Tuesday 23 July 2019

A fine Far East Feast - recipes from Hang Dai chef Karl Whelan

Hang Dai restaurant has taken Dublin by storm since it opened its doors last year. Here, chef Karl Whelan shares his recipes for creating authentic Chinese fare

Golden Lobster Balls. Photo: Frank McGrath
Golden Lobster Balls. Photo: Frank McGrath
Sloe Gin
Steamed turbot
Chef Karl Whelan pictured in his restaurant, Hang Dai on Dublin's Camden Street .

Every so often, a new restaurant opens which gets people excited and the advance booking for tables at Hang Dai on Dublin's Camden Street is a real clue to the interest in the food served up by chef Karl Whelan.

Hang Dai delivers a modern twist to traditional Chinese food through fusing flavours, ingredients and techniques. Think traditional Chinese food with a contemporary approach coupled with vibrant music bar.

It's the brainchild of Karl Whelan and Will Dempsey, both Chinese-food devotees. The meaning of Hang Dai is 'like-minded partners' or 'brothers', which rings true for this unique partnership. Karl is taking the lead on the food side so expect authentic contemporary Chinese cuisine from one of Ireland's most reputable chefs. In the past, Karl worked for three-star Michelin restaurants in France and at Dublin's Michelin-starred restaurant Chapter One.

The recipes are all different techniques from varying regions; each delivers a simple but dynamic taste that packs a punch, ideal for someone who wants to push the boat out and make something different, and very tasty, for Father's Day.


A Sloe Afternoon

Sloe Gin

A cocktail which perfectly complements the fish and the truffle rice featured overleaf.


5ml absinthe

10ml sloe gin

120ml chilled Champagne

Glass: Champagne flute


Pour the sloe gin into a Champagne flute, then add in the absinthe and top up with the Champagne.

Gently mix the drink to ensure all the ingredients are married together, and sip to enjoy.

Steamed Turbot with Fermented Black Beans

Steamed turbot

This is a very simple aromatic dish. I've chosen this classic recipe to underline how light and healthy Chinese food can be while still delivering maximum flavour.


4 sprigs of spring onion

300g turbot

2 tbsp fermented black beans (available in any good Asian food store)

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp sugar

2 tsp Shaoxing wine (you could use a dry sherry instead)

1 tsp sesame oil

3 tbsp peanut oil


Cut the spring onion sprigs in half and put them in a heatproof bowl, then lay the turbot on top.

In a bowl, combine the black beans, soy sauce, sugar, Shaoxing wine and sesame oil. Pour the mixture over the fish.

Place a large bamboo steamer over a pot of boiling water. Put the bowl in the steamer for 4-5 minutes. When the fish is cooked, carefully remove the bowl.

Heat the peanut oil until it starts to smoke, then pour it over the fish. This will enhance the flavour of the black beans.

Golden lobster balls with sweet and sour bisque 

Golden Lobster Balls. Photo: Frank McGrath

This is our nod to the traditional Chinese take-away favourite of chicken balls but we've done it with the luxury of lobster and added embellishment of edible gold leaf and an upscaled sauce.


For the lobster balls:

2 lobsters

2 tbsp chopped coriander

3 sprigs of spring onion

½ tbsp sesame oil

2 egg whites

1 tbsp potato starch

Salt and white pepper

A little flour, for dusting

4 sheets of edible gold leaf

For the batter:

300g self-raising flour

10g salt

5g white pepper

1 egg

10g Chinese white wine

380g water

For the bisque:

2 lobster heads

50ml brandy

35g tomato purée

20g tomato ketchup

300g white vinegar

65g cider vinegar

200g caster sugar

20g potato starch

200ml water


First make the lobster balls. Remove the claws and the tail from the head; keep the head for the sauce. Boil the claws for 2 minutes and the tails for 3 minutes, just enough to de-shell. They should be under-done. Remove the shell and the claws and mince the lobster meat with a knife. Cut the tail into larger pieces.

In a bowl, mix the lobster meat with the coriander, spring onion, sesame oil, egg white and potato starch; season with salt and pepper. Lay some cling film on the table and place 1 tbsp of the mix on it. Work it into a ball and place in the freezer. Be careful not to get any cling film caught in the ball.

