One of the things I love most about Hong Kong is that, if you look just a little bit further than the eye can see, you can find some really incredible events, created by seriously talented people with a tangible passion. Mina Park is one of these amazing women: outside of her career as a general counsel at an investment bank, Mina runs her business Sook, organising a range of unique foodie events that are like nothing you will ever have experienced before. Most recently she organised a collaboration with Helina Tesega, founder and chef behind Eat Ethio, Hong Kong’s first taste of Ethiopian cuisine.
The idea behind Sook came about from the regular dinner parties that Mina throws for her friends. So impressed with both her cooking and her hosting, her friends encouraged her to cook for a public audience, which led to Mina putting up a stand at the PMQ Night Market in May. It was here, through the popularity of Mina’s kimchi tacos, that Sook started to gain momentum.
Essentially, Sook has two parts – firstly it features Mina’s own cooking, which combines her native Korean cuisine with flavours from everywhere that inspires her, such as Mexico, France, China and so on. She holds regular kimchi workshops in her studio in Chai Wan, and also organises pop-up evenings at other restaurants, such as a recent one at Serge et le Phoque.
Secondly, Sook is a platform to promote chefs who Mina finds exciting and unusual, such as Helina from Eat Ethio. Mina claims that it is her “selfish” way of organising events that she would like to see more of in HK – events that she would like to attend, featuring food that she would want to eat.
Mina’s studio in Chai Wan is unexpectedly beautiful. I’m used to entering old warehouse buildings and finding some pretty awesome spaces, but Mina’s studio is something else. With large windows looking out over the water, comfortable lounge furniture, a huge kitchen island, plants and stacks and stacks of novels and cookbooks, the studio has a gorgeous homely feel that many other private kitchens lack. You can’t help but be inspired by the way she has designed it and you’ll no doubt leave wanting to redesign your entire flat – or at least we certainly did!
Ethiopian born and raised Helina moved to Hong Kong recently from Shanghai, where she lived for seven years. It was during her role as director of communications at the African Pavilion for the Shanghai World Expo in 2010 that Helina realised that there were more immediate ways in which she could raise awareness of the traditions, history and culture of Ethiopia, and from there Eat Ethio was born. It began as a small stall in a Shanghai weekend market, before gaining popularity at markets all over the city. Helina expects to do the same here in Hong Kong, as well as organising a series of private dinners from her home in Sheung Wan.
I had never tasted Ethiopian food before, but had heard great things from my father, who once lived in Djibouti and developed a passion for it. As soon as I heard about Sook and Eat Ethio’s pop-up, therefore, I was desperate to try it.
All in all it was a wonderful evening, commencing with several glasses of a deliciously refreshing traditional Ethiopian drink called Biriz, made with fermented honey, water, cloves and ginger, which is offered to guests in Ethiopian homes. We then enjoyed a 7-course tasting menu of traditional Ethiopian dishes with a modern Western twist.
I particularly enjoyed the ‘Selata’, a very simple salad of rocket, beetroot, toasted barley and goat’s cheese with an Ethiopian mustard, honey and lemon juice dressing. The tuna and gomen ‘Kitfo’ was also pretty special. Kitfo in Ethiopia is usually a kind of beef tartare, made using Ethiopian cardamom; Helina adds her interpretation using tuna instead of beef, and it was seriously tasty.
Ethiopian cuisine is made using a unique blend of herbs and spices, many of which annoyingly can’t be found here. The ‘Kik wot’, a sort of yellow split pea curry, thankfully uses spices we can find here, so Helina gave us a demonstration of how we can make this tasty dish at home.
My absolute favourite of all the dishes was the ‘Doro Wot’, a kind of chicken stew or curry, served with soft-boiled egg and homemade ricotta-style cheese. The flavours were intense and delicious and I couldn’t resist mopping them all up with both the ambasha and injera, two kinds of traditional Ethiopian bread.
My first experience of Ethiopian food was definitely a memorable one. I loved the set-up, the chance to meet like-minded foodies and of course to enjoy an experience that is completely different to something I’d do on a standard weekend in HK. I can’t wait to see what both Sook and Eat Ethio have in store for the future!
Upcoming Sook events:
11th November – Another pop-up at Serge et le Phoque, since the first one was such a hit. This is a collaboration whereby “the menu is orchestrated by Mina and performed by the chefs at Serge et le Phoque.” Bookings can be made directly through the restaurant.
16th November – Sook presents Tony Tan (Melbourne-based food writer) in conjunction with Madison HK. Tony will lead a Malaysian cooking demonstration, followed by a dinner hosted by Sook, all in the new Madison HK event space in Admiralty.
Late November – Pop-up kimchi taco stand at the launch of the second issue of Bite Me magazine at Kapok PMQ.
Regular kimchi workshops with family-style lunches at Sook studios. The next date is still TBD, but is likely to be in early December.
March 2015 – Mina is the food curator for Chai Wan Mei, which is part of Art Basel HK.
Plans for Eat Ethio are still being decided, but she will likely be at upcoming markets and will organise some pop-up dinners. To stay informed, contact Helina on email@example.com and follow Eat Ethio’s Facebook page.