Pat Chun was founded in 1932 by Mr Ng Wai Sum.
Ng Wai Sum’s father Ng Tong is a master chef from the city of Shunde, the traditional seat of Cantonese cuisine. Ng Tong trained his son in the skill of brewing hundreds of sauces and the craft of preparing traditional snacks and delicacies. After moving to Hong Kong, Mg Ng Wai Sum used these skills to found Pat Chun, and was soon well known for the most difficult art of sauce brewing – fermentation of traditional vinegars.
As the years went by, the market in Hong Kong for sauces slowly became dominated by big brands, supermarket shelves are filled with products that are heavily marketed and often “enhanced” with artificial flavors and colours. It is difficult to find real artisanal sauces in Hong Kong that are hand crafted through traditional fermentation. Pat Chun is one of the few remaining sauce brewers that have persevered with traditional methods.
Using seasonal fermentation, products take months to ferment, and up to several more years of aging. The reliance on weather and natural ingredients means production is more alchemy than science. Sauces and vinegars made through this lengthy seasonal fermentation process picks up many layers of flavors from the carefully selected grains that is distinct from the simpler tastes of industrial production.
We currently run four retail shops in Hong Kong and one in Singapore, they are venues for connoisseurs to experience artisanal products and learn about traditional crafts.
The Chinese name of Pat Chun 八珍, can be literally translated to mean the “Eight Delicacies” and has its origin in the ancient [Book of Rites] that describes the rituals and lifestyles of the aristocracy during the Eastern Zhou Spring Autumn Period. The book describes how the official in charge of managing food/nutrition for the Lord should keep his pantry stocked with hundreds of sauces to accompany the “eight delicacies”.
Exactly what these “eight delicacies” refer to has changed with the times. During the Spring Autumn and Warring State period, the eight delicacies are: fermented sauce with rice, fermented sauce with millet, roast pork, roast lamb, grilled beef/venison, pickled meats, confit of meat and grilled liver.
By the time of the Tang dynasty when the famous poet Du Fu wrote of “…a continuous stream of eight delicacies arrives from the royal kitchen…”, he is referring to dragon liver, phoenix marrow, leopard embryo, carp tail, parrot tongue, gorilla lips, bear paws, and preserved crickets – truly exotic foods to match the ostentatious palette of the subjects in [Court Ladies Outing 麗人行].
Similarly, the sauces that accompanied the “eight delicacies” has seen change over time. According to the [Book of Rites], the sauces used in the Eastern Zhou period was produced by fermenting meat. Meat was not widely available in pre-industrial times, and such sauces can only be found in the kitchens of nobility. In the later Han period, chefs realized that the fermentation process can be performed with soy beans in place of meat protein, hence was born the soy sauce and bean paste that became widely available to this day.
While the name Pat Chun has its origin in the courtly life of aristocracy 2500 years’ ago, it also preserves the spirit of change and transformation. Mr Ng Wai Sum chose this name to represent our commitment to provide Hong Kong with hundreds of sauces for preparing the ever-changing “eight delicacies” in our homes.