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Hong Kong’s top Chinese chefs showcase the seven staples that shape our tasty traditions. Wilson Fok explores their creations

For centuries, Chinese people have believed that the key to life depends on seven pantry essentials—wood, rice, vinegar, salt, soy sauce, oil and tea—also known as the “seven staples that run our lives.” Chinese culinary heritage shares a similar philosophy of balance—“our essentials help shape who we are, and in return we strive for more to cover the basics.” To honour the significance of these pantry staples, seven of Hong Kong’s best Chinese chefs present their ideal ways to showcase the unique characteristics of each ingredient.

There’s a good reason wood tops the list of pantry essentials—no heat means no cooking. From the discovery of fire, food has never been the same. While technology nowadays usually means the use of gas or electric stoves, wood based fire cooking maintains a significant role, as Lee Man-Sing of Hong Kong’s Mott 32 attests. “We wouldn’t be able to roast our Peking duck without some good old firewood,” explains the restaurant’s executive Chinese chef. “There used to

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