My Life In Food: Bonnie Chung, Miso Tasty

Bonnie Chung is the founder of food brand Miso Tasty, which makes a wide range of high-quality Japanese-inspired ingredients and products that bring authentic Asian cooking into home kitchens. Ahead of the launch of her new cookbook, here Bonnie shares her favourite places to eat and the dishes she makes at home time and again.
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The restaurant from my childhood that will always stay with me is my father’s restaurant, without question. It was called the Zing Vaa and it ran for over 60 years, but has now sadly closed down. My favourite dish was its steamed cheung fun with sweet peanut sauce.

It was the snack my dad would make me to take on the train, each time I left to go back to London. Memories of working in the kitchen making dumplings, behind the bar pulling pints and all those staff meals with the whole team will stay with me forever. The restaurant was our second home.

The first dish I ever learnt to cook was congee, a savoury rice porridge with lots of tasty toppings. It's simply made from rice, water, ginger and spring onions as a base, so an easy introduction to the kitchen as it's made very simply but carefully. 

It feels like a long time since I’ve been to a restaurant, but my favourite in London is probably Koya in Soho. My favourite dish there is its Japanese breakfast – grilled mackerel, pickles, miso soup and a bowl of rice. So simple and delicious.

There are lots of chefs I love following. The main ones are A Wong’s Andrew Wong, Yotam Ottolenghi and Nanban’s Tim Anderson. I love their inventiveness. 

My most recent memorable meal was the multi-course tasting menu at Hunan in Pimlico. It was full of surprises and very special. I loved the prawn dumplings and the deep-fried green beans.

My favourite pub is our local, Crate Brewery. It’s relaxed with a great choice of beers and pizzas, and just five minutes from my flat, so perfect for a lazy evening. I love its sage and truffle pizza. I also have a soft spot for the Hand of Glory, the local pub to our studio in Hackney Downs. It's where my team and I have drinks after work.

My idea of a perfect Sunday is a cycle into Chinatown, Soho for dim sum with my partner, and a long walk with a friend. For the dim sum classics, we stick to Golden Dragon, but if we want to try something a bit more modern, we go to Plum Valley or Leong’s Legend.

If I’m going out for date night, I love a cosy dinner in one of the many mini restaurants in Soho, like Brindisa, Fatt Pundit, Noble Rot, or Lina Stores. The crackling spinach at Fatt Pundit is to die for. I love coming out of these when the streets are still buzzing to find a bar to go onto. 

If I am too tired to cook, I simply load up a piece of soft tofu with lots of crunchy, sour and spicy toppings from my pantry, and then send it down with a bowl of steamed rice. There’s no chopping and hardly any washing up, plus it’s hearty and appetising. 

When I’m at home, I usually like to drink a gin and tonic pre-dinner, and then have red wine with dinner. I love gins from Hepple or Sipsmith.

I love to stock up on ingredients all over the place and I love discovering new places to buy food. My local loves include Sutton and Sons for fish, Gallo Nero in Stoke Newington for Italian ingredients, and for everything else, it’s either Waitrose or M&S. 

My most-used ingredient is probably miso or tofu. I also use onions and garlic in almost every meal. It’s where every dish begins.

My favourite dining companion has to be my partner, Noah. He doesn't work in food, but is as discerning as someone who does. 

If I’m entertaining at home, I tend to make something spicy and crunchy that goes great with a refreshing gin and tonic. A whole baked miso salmon with ginger is a regular crowd-pleaser. 

My dream dinner guest would have to be my grandma, who brought me up. She can’t travel anymore, so it’s become very difficult to host her. I would love to cook for her again and make the meals that she taught me herself – although I know for a fact I’d get a tough review!

The secret to hosting a good dinner party is to keep it simple and not try so hard to impress. The best dinner party is when the host is relaxed, and so I now try to dial the number of dishes down and keep them simple and easy to execute. A great dinner party is when it's just as much about the food as it is about the mood and great table banter.

My favourite time for hosting is New Year’s Eve. We always invite friends and family over for a sushi-making party – it's fun and relaxed and I love that it's now become a tradition for us. 

One of my favourite treats is to get a takeaway with my friend Aya Nishimura who also works in food. When we are too tired to cook and want to hang out, we get together and dial and order the same dish every time from our local Thai restaurant. It’s become a bit of a tradition to gossip over phad thai. Sometimes we get so lazy we eat straight from the box. 

My hangover cure of choice? Instant noodles with miso soup, no doubt about it.

I’ve tried a couple of meal kits over the last year. I’ve loved the fish dishes from Parson’s and a fun little vegan bun cha kit from Eat Chay. We haven’t tried too many, but these two were easy and rewarding to put together. 

The one dish I always order if I see it on the menu is a toss-up between vinegared mackerel or a naughty salt and pepper squid. Delicious.

If I’m after a quick mid-week meal, miso aubergine with steamed rice is a regular for us. It’s super satisfying and ready with little prep. 

When it comes to weekend brunch, I like to make spicy scrambled tofu with roasted peppers, cherry tomatoes and spinach – the tofu runny and creamy, laid over a piece of toast. All washed down with a strong cup of tea. We’ve recently launched our very own range of craft tofu. It’s tofu, but not as you know it.

The most decadent meal I've ever had would have to be one of the Kaiseki dinners I’ve had in Japan. These are multicourse delicacies, served in the most beautiful antique crockery. The seasonal river fish and the sesame tofu made from pure sesame and set to look like tofu is totally unforgettable.

My death-row meal would probably be congee with all the toppings. There are very few things I don’t like, so it’s tough to say what my idea of ‘food hell’ is, although food that’s been overcooked and lost its original texture or flavour is a real shame to me. 

I’ve been cooking a lot in lockdown and I’ve loved it. It’s so much fun having more time to try things I wouldn’t normally. Making noodles from scratch, dumplings, bread – basically anything that takes a long time – I've enjoyed the luxury of being able to make them at a leisurely pace. 

I have so many go-to cookbooks, but my recent loves are Jikoni by Ravinder Bhogal, Pippa Middlehurst’s Dumplings & Noodles and Ottolenghi’s Flavour. The cookbooks I use the most often are probably Every Grain of Rice by Fuschia Dunlop or Felicity Cloake’s How To Make The Perfect… book. 

 

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