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Chef Matt Abergel

Baccalà Korroke recipe by Matt Abergel
Portrait & still life photography by Kenji Chim
Interior photography Fung Siu Yan

Matt Abergel is the Co-Owner and Executive Chef of Yardbird Hong Kong and RONIN. He is also the Co-Founder of Sunday’s Spirits, Sunday’s Grocery, and ROTI TORI – a fast-casual chicken rotisserie brand.

At the beginning of his career, Matt worked in Japanese kitchens throughout Canada before moving to New York City to work under Masayoshi Takayama at Masa. When Matt moved to Hong Kong in 2009, the food culture of the city inspired him to open his own restaurant and in 2011, he opened Yardbird Hong Kong with his business partner Lindsay Jang.

Yardbird Hong Kong is a modern izakaya that specializes in chicken yakitori. Matt and Lindsay opened their second restaurant, RONIN, in 2013 – a dining bar focused on fresh fish and Japanese spirits. In 2018, Matt’s first book, Chicken and Charcoal , was published by Phaidon.

Much more than a cookbook, Chicken and Charcoal has its own unique style and strong visual references by artist Evan Hecox, revealing the magic behind Yardbird Hong Kong’s food and drinks as well as the story of where the restaurant started, how it grew, and where it is today. In 2019, Chicken and Charcoal won a James Beard Foundation Award for best book in the Restaurant and Professional category.

In 2021, ten years after opening, Yardbird Hong Kong received its first Michelin Star. We asked Matt to prepare a Baccalà dish for us.

Baccalà Korroke

The inspiration for this dish was the classic Japanese cream korokke. I’ve never cooked with Baccalà before, so I had to do some research, and many of the recipes I found involved cream or milk. I decided to soak the Baccalà in sake – as this is a classic method of regulating salt in Japanese cooking. Instead of using dairy, I opted for the creaminess of tofu, paired with lily bulb, which has a very similar texture to potato – an ingredient often used in a classic Japanese cream korokke. The Portuguese were the first foreigners to enter Japan and that has influenced their cuisine quite extensively; I’m surprised that there isn’t more Baccalà found in Japanese food. — Matt Abergel

500g baccalà (rinsed, soaked in sake overnight)
400g lily bulb
150g fresh tofu skin
300g dashi
100g sake lees
10g light soy
30g mirin
80g butter
Sudachi (or lemon or lime)

200g flour
2-3 whole beaten eggs
200g fresh panko bread crumbs

1 — Over a low to medium heat, melt butter in a medium saucepan; then add lily bulb, tofu skin, dashi, sake lees, soy and mirin. Bring to a boil and turn down to a low simmer.

2 — Dice the Baccalà into 3 cm x 3 cm cubes and add to the pan, gently cook until the lily bulb and fish are cooked through and starting to break down (about 20 minutes). At this point the liquid should have reduced by 1/3, remove from the heat.

3 — Place half the mixture into the blender, and purée till smooth, should have the texture of mashed potatoes with the baccalà fibres recognisable.

4 — Combine the puréed and unpuréed mixture in a bowl, then transfer to a tray.

5 — Chill the mixture in the freezer until firm (about 40 minutes).

6 — With a scoop, portion 80 g of the mixture into balls and set aside again into the freezer.

7 — Prepare the breading station. Place the flour, beaten eggs and panko bread crumbs into three separate bowls.

8 — With one hand, drop the ball into the flour, then egg, then panko, then back into the egg and panko one more time – during this step, lightly press the balls to form them into patties. Repeat with remaining portioned mixture.

Fry at 180c until golden brown, season with salt and pepper, and serve with a sudachi, lemon or lime.

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