetty McKinnon
1. What are your favourite dishes on the menu?
I’m seriously obsessed with the Nepalese spinach and ricotta momos served with a smoked chilli & tomato achaar. They are from the Chinatown issue of Peddler Journal and I love them so much they just had to go on VEDA’s menu. The flavour contrast of creamy dumplings with fiery, tart achaar is simply addictive!
I started my journey making salads, so naturally the salad section always excites me. I love to incorporate a ginger and shallot dressing, a very common flavour profile in Chinese cooking and a sauce my mum made to go with chicken when I was young. I use it in the soba noodle salad with shredded cabbage and carrot, and it’s definitely one of my all-time favourite salads.
2. What makes a great salad?
A thoughtful layering of FLAVOUR! Food is all about flavour for me, so a salad must have several layers of flavour and also texture. I use a lot of spices with vegetables for flavour and then build up the flavour profile using hearty legumes or grains and finish off with fresh herbs, nuts and seeds for texture. And let’s not forget the dressing, which is, to be frank, the cornerstone of the salad. The salad must be matched personally with the salad – no generic dressings like “green goddess” or “thousands island” for me. I always pair the dressing with the salad.
3. What’s playing on your kitchen soundtrack?
I’m an eighties music tragic – I have several eighties playlists on my phone, but since my stay at Ovolo Southside, I’ve become obsessed with Radio Ovolo which is probably the best 80s playlist ever!
4. Wine pairing with meals, yes or no?
Honestly, I’m not a huge drinker, but I would say no to a glass of Aussie Yering Station Village Pinot Noir.
5. If you could only eat one dish for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Definitely something my mum makes – her gok jai dumplings, ginger fried rice or congee. If I’m only going to eat one thing for the rest of my life, I’d want it to be comforting.
6. What did you eat on your Hong Kong trip?
I loved the tacos at TQM, the TanTan noodles and Truffle Mushroom dumplings at Sohofama and the scrambled eggs at Australia Dairy Company. I also loved silky smooth cheung fan (rice noodles) from local food stalls and I didn’t have any but I loved the smell of street vendors roasting chestnuts and sweet potato.
7. Where are some of your favourite restaurants in the world?
This is a hard questions because my favourite food is always found in the home….but if I had to choose, I’d say Congee Village in Lower East Side because it’s a taste of home, Mission Chinese in NYC because of the fun vibe, Frankie’s in Brooklyn coz it’s a neighborhood fave, Ugly Baby which is also in my neighborhood for the most far-out spicy Thai, Sqirl in LA for pushing the boundaries in flavour, Yank Sing in SF for the best dumplings ever, Shin Undo in Shibuya, Tokyo which served the wildest udon noodles ever eaten, Mr Miyagi in Melbourne because I would go for their tempura broccoli alone. In Sydney, there are too many great places to mention but I love mamak for their roti!
8. Aside from cooking, what do you enjoy doing?
Aside from cooking – I love photography. I recently traveled in Japan with 3 different cameras on my body. Tied to photography is traveling – seeing the world is what I’d do 100% of the time if I could because experiencing other cultures inspires me to create and also helps us all develop empathy for other people.
9. What has been your favourite food moment of 2018?
Traveling to Asia gave me so many wonderful food moments! Working with VEDA was a highlight for me, being back in Hong Kong for the first time since I was 5 and bringing my food to the people of HK has been incredible. And Tokyo blew my mind, food wise! I was so inspired by their flavors, their delicate touch, their precision and dedication to perfection.
10. And to Wrap things up, tell us something we don’t know about you?
I collect Jane Austen books! I can’t tell you how many copies I own of Pride and Prejudice…