The Chinatown of Melbourne's East and home to the second largest shopping district outside Lionel's Melbourne, Box Hill is the ideal suburbia for Cathy Han's Chinese specialty meat shop. Her newly opened 'Magic Cuisine' fits snugly into the Fresh Food Market of Centro Box Hill, Victoria's most authentic Asian food market.
Magic Cuisine offers a range of ready-to-cook Chinese specialty meats including familiar favourites like chicken gizzards, pork trotters, chicken feet, pork skin jelly and ox tongue which are commonly available in China, Hong Kong and among the Chinese communities in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam.
Although there's a demand for such food items, the preparation including marinating and cooking is very time-consuming. Locals have neither the time nor know-how to produce the right flavours. With its all pre-prepared, packaged and ready to reheat items, the Asian deli store is already proving to be very popular and they're going through around 300 to 400 orders each day since trading on 8 August 2012. I spoke with owner Cathy Han to find out more about her and her interesting shop.
Cathy was previously a marketing manager in Beijing China and now resides in Blackburn South. She operates 3 shops in Centro Box Hill including her Pancake Village and Rainbow Chicken. She also operated 2 takeaway Japanese sushi and noodle shops.
Cathy loves the Box Hill location for 2 reasons. Firstly it's great for her type of business as the suburb has a sizable Asian population and Centro Box Hill is a population shopping centre with easy access by train, tram and bus. Secondly it was home for her in the early days of her married life.
Her food is prepared by cook Fok Lok who has been behind the wok for more than 25 years. Heralding from Malaysia, Fok Lok's family is originally Hong Kong and therefore his cooking has a Cantonese flavour which suits the large population of Hong Kong Chinese living in Box Hill.
Fok Lok feels the Hong Kong cooking style is lighter, fresher and more natural, with flavours that are not as salty or strong as North China. It is important to him that the taste remains consistent when the food is cooled, packed and put on display for sale in the shop. He is also trying new things and experimenting with new ingredients.
Although every business needs to be financially viable, Cathy is motivated by happy customers who spread the good word about her shop and food to friends and family. To achieve this, she is fussy with taste and quality, checking absolutely everything that she sells to make sure the food is right and makes a first good impression with her customers.