TOP TOQUE

Kwanghi Chan has worked his way up, from cook­ing at his fam­ily restau­rant to helm­ing one Miche­lin-starred The House Restau­rant. He shares with Vic­to­ria Lim his next goal – to cre­ate a sauce em­pire.

Epicure - - CONTENTS -

Kwanghi Chan of Chan­chan

The sun sets and Kwanghi Chan is off to Chi­na­town on Capel Street. There, the 41-year-old sits with his fam­ily at a road­side store, tuck­ing into a bowl of gan yi mian (Tainan noo­dles with ground pork) un­no­ticed in a crowd of lo­cals and trav­ellers. It’s im­pos­si­ble to guess that this man has led the Ir­ish culi­nary team to win a sil­ver medal in Culi­nary Olympics 2008, the lau­réat of the highly com­pet­i­tive Le Grand Prix de Cui­sine de l’academie Paris 2014, and is, presently, one of Ire­land most soughtafter chefs. His Ir­ish-chi­nese sauce busi­ness, Chan­chan, has also won many fans.

As a child, Chan would of­ten shadow his un­cles in his fam­ily restau­rant to try and glean kitchen skills from them. It was only when he was 13 did his un­cles al­low him to use the wok. There his love for cook­ing grew. De­spite Chan’s Chi­nese back­ground, he chose to study French cui­sine in Killy­begs Cater­ing Col­lege. “I was in­trigued by the fi­nesse of how the French pre­pare their dishes. Watch­ing the pro­grammes on Cook­ing Channel, I was al­ways in awe of how dif­fer­ent the French culi­nary tech­niques were com­pared to the skills I’ve picked up in our Chi­nese restau­rant,” shares Chan.

Chan went on to stage at sev­eral one Miche­lin-starred restau­rants in Dublin, such as Chap­ter One Restau­rant, The Com­mons and L’ecrivan be­fore he be­came the head chef at The Ice House Ho­tel Bal­lina, where he main­tained the two AA Rosette Award. He led the team at one Miche­lin-starred and four AA Rosettes, The House Restau­rant from 2011 to 2014 be­fore set­ting up his own restau­rant in Dublin. Chan wanted a plat­form where he could marry his French skills, Ir­ish cui­sine and the fa­mil­iar flavours from his birth­place, Hong Kong. It was dur­ing the cold November win­ter in 2014 that Soder + Ko was born. It went on to be the most talked about hotspot for young Ir­ish food­ies, serv­ing up con­tem­po­rary Chi­nese plates with a hint of Ir­ish flavours like Won Ton Soup with house­made con­somme and pork and ginger won tons. And it was through Soder+ko that Chan was in­spired to start Chan­chan as he saw a ris­ing de­mand for Chi­nese flavoured sauces. How would you de­scribe Ir­ish cui­sine?

It’s all about us­ing the lo­cal in­gre­di­ents. Ire­land has some of the world’s best seafood, as we are an is­land sur­rounded by the At­lantic Ocean. Apart from the fact that we have an abun­dance of seafood and seaweed, our land is flour­ish­ing with loads of lo­cal farms and fields with the best grass which cows and sheep graze on - giv­ing us the best dairy, cream, but­ter, cheese and meat. We are very much in a culi­nary rev­o­lu­tion with some very bright chefs in this coun­try pushing the bound­aries and tak­ing ad­van­tage of the lo­cal pro­duce from ar­ti­san pro­duc­ers in Ire­land.

How do you rec­on­cile or com­bine the flavours of Ir­ish and Chi­nese cuisines?

I would like to use in­gre­di­ents from the Ir­ish larder and com­bine them with Chi­nese flavours that I’m used to in Hong Kong or from my child­hood. Take the lo­cal ra­zor clam, which I slow-cook with miso paste at 52°C for five min­utes. A fer­mented black bean and chilli dress­ing is served with vine­gary glass noo­dles and some tra­di­tional crunchy Ir­ish puffed bar­ley. The re­sult is an Ir­ish-chi­nese fu­sion dish.

