Ever since I was little, I have always loved cooking. I used to make every effort I could to do a big supermarket shop and cook yummy meals most days, whether just for myself or for small dinner parties. Now, however, living in Hong Kong, I cook far less often. Whether this is because I can’t really find exactly what I’m looking for in the supermarkets (and when I can it’s outrageously expensive), or whether it’s because I have just become lazy and reliant on eating out or takeaways is beside the point. The point is that cooking in Hong Kong has, for me, as I’m sure for many others, become less of a pleasure and slightly more of a chore. In England I was used to large work surfaces where I could spread out my ingredients and dance around the kitchen if I liked (and did with frequency). Here I am confined to a tiny kitchen. I do count myself fairly lucky however, as our kitchen at least has an oven, which is a rarity here in HK.
Secret Ingredient has taken all of these issues on board – the inconvenience and cost of supermarkets, the lack of space, the lack of ovens and, one issue that affects us all in this fast-paced city, the lack of time – and has come up with an incredible plan to help Hongkongers make delicious meals without any hassle.
Their very easy to navigate website offers four delicious recipes which change every fortnight and always include one vegetarian option and one low-carb option. All you need to do is choose which recipe you would like to make and Secret Ingredient will deliver every single ingredient you will need (down to the last drop of olive oil and sprinkle of salt), washed, weighed, measured and chopped, along with step-by-step instructions of how to make it so that you can prepare your meal in less than 30 minutes. All the recipes are designed to be cooked on two hobs, so no oven is required. In fact, they make the instructions so simple, with every ingredient clearly labelled and a “cook by letters” system, that you don’t even need to know how to cook. This is fantastic if you ever want to hold an impressive dinner party but are usually a complete disaster in the kitchen!
Being the only people who offer this amazing service, they obviously want to do everything perfectly, including importing nothing but the best meat and seafood and locally sourcing fresh produce every day meaning that everything is prepared on the day you order it.
I tested out the service this week (I made the Coconut blue cod with sautéed vegetables and jasmine rice) and was amazed at how easy and quick it was to get such a delicious result. I even had time to enjoy a glass of wine whilst I cooked and may have also had a little sing and dance around the tiny kitchen.
Speaking of wine, each Secret Ingredient recipe is paired with a selected bottle of wine which cannot be bought in any other shop in Hong Kong. Their sommelier recommends a Malborough Pinot Gris to go with the cod which perfectly complements this very tasty and aromatic dish. They also offer interesting beers and refreshingly light sodas as an alternative to wine.
Once you have made your selection online, you can either give them a delivery address or opt to collect the ingredients yourself from the Secret Ingredient workshop in Sheung Wan with the choice of paying by cash or credit card, and then get cooking! It really is that simple. A meal for two starts from $200, which, considering how much it would cost to buy each ingredient from the supermarket (particularly good quality meat and seafood), then this really isn’t a bad price. If you’re cooking for more than two people, simply multiply your order, let them know on your booking form, and the boys will adjust the quantities where necessary.
The boys at Secret Ingredient have got a never-ending list of ideas up their sleeve which all sound incredibly exciting. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they will one day start to include a sweet option on their menu too! Keep an eye on their website for what’s to come and you’ll soon realise that cooking in Hong Kong needn’t be as much of a hassle as it seems.