The back story
A poster boy for Gen Y chefs who cook hard and eat harder, Hong is the brazen brains behind Mr Wong, El Loco and Ms G’s. In this eponymous and unconventional cookbook, he shares his rise to chef notoriety, fixation on all things fried, and 100 of the recipes that transformed a pot-smoking homeboy into Mr Hong.
Born into Sydney’s food scene by way of his Vietnamese mother (Angie Hong opened Thanh Binh in Cabramatta almost 20 years ago), Hong’s first cheffing gig was with Martin Boetz at Longrain. Grit and natural gift later landed him roles at Marque, Tetsuya’s, Bentley Restaurant and Bar and WD~50 in New York. But it was under the helm of Justin Hemmes (of hospitality empire Merivale), that the Hong-star was really born. Partnering with chef buddy Jowett Yu, he opened fusion restaurant Ms G’s, before taking on tacos at El Loco, and later Chinese cuisine for Mr Wong.
Why buy it?
Reflecting Hong’s fine-dining training and fondness for fast food, the book is a clash in every sense of the word. Recipes range from the Lotus cheeseburger, which could be mistaken for a McSomething, were it not for the taste, to a sophisticated black pudding with calamari, romesco salsa and sauce nero (inspired by Hong’s time at Bentley). This is a book of modern Mexican, classic Cantonese, fresh Fijian and labour-of-love Japanese. The tome’s aesthetic vision also bites its thumb at cohesiveness. There are crayon illustrations, in situ kitchen snaps, elegant studio shots, and deconstructed dishes that take artistry to the absurd. Like its author, Mr Hong isn’t afraid to push boundaries.
While each of the recipes are informed by creativity and a commitment to taste, there’s a chasm between the relatively simple – grilled king prawns with kombu butter – and decidedly more complex – Hong’s tonkotsu ramen is a three-day affair. Pick and choose recipes to suit your time and tastes, and look out for the “Hong Hacks” for tips and handy cheats.
From salt and pepper squid and his Mum’s crispy quail, to the deep-fried ice-cream served at Mr Wong, Hong has an obsession with all things fried. Get your own greasy finger action with his fried baby chicken; accompanied by kimchi mayonnaise, it’s the kind of KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) we can attest to.
Most surprising dish
An obvious contender is the downright zany Stoner’s Delight. In its varying incarnations at Ms G’s, the dish has featured doughnut ice-cream, Mars Bar slice, candied bacon, potato chips and deep-fried banana fritter. It might sound messed up, but this sweet-salty junk food combo will satisfy the munchies.
“The most important thing for me when it comes to a hotdog is sausage overhang. The sausage absolutely must be longer than the bun… because while people might get sick of eating the bun, nobody ever leaves the dog behind.”
Ideal for …
Lucky Peach readers; young chefs aspiring to be the next Mr Hong (or, at least, join the boys’ club); restaurant trivia enthusiasts; and those not offended by a raw duck in a ballerina skirt and tiara.
Cook the book
Recipes and images from Mr Hong by Dan Hong (Murdoch Books) $49.99 available now.
Want more Dan Hong? Watch as he judges home cooks versus restaurant chefs in the brand-new series The Chefs' Line. The series starts 6pm Monday April 3 on SBS.