Tell us more about Chan­chan.

I started Chan­chan at the end of 2015 to bring cre­ative ar­ti­sanal Ir­ish/asian condi­ments that peo­ple can add to the cook­ing. Chi­nese food in Ire­land needs to be changed and the flavours are not al­ways the norm. Like a chicken curry or a beef chop suey. Th­ese are dishes de­signed in the U.S. and worked very well back then. We are more well-trav­elled now and things are chang­ing. More peo­ple are look­ing for au­then­tic Chi­nese food in mod­ern Ire­land.

Although we sup­ply Chan­chan to around 550 su­per­mar­ket stores in Ire­land, we are still a small ar­ti­san com­pany. We make ev­ery­thing by hand, in­clud­ing the bot­tle la­bels. It’s im­por­tant to have that iden­tity. We pro­duce our own black gar­lic prod­ucts in Ire­land and also grow Ja­panese shiso plants in a lo­cal or­ganic al­lot­ment for new prod­ucts like vine­gars. We have around eight

“I was in­trigued by the fi­nesse of how the French pre­pare their dishes. Watch­ing the pro­grammes on Cook­ing Channel, I was al­ways in awe of how dif­fer­ent the French culi­nary tech­niques were com­pared to the skills I’ve picked up in our Chi­nese restau­rant.”

prod­ucts in our port­fo­lio that are sold at retail and to the food in­dus­try. They give peo­ple the base of Chi­nese flavours and help them to cook and be more cre­ative.

How would you like to change Chi­nese food in Ire­land, apart from your sauces?

I would like to chal­lenge the Chi­nese com­mu­nity and restau­rants to cook bet­ter and make what they like - from home-cooked food to the dishes they ate in China, Hong Kong or Tai­wan. This will level the play­ing field and will stop the open­ing of more cheap buf­fets, which low­ers the value of our food and cul­ture. We are a coun­try with 14 in­ter­na­tional bor­ders and ev­ery re­gion has its own culi­nary her­itage, so it is now time to up our game and show the West­ern world that we don’t just eat beef curry and sweet and sour chicken.

I have to say it’s get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter each year as a lot more folks from the Chi­nese com­mu­nity are cre­at­ing lit­tle food con­cepts, such as au­then­tic Korean, Ja­panese, Chi­nese hot pot places which are pop­ping up all over the city at the mo­ment. It’s great to see how we have moved on and it shows that the Ir­ish palate is ready for it.

Name your favourite Ir­ish in­gre­di­ents and the in­ter­est­ing or un­ex­pected ways to use them.

In Ire­land we have some of the best beef in the world. I want to use this with our Chan­chan Korean spice sea­son­ing. The spice it­self con­tains gar­lic, ginger, Chi­nese cas­sia, cloves, Korean hot pep­per, sesame and Szechuan pep­per. I will rub the spice on the tom­a­hawk steak for an hour and af­ter the rub, wrap in cling film, and place it on hot char­coal am­bers for an hour. The re­sult? A crisp flavour on the out­side with a bit of smok­i­ness from the coals. Then place the rack on a bar­be­cue for an­other five min­utes, sea­son it with Chan­chan’s Black Gar­lic Paste (100 per­cent hand peeled black gar­lic mashed in a mor­tar and pes­tle), slice the steak and serve it with a bowl of rice noo­dles.

What’s next for you?

I’m go­ing to open my next food con­cept in Dublin in a few months’ time. My main fo­cus for the next few years will be to build the Chan­chan brand in the retail and food in­dus­try. I also aim to e pub­lish my new cook­book on sauces in 2019.

Chicken sal­ads tossed with Chan­chan’s Pur­ple Shiso In­fused Vine­gar Grilled Chicken with Hong Kong Street Sauce and Black Gar­lic Puree

The Hong Kong Street Sauce range Hong Kong Style Chicken and Noo­dles in Street Sauce Broth

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