Food The Chefs:

Quite the Catch ~ Chef Hung!

Photography by Winnie Au

Okay, I have a confession to make: I am a diehard Top Chef fan. During the first few seasons of the show I found myself in absolute awe of the chefs – watching them create and master dishes under insane pressure and crazy circumstances was thrilling.   EyeSwoon didn’t exist at that time and never in a million years would I have imagined that I would step into the kitchen of 3rd season Top Chef winner Hung Huynh.  I found myself closely following Huynh’s career: after winning Top Chef, he went on to serve as Executive Chef at The General in New York and at Catch, a restaurant with locations in both New York and Miami that serves sharable small plates of globally inspired seafood.  It is hands down one of my favorite New York spots.

I recently visited with Chef Hung  ­­­­for a private sushi tutorial. Making sushi was a first for me and I quickly leaned that a whole new set of rules applied.  We made “The Catch” roll with crab, salmon, and miso-honey and a smoked salmon roll with smoked salmon, avocado, and cream cheese. The ingredients and sauces laid out before me were all familiar (and, in a sartorial stroke of luck, matched my Thakoon dress) yet the approach and technique were totally foreign.  I felt a bit like a baby deer taking its first shaky steps but Hung was patient and playful as I learned how to walk…or, perhaps more accurately, roll.

As I settled into Chef Hung’s kitchen and we started chatting I found him to be warm, honest, and silly.  He told me that he never cooks at home. EVER.  That the contents of his fridge are exclusively water and coconut water, that mishaps in the kitchen are par for the course and that when he goes to diners he can’t resist knocking back a couple of the little coffee creamers he finds at the table.

I nibbled, dipped, and torched my way through the prep and by the end of the day I can safely say that I mastered the roll in my own amateur way.  After an afternoon filled with laughter and learning we sat down to enjoy our culinary creations and they were even more delicious than I imagined.  Just as I was leaving Hung revealed that he was a fan of my husband’s music, which could very well mean that on top of sharing a meal together, there’s also a good chance that we shared a dance floor many moons ago! Love it!

Swoonisms

Chef Hung Huynh

Home trick… Use a combination of vinegar, salt and sugar. Splash that on anything and it’s sure to make it pop.

Funny kitchen story / mishap… I mess up everyday, mishaps aren’t unusual in the kitchen and it’s always a rollercoaster. I can’t name one that’s particularly more funny than another. 

Cooking at home… I don’t cook at home, except for my dog. I’ll cook for him. 

Fave food city… Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. But I haven’t been to Japan or Taiwan yet and I know I’m going to like those when I do. 

Will never eat… I will eat anything. No question. I’ll always try it. 

Five ingredients you couldn’t live without? Fish sauce, sugar, chilies, cilantro and vinegar.

Favorite summer ingredient at the farmers market? Peaches

Late night indulgence after a night in the kitchen? I go to Korea Town and I’ll get grilled beef and fish with neck bone-potato soup from either Hanbat or Wonjo.

A childhood snack you’re mildly embarrassed you still love? You know those individual half-and-half creamer cups that come with your coffee at diners? I still drink all of them from the cups whenever a restaurant puts them on the table. 

Always in your fridge? Water and coconut water. That’s it. 

Catch

The food… Globally inspired seafood. Shareable small-plates concept. 

Fave dish… Scallop Mousse Gnocchi with Black Truffles

Flavor building ingredient… fish sauce

   –   

Smoked Salmon Roll 

Chef Hung Huynh

Ingredients

8 oz. Smoked Salmon

8 oz. Avocado

4 oz. Cream Cheese

8 oz. Sushi Rice

2 ea. Nori

4 tbsp. Toasted White Sesame Seeds

4 tbsp. Black Sesame Seeds

The Prep

On bamboo rolling mat, lay 1/2 sheet of nori flat. Top with rice covering nori sheet evenly from top to bottom. Sprinkle with both kinds of sesame seeds. Turn the sheet over and place cream cheese directly in the middle in a thin line from side to side. Add smoked salmon and avocado on top of cream cheese.  Bring bottom of nori sheet up to the top and pull back to tighten all ingredients tightly in side. Lay plastic wrap over the roll (to avoid rice from sticking) and shape with bamboo rolling mat. Cut, plate and serve the roll.

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