Kwanghi Chan’s book, Wok, isn’t just his debut book, it’s also the first Irish-Chinese cookbook to be published. ‘I really wanted to get it right,’ Kwanghi says. ‘The recipes in this book include some of my favourite meals that I grew up with that kept me in touch with my Asian heritage and the food that I cook at home now with my family, things like beef with black bean sauce or sweet and sour chicken. I’ve also included some of the fusion flavours that I’ve come to love and there are dishes influenced by my travels to Asia, from the flavours of the street food vendors to refined three-star Cantonese dishes.’
Born in Hong Kong but raised in Buncrana, County Donegal, Kwanghi Chan says that his food isn’t fully authentically Chinese, but neither is he. ‘I was sent to live with my uncle in Buncrana when I was around eight years old. My uncle and auntie had a Chinese takeaway and restaurant and everyone had to muck in and help out,’ Kwanghi recalls. ‘I suppose my uncle also thought that I would need to learn a trade to find a job or there was an expectation that I would eventually take over the family business or have my own business – which I did, but not in the way that anyone expected.’
Kwanghi went to Killybegs Catering College and from there worked in fine dining in Dublin for a few years before switching gears to work in hotels to learn about all the different sides of the industry, including the corporate and mass production side of things.
‘I didn’t really know where I was going at the time,’ 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.’ That journey included four years as head chef at the Michelin-starred Cliff House Hotel and working with Bord Bia and the Irish consulate in Hong Kong to promote Irish beef and lamb.
‘After that, I decided to start doing my own Irish-Asian style with food. At that time, not many people were putting Asian flavours into European food here in Ireland. I didn’t want to go back to fine dining; I wanted to do something totally different. I wanted to find my own style, and not just with food. I wanted to find myself.’
Today, Kwanghi has come into his own with several Bites by Kwanghi restaurants and food truck, his ChanChan retail brand and now, his first cookbook. Broken down into nine sections – dumplings, street food, rice, beef, pork, chicken, seafood, vegetarian and sweet – with three recipes in each section, Kwanghi is sharing his fusion Asian food with a wider Irish audience.
Blasta Books #4: Wok by Kwanghi Chan (€15) is published on 03 November 2022 by Blasta