Food & Culture

Why you should follow Dan Hong’s home-cooking videos

“This would work if you’re a very good chef. If you’re a bad chef, it might not work.”

By Yvonne C Lam
Still from Dan Hong's isolation cooking series on Instagram.
The hospitality industry can't work from home, but many chefs whose restaurants have (temporarily) closed due to the current health crisis have done the next best thing: filmed their own home-cooking videos for Instagram.
The trend has seen Massimo Bottura stirring besciamella, and Jason Atherton from London's Pollen Street Social making a one-pot chicken casserole. (His friend Ronan Keating makes the occasional musical appearance which, depending on your love of Notting Hill and ex-Boyzone members, could make or break your self-isolation viewing.)
Closer to home, Troy Rhoades-Brown from Hunter Valley's Muse has been making kombucha, and Jamie Yates from Sonny in Hobart has demonstrated how to break down a whole chicken (after swigging from a bottle of gin to calm her on-camera nerves.)
These videos score points for informative-ness, but also for their wholesome, pure content. It looks like most chefs have filmed their home-cooking exploits on a smartphone, sometimes with the aid of a tripod, or precariously balancing the camera in one hand while using the other to stuff a side of pork belly into the oven.
But the winning home-cooking series trophy goes to Dan Hong. Pre-coronavirus, the Merivale chef (Mr Wong, Lotus, Queen Chow) was a prolific social-media user, with an Instagram feed populated with dishes he's eaten, dishes he's about to cook, and meals with his very cute trio of children. (Each has their own hashtag; his eldest, Namira, has a well documented ability to polish off monster-sized bowls of noodles).
Hong is an industrious man. Since posting his first home-cooking video last Wednesday, he's produced a video almost every day since. Immunity-boosting recipes these are not; the four walls of Hong's self-isolation have not prevented him from going hard and fast on butter, oil and decadence.
Watch highlights from Dan Hong's isolation cooking series. Instagram / @hongsta_gram
Case in point: his lobster "Ma Goreng". The dish is his south-east Asian take on jjapaguri, that hybrid instant-noodle creation popularised by the movie Parasite. Hong combines two packet noodles – Mama Tom Yum and Mi Goreng, cooked in lobster stock, mind you – and tops them with seared lobster tails. He moves to ox-tongue fried rice, prawn toast, wagyu steak with buttered mushrooms and pommes allumettes, fried gyoza, and a grilled cheese sandwich in which the mozzarella-to-bread ratio is wildly skewed in favour of the stretchy cheese.
There's lots to love about this series: that they're filmed by his wife, Rara, whose camera work improves with every video (the first is filmed in an awkward square frame that chops off Hong's head; by the sixth video, there's a strong landscape format going on, plus lingering shots of the finished dish). The Minnie Mouse bowl that features in his gyoza preparations; the very large tin of Knorr-brand chicken powder that sits within easy reach of his stove. His shout-out to Ian "Huey" Hewitson when he cloth-wipes his plate clean of sauce smears.
The fact he addresses his son Omar as "bro", and steals a packet of French Fries from his daughter Indira to finish off his steak frites. That Namira adds her wise commentary, "This would work if you're a very good chef. If you're a bad chef, it might not work," as the children swarm the dining table, grabbing pieces of grilled wagyu with their hands. The fact Hong matches every dish with an alcoholic beverage, which in itself is fodder for the next video – he pairs his gyoza with a bottle of pinot gris, which results in a next-day hangover, which results in his luxe cheese toastie.
And then there's the fact that though restaurants around the country are shuttering and others bravely soldier on against the odds, the country's hospitality talent are still bringing moments of joy in our homes.
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  • undefined: Yvonne C Lam