Essential Macau | Eat like the Bedouin tribes

Discover the modern Middle Eastern cuisine at Bedu restaurant in Hong Kong

With a longstanding heritage as an interesting street full of cool eateries and stylish boutiques, Hong Kong’s Gough Street is a very quaint and up-and-coming chill-out area.

The street is now home to a new modern Middle Eastern restaurant, Bedu. The concept revolves around the nomadic wanderings of the Bedouin people, a desert-dwelling tribe who journey across North Africa and the Middle East.

“We take a lot of inspiration from the travels of nomadic Bedouin tribes, the nomads of the Middle East who spent 80% of their time in the desert and 20% on the coast. Their culinary traditions have been passed down through generations and have greatly shaped Middle Eastern cuisine as it’s known today,” said Corey Riches, the restaurant’s head chef. “At Bedu, it’s also about the full experience beyond the food. There’s a stronger focus on cocktails (rather than wine), the warm hospitality, and the story-telling concept introduction that forms part of customers’ experience with us. People are encouraged to join us for a drink or snack and to just relax on their last day of the weekend with friends or family.”

Cocktails and mocktails here are crafted from seasonal produce and botanicals, which are a constant source of inspiration for chef Corey. “I try not to rely on cookbooks or Instagram because it can influence you to subconsciously copy others. My focus is to bring something unique and new to Bedu’s menu,” the chef explained. “I look at what produce is coming up in season, and consider that along with a complementary flavour combination. It’s also important to consider the ingredients we currently use or have in season.”

Chef Corey Riches has almost 20 years’ experience working in kitchens from his home country of Australia, as well as London and Hong Kong. His knowledge and expertise span across classic French, modern Australian and Japanese, but he realised his truest love was for the flavours of the Middle East, a love that has been nurtured for more than half of his career. “Middle Eastern food is simple yet has unique flavour profiles. The cuisine came naturally to me – the vibrancy of flavours, exotic ingredients and spices from the many regional cuisines. And it was different from what I trained in originally from classic French, Japanese and Southeast Asian. I still remember the moment when I fell in love with a dish of pastirma with shanklish cheese and olive oil!” he recalls.

At Bedu, the chef has designed an array of delicacies from the humbleness of street food to homecooked dishes representing the various regions that define Middle Eastern cuisine. One of the must-try dishes features charred broccoli, chilli, crispy kale and Zhoug Labneh. “It’s a take on a traditional Yemen sauce known as Zhoug. We reduce the amount of coriander, and balance out the chilli with the addition of honey and cardamom.  The broccoli is twice cooked, poached in a vegetable stock and finished over the grill to enhance and layer the flavour. Fried kale and fresh chilli are added for texture and a kick.”

Seafood lovers can’t miss the garlic prawns with sumac and coriander, which is highly recommended by the chef.  “I like the simplicity of the gentle cooking of the prawns in the oil and a paste of garlic confit. We finish with sumac (a traditional Middle Eastern spice) and coriander to add brightness and a contrast of citrusy tartness and freshness. “

Considerate of local clients’ preferences, the chef strikes a balance of the spices as well as spice heat and sourness. “The menu at Bedu is rather my own take on the flavours of the Middle East, it’s the way I like to eat — fresh and light — and I wanted to share that with people. Maybe I’ll mix together a Turkish-style garnish with a Lebanese spice mix. I’ll borrow whatever works best for a certain dish and adjust it to suit my style.”

In order to help local diners to discover more Middle Eastern cuisine, Bedu hosts a monthly dinner series with Corey to explore other cuisines that are linked in history or complement Middle Eastern flavours. It’s also a great way for the kitchen team to get creative by highlighting other cuisines, unique ingredients, techniques and using suppliers they may not otherwise work with on a regular basis. So far they have celebrated French, Roman, Indian, Israeli cooking and coming up they will take on an allvegan menu (September) and Chinese (October). “I hope for us to stand the test of time, and still be around in 510 years or more, which is one of the biggest challenges for F&B in Hong Kong. I would want for us to continue bringing a fresh take on what Middle Eastern cuisine can be,” said the chef.