Born in Hong Kong and raised in Buncrana, County Donegal… That’s the backdrop for the origin story of Ireland’s first Irish-Chinese cookbook, inspired by the upbringing of its author, chef Kwanghi Chan. Recalling the first steps on what was to become a lifetime journey dedicated to food, Kwanghi says, “It’s only now that I can look back and see how it’s all stood to me and how all the dots have joined up to get me to where I am today.”
He initially made the big move from Hong Kong to Ireland as a young boy, when at the tender age of eight, he was sent to live with his uncle in Buncrana. “My uncle and auntie had a Chinese takeaway and restaurant, and everyone had to muck in and help out.” He subsequently studied catering at Killybegs College, eventually working in fine dining in Dublin, before becoming head chef at Cliff House Hotel. He later partnered with Bord Bia and the Irish Consulate in Hong Kong to help promote Irish beef and lamb there.
Keen to forge his own culinary pathway, Kwanghi then gravitated towards creating his own Irish-Asian food style, which saw him experimenting with Irish and Asian inspired flavours and led to the establishment of several restaurants and food trucks under the ‘Bites by Kwanghi’ moniker, as well as developing his own Chan Chan retail brand.
Now the publication of his first cookbook enables him to bring his fusion Asian food to a wider audience. Entitled Wok, the colourful recipe book designed by Jane Matthews, with artwork by Nicky Hooper, is divided into nine different sections, and features recipes covering topics including dumplings, street food, rice, beef and chicken.
The book is the fourth publication in the seminal series of cookbooks published by Kristen Jensen’s Blasta Books imprint, which aim to give people a fun, accessible and affordable way to experience the voices, faces and food of modern Ireland.
Cantonese Style Sweet and Sour Chicken – Illustration by Nicky Hooper