Two minutes with Amy Poon...
Cooking is clearly in your blood. What inspired you to bring back the Poon’s brand?
An itch that nothing else I had done before could quite scratch - like that mid-point between your shoulder blades which you can never quite reach... My career in luxury was beginning to bore me. Working for someone else didn't appeal. A good friend asked, in a rather exasperated fashion, what the fxxx I was doing with my life, faffing around with handbags when the only thing which made me happy was food - cooking it, eating it, talking about it, planning what to eat next, where and when with whom...
I realised I had been gifted something quite special that I hadn't taken seriously as, having grown up in a restaurant, I had sworn never to go into the industry. What chance does one stand against kismet?
If we were to sit around the Poon family dinner table, what would we be eating?
A Chinese tonic soup of some kind, made with bones and dried ingredients like yam, soya beans, dates, goji berries with some medicinal qualities. Steamed fish with wood ear mushrooms and lily flowers, spring onion and ginger. Vegetables, lots of leafy green vegetables- stir-fried with ginger or furu (fermented tofu), or blanched and dressed with seasoned soya sauce. A pork dish - probably steamed pork belly with shrimp paste. Pipa tofu - one of my absolute favourite things to eat. Poon's wind-dried meats. I love steaming things - such a delicate, gentle way to cook food, yielding subtle, refined flavours. I'm rather against the current trend of everything needing to be bold and punchy and dialled-up. Steamed rice of course. I love steamed egg, such a kind dish - it requires so little yet gives so much contentment. I don't deep-fry much at home. For pudding, probably a warming almond cream. There is a Chinese idiom that says a meal should consist of one soup, three dishes and rice.
How does the food at Wontoneria differ from the quintessential ‘British Chinese’ dishes that Londoners may be familiar with?
For all the dishes I dream up, I ask a simple question - would my parents eat this? Would it pass muster with the two people I believe to be the ultimate arbiters of Chinese taste? They both have exceptionally fine palates. My pa will tell you what the chicken was fed from eating it. My mother has an extremely keen perception of flavour and freshness. I serve food I would cook and eat at home, simple dishes. I'm not afraid to challenge people a little, to encourage them to try new things. There is still so much education to be done, so many flavours and textures to explain and explore. I shy away a bit from the tried and tested. It's the subversive in me perhaps! Mostly though, I just want to share how delicious all these dishes are. I want to spread a bit of joy through edible love.