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Flavour Profile: Kenny Zhong, head chef and owner of Edinburgh’s Bentoya and Kenji Sushi

He heads the kitchen in a couple of the capital’s most popular Japanese restaurants

Published: May 2, 2022
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What’s your favourite ingredient?

Prawns. I grew up in a city by the seaside and prawns were readily available. We would eat them every day. As diners who frequent Bentoya will know, prawns are used a lot in our menu – in our sushi rolls and our prawn tempura.

Do you have a guilty food pleasure?

My guilty food pleasure is curry with roti. That combination is is a kind of national food in my country: Malaysia. Roti is a round flatbread made with flour, water and butter that is combined into a dough. Roti is unleavened, whereas the more typical naan bread, is a yeast-leavened bread. To make a crispy flying roti you combine the ingredients and then throw the flat piece of dough about in all kinds of ways possible to get fluffy and soft pastry-like layers.A simple curry can be made super delicious by dripping it onto a crispy flying roti. Very delicious but high in calories.

Tell us about your first food memory?

My first food memory is of the dish kolo mee. This is a Malaysian dish of dry noodles tossed in a savoury pork and shallot mixture, topped with crispy fried onions and marinated pork mince. My hometown is Sarawak in Malaysia which is where the dish originated. In Sarawak we eat this almost every single day, sometimes for breakfast, sometimes for supper.

What’s your favourite Scottish restaurant, deli or cafe?

The Kitchin in Leith. There’s a reason Tom Kitchin is a famous chef – the food’s very good! I also like supporting local businesses so it’s good that it is in the capital.

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What would be your last supper?

In the UK it would definitely be fish and chips. In my hometown of Sarawak, I would have to choose kolo mee as I have such a strong connection to it and it’s so delicious.

Starter or pudding?

I would choose a starter over a pudding any day. It’s healthier and has less sugar than dessert.

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Do you have any food hates?

Offal. I do not like the texture.

What starters, main and dessert would be served at your dream dinner party and who would you invite?

For a starter I would serve hamachi carpaccio -  raw fish that is sliced or pounded thin and served as a starter. For the main course I would make crazy salmon rolls, followed by tonkotsu ramen.  Tonkotsu is a unique style of ramen made with a rich, fatty pork broth, fresh noodles, soft-yolk eggs, and tender pork belly  I would finish the meal off with a nice pot of green tea for dessert.

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I’d invite my parents and wife as a way of thanking them for their continued support.

What's your favourite geographical foodie destination?

Japan, as I love exploring the culture and different ingredients in order to improve my skills and increase my experience. Malaysia is my home so it deserves a mention too.

www.kenjisushi.com

www.bentoya-edinburgh.com

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Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.

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