From American-style burgers to tongue tacos and Chinese roast duck, Dan Hong has a knack for nailing what Sydney diners want – often well before they know it themselves. The bespectacled, sneaker-toting chef is the brains behind some of Sydney’s biggest restaurant trends, and his first book, Mr Hong, charts those culinary whims and wins, kicking off with his experimental dinners as part of the TOYS (Taste of Young Sydney) Collective and a Momofuku-inspired dinner at Lotus in Potts Point, for which he teamed up with David Chang himself.
It was during Dan’s time at Lotus that his textbook-perfect cheeseburger first made an appearance, years before we began regularly gorging on American fare. That recipe can be found in the pages of his glossy cookbook, beautifully illustrated by Hugh Ford. And with its store-bought bun, Heinz Tomato Ketchup and processed cheese slices, it’s by far one of the easiest options.
Others, such as the drunken chicken from two-hatted Mr Wong or the wicked, multi-textured Stoner’s Delight from mod-Asian eatery Ms. G require a bit more time and effort – in fact, you’d best set aside a whole weekend for prepping and feasting if you plan to tackle any of the more challenging creations. Step-by-step photography and handy ‘Hong Hacks’ will help you through the trickier aspects of deboning a chicken or hanging a duck out to dry.
If you follow Dan on Instagram, among the rainbow-hued kicks and adorable snaps of his toddler, Namira (who has a more intrepid palate than any adult I know), you’ll see some recurring themes: table-covering yum cha sessions, Cantonese feasts at Golden Century and home-spun Vietnamese dishes from his restaurateur mum, Angie Hong.
His take on those classics all star in the book, in sharp renditions of salt and pepper squid, braised efu noodles with lobster, black pepper crab and his mum’s epic bun bo hue. That bad boy will be getting a nudge the moment I can spare the full day to make the spicy, aromatic broth and all the accoutrements it calls for.
In the meantime, I caught up with Dan to chat about his first and final bites and the next destination on his culinary hit list.
- What’s your earliest food memory?
Seeing my mother chop chicken carcasses with a huge cleaver on a chopping board on the floor with loads of newspaper underneath. These bones would go into making a broth for a noodle soup
- Your ultimate last supper?
My mother’s “Bun Bo Hue”, a central Vietnamese beef, pork and lemongrass noodle soup.
- Who are your dream dinner party guests (dead or alive)?
[Nike designer] Tinker Hatfield, Michael Jordan, [mixed martial arts master] Dana White, Jamie Oliver, Padma Lakshmi, Joel Robuchon and Thomas Keller.
- What’s the one dish/ingredient you’ll never eat again?
I hate rosewater and amaretto.
- What’s your favourite food destination and why?
Tokyo… the attention to detail of everything they do is phenomenal.
- Which country is next on your hit list, and what are you dying to try there?
I would love to go to France, to eat at traditional bistros, patisseries, bakeries and Michelin-starred institutions of course.
Mr Hong is published by Murdoch Books, $49.99, visit: murdochbooks.com.au