EARLIER THIS YEAR SkyCity’s Huami restaurant was in the news when it offered a height-of-luxury feast to celebrate Chinese New Year, priced at an eye-goggling $18,000 for six.

However, while executive chef Raymond Xue is proud to present Huami’s contemporary fine-dining dishes – such as abalone and crayfish – he can seamlessly segue to more downto- earth home cooking, all the while packing each dish with the bold flavours and seasonal ingredients that pay homage to his native China. When selecting the recipes for Cuisine readers he thought carefully, choosing dishes that are quick and easy to cook, use readily available ingredients, offer a good balance of seafood, vegetables, meat and starch, look great and don’t cost a lot. Raymond says the dishes are designed to be served family style, with everyone working and sharing together.

The pork ribs recipe showcases the flavours of Shanghai, Raymond’s hometown. “The Shanghai sauce is lighter with a very special taste, and it’s quite different to Cantonese ribs, which are tomato based.”

“Like lots of Chinese I like seafood, so one dish I chose uses snapper,” says Raymond. “The fish is done with scallions, coriander and chilli which really spotlight the colour.”

After a career in five-star hotels, fine-dining restaurants and luxury cruise ships Raymond seized the opportunity at Huami to fuse great New Zealand produce with traditional regional Chinese cuisine. And it’s from the talented friends and colleagues he’s met along the way – as well as a wealth of knowledge of traditional regional Chinese cuisine – that Raymond draws inspiration for his original-tasting dishes.

In the centre of the restaurant looms a massive wood-fired oven, a brace of glistening ducks visible inside spitting and popping over fruit wood before being served as Huami’s signature Peking duck. Now, duck fans know that it’s a hard task to get that perfect combination of shellacked crackly skin and tender juicy flesh, but Raymond and his team get this so right, coating the ducks in syrup before hanging them in the duck room for at least three days, until the skin feels like paper. Only then do they get to the oven to roast alongside another signature dish, Huami’s mānuka honey-glazed pork char siew.

But after a full day in the kitchen sometimes it’s the simple things Raymond craves. Often at night time he’s likely to finish the day with a homely porridge with vegetables and a hit of pickles.

When cooking for himself Raymond says, “I’m a lazy cook at home. But when I’m cooking for friends and cooking for fun, I want to enjoy myself with friends, not be stuck in the kitchen.”

However, whether at home or in the restaurant Raymond’s motivation shines through. “Here, if the customer is happy, we’re happy. Even at home, give the love: I just want my friends to enjoy.”

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