Behind The Pass: Karl Whelan – Executive Chef Hang Dai


Posted 4 months ago in Food & Drink Features

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“As a kid at a family funeral when I was around four. I remember eating a bowl of packet asparagus soup and I realised I could swirl a sachet of butter into it on the sly without my mam noticing. Result.”

 

Executive Chef Karl Whelan of Hang Dai talks to us about long-held food memories, favourite ingredients and unlikely food pairings.

 

Favourite ingredient

Asparagus straight from the ground is unbelievable. In early Spring it is what I most look forward to working with in the kitchen.

It will always make an appearance on my menu.

 

Favourite recipe

Spaghetti Alle Vongole. A Neapolitan classic. Super simple, super quick, super delicious.

 

Trick of the trade

Get the best ingredients you can, try not to wreck them because nature has done all the work.

 

Food Hero

Niall Sabongi would have to be one of the big ones. With SSI (Sustainable Seafood Ireland) he’s raised the bar for fish suppliers in Ireland. In the last year alone, he has supplied us with scallops from a currach in Connemara, oysters from the Burren, top quality sea urchins, and amazing wild seabass from Brixham. I also really support him with his efforts for lobbying to change the law surrounding hand divided scallops in Ireland, which is a far more sustainable and low impact way of fishing.

 

Food memory

As a kid at a family funeral when I was around four. I remember eating a bowl of packet asparagus soup and I realised I could swirl a sachet of butter into it on the sly without my mam noticing. Result.

 

 

Best Meal

Chapter One with the missus on a special night is hard to beat. What Ross and the guys do down there is incredible and is always progressing. Every time I eat there it is better than the last.

 

Indulgence

Bunsen

 

Scene from a movie or book

Hands down Fitzcarraldo, directed by Werner Herzog. Starring Klaus Kinski and Claudia Cardinale. The scene in the Amazon where Klaus plays opera from a gramophone to the natives before pushing a steamboat over a hill is truly inspirational.

It dissolved my limitations and made me see that if this crazy German can push a steamboat over a hill with a pully and a rope than anything is possible with a bit of hard work and perseverance.

 

Overrated

Social Media

 

Trends worth noting 

Bubblegum. A form of music that was popular in South Africa in the 1980’s. The sound has a distinctive mix of vocals, electronics and synthesisers.

There are 20-year-old Irish kids buying this type of music on vinyl and throwing parties all over Dublin with people going crazy for it.

 

Food Bible

Larousse Gastronomique – A go to book for everyone in the industry. I am buying a new one because my last one has completely disintegrated. Alan Ducasse’s Grand Livre De Cuisine ain’t bad either.

 

Wish I’d known…

How to write a smaller menu. At certain times of the year it is very hard to say no to the abundance of amazing produce available to me. It ends up with me making space for all of them on our menu.

 

Fav. instagram account

Nick Anger, Bladesmith from Johnson, Vermont (@angerknives). I perv on them all the time, but I have not yet built up the courage to buy one, they’re pretty pricey.

 

Unlikely pairing 

On the current menu in Hang Dai I have married squid, venison and Sichuan pepper together. The tingly numbing experience you get from the Sichuan pepper really lifts the venison and the squid ink ties it altogether.

 

Utensil of choice 

My friend Johnny from Sticks just gave me a kind of roll bar for over my Konro Japanese grill. I hang meats and poultry over the charcoal so I can cook slowly.

 

Table for two

I’m off on Mondays so I love to pick my daughter Rose up from school and pop in to Etto (which is her favourite) for a late lunch sitting at the bar.

Hang Dai Chinese, 20 Camden Street Lower, Dublin 2.

hangdaichinese.com

Photos: Shantanu Starick

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