To make the bisque, cut the lobster heads lengthways and remove the gills. Heat a large pan and fry the heads; when they are caramelised add the tomato purée and fry for a further minute, then add the brandy and set alight (flambé). Add the rest of the ingredients except the potato starch. Cook on a low heat for 20 minutes, then strain through a sieve. Bring back to the boil and thicken with the potato starch mixed with some water. Set aside and keep warm.

To make the batter, put the flour, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre, crack in an egg and add the wine in. With a whisk, slowly add the water, mixing from the centre out till you have incorporated all the flour. Leave to chill in the fridge for 30 minutes before using.

Preheat your deep fat fryer to 160°C. Unwrap the lobster balls and roll them in some flour; shake off any excess. Dip them one by one into the batter - you can use a fork or spike them with a cocktail stick for ease.

Fry them for 6/8 minutes until golden brown all over; you may need to hold them under the oil with a spoon. When cooked, leave to drain on some kitchen roll. Decorate with a little gold leaf.

Spoon some sauce onto the centre of a plate. Place the golden balls in the centre and serve.

Coconut panna cotta & passion fruit jelly with lychee and salted peanut salad

Serves 4


For the panna cotta:

300g coconut milk

200g cream

100g caster sugar

3 leaves of gelatine

For the jelly:

10 passionfruit

100g caster sugar

1 leaf of gelatine

For the salad:

20 lychees

1 tbsp icing sugar

2 tbsp Malibu rum liqueur

Juice of 1 lemon

1 sprig coriander

1 packet salted peanuts, to serve


First make the panna cotta. In a pan, warm the coconut milk, cream and add 100g sugar; heat to 70°C. Soak 3 leaves of gelatine in some cold water until soft. Remove the gelatine and squeeze out the excess water. Stir into the coconut mix until completely dissolved. Pass through a sieve and set aside to cool to room temperature.

Next make the jelly. Scoop out the passionfruit and put into a pan, then add 100g sugar and bring to the boil for 1 minute. Pass the mixture through a sieve. With a spoon, force through all the flesh and discard the seeds. Weigh out 200g of the mixture and warm to 70°C. Soften 1 leaf of gelatine, stir into the mixture, pass through a sieve and set aside.

For the salad, peel and deseed the lychees, then cut them into quarters and mix in the icing sugar, Malibu and a squeeze of lemon juice. Chop a sprig of coriander and add to the mix.

To assemble, chill four martini glasses, then ¬-fill them and allow to set in the fridge for 4 hours.

Remove them from the fridge and pour a thin layer of the jelly mix over the set coconut mix.

Return to the fridge and set for a further 30 minutes.

Spoon the salad on top of the jelly, then sprinkle with a few crushed peanuts and serve.

Egg fried rice with duck and black truffles

This dish is an evolution of a truffle omelette, a French classic. The addition of roast duck and rice make complete sense when cooking contemporary Chinese food. This is Karl's favourite dish on Hang Dai's menu.

Serves 4


300g long-grain rice

1½ tbsp sesame oil

600ml water

Sunflower oil

200g duck meat (chopped)

1 shallot, finely diced

100g black truffles

2 eggs

2 tbsp light soy sauce

½ tbsp dark soy sauce

Salt and ground white pepper

2 spring onions, chopped


Wash the rice well and it drain off. In a pot, stir 1 tbsp sesame oil into the rice. Cover with the water, bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes until cooked.

Allow to cool on a tray. Use a fork to separate the rice.

In a wok, add a little sunflower oil and stir-fry the duck meat and chopped shallot. When hot, transfer to a bowl. Grate half of the black truffle over it, and mix and cover it to keep warm.

Clean the wok and add a little more oil. Crack in 2 eggs and lightly mix with a spoon or ladle.

Add the cold rice and fry on a hot wok, tossing and stirring all the time.

When the rice is hot and every grain is loose, then add the duck-and-truffle mix; toss together.

Turn off the heat and season with the light and dark soy sauce, ½ tbsp sesame oil, salt and ground white pepper.

Transfer the fried rice to a serving dish and grate the remaining 50g black truffle over the top.

Garnish with a little chopped spring onion and serve.

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