Hang Dai Meal Box Review: A Chinese takeaway you will never tire of
Break out the chopsticks and tuck into these spicy Chinese treats
Karl Whelan, head chef and co-owner of Hang Dai, cooking Beijing Duck, one of his specialities. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
Chinese takeaways are something that find their way into our house when I’m away. And, as you can imagine, there hasn’t been much of that going on in the last year. It’s not that I’ve got anything against MSG, or buy into the Chinese restaurant syndrome thing, because, as Jeffrey Steingarten – the American Vogue food writer, who had the most enviable research budget available – points out in his collection of essays It Must’ve Been Something I Ate, if MSG is bad for you, why doesn’t everyone in China have a headache? Not to mention the fact that it occurs naturally in Parmesan, dried mushrooms, ketchup, anchovies, and dried fruit.
It’s just the sameness of every dish, and okay, MSG is often a contributing factor here, and the cack-handed salty, sweet, cloying overlay on everything from chicken with suspect origins to equally dubious-looking prawns.
But I was not aware that Hang Dai, Karl Whelan’s much-lauded Chinese restaurant, was doing takeaway until my younger daughter came up with it as a suggestion for celebrating her 19th birthday. So, it has now found itself in the family lockdown repertoire.
When ordering online, it is easy to overlook the little bites that you’d be tempted by if you were in a restaurant. Can I suggest that, for a weekend treat, it is definitely worth considering a few nibbles with a drink before tucking into the main event? The chilli fried peanuts with toasted kale (€2) are perfect for munching on; they’re roasted in their skins and dusted with Chinese five-spice. And do include the insanely beautiful pork skin (€3), with a Velvet Cloud dip. Puffed up into crunchy pockets of air, the fat has been rendered out, and the mild porcine echo is dusted with a bit of Chinese heat, some pieces more than others, leaving your mouth and tongue prickling and tingling. So much more interesting than prawn crackers. And, although I didn’t order it on this occasion, the fried prawn toast with yuzu mayo should be added to this list.
The temptation is to order Hang Dai’s famous Skeaghanore Beijing duck for four (€80), but as we’ve been working our way through a load of Thornhill duck I ordered online (very good, well worth the freezer space), we steer clear, diving into the double fried chicken wings (€9), sweet, with a deft balance of sour acidity, dipping them into a light mayonnaise with a small touch of miso, which has little hope of standing up to the strong flavours of the Chinese hot sauce. No calories, of course, because this is the weekend. Pork dumplings, dusted with sesame seeds and spring onions (€8) are also very tasty (even if the dumplings tend to stick together), a textural bite with the porky meatiness inside spiked with ginger and garlic, dressed in a sauce that is similar to a Japanese teriyaki.
Keeping the vegan in the family happy, we spring for the sticky Jerusalem artichoke with spicy peanut (€9) which is satisfyingly rich, with crunchy pieces of artichoke and a kick of heat. And our other main is stir-fried beef satay (€18), a notably generous helping, wafting with the aromas of the satay sauce. Tender pieces of beef have a nice balance of heat, the coconut, peanut and star anise flavours combining to make this a very good dish, the sauce mopped up with egg fried rice (€2).
This is food to have with beer. And a bit of water, as the heat builds. There is perhaps a touch of irony about the fact that when Hang Dai opened at the beginning of 2017, part of the tongue-in-cheek appeal was that the entrance looked like a takeaway counter – and in fact they had been doing a tiny amount of it. Now lucky for us, they’re doing a bit more.
Dinner for two people was €51.
Where’s it from: Hang Dai, 20 Lower Camden Street, Dublin 2, 01-5458888. hangdaichinese.com
Verdict: 8/10: a Chinese treat for the weekend
Difficulty factor: All the work is done for you – just reheat and eat.
Food provenance: Not all listed but plenty of good suppliers such as free-range chicken from Regan Organic Farm.
Vegetarian options: A full vegetarian menu is available
Delivery: Order by phone to collect at Hang Dai, or Deliveroo and Just Eat, Tuesday to Sunday
Three to try
Abbey Street and Dawson Street, Dublin 2, click and collect, delivery in Dublin, Friday and Saturday tang.ie
Tang is open for takeaway breakfasts until 11.30am, and is also offering dinner boxes, €45 for two people, with a vegan option available. The nibbles include smoked almonds, marinated olives, McNally’s crown prince pumpkin hummus and homemade flatbread, a main course of Ring’s Farm chicken with confit garlic potatoes and sides, and sticky date pudding with cream to finish.
Poolbeg Street, Dublin 2, click and collect, Friday from 12-8pm, thevintagekitchen.ie
The new weekend kit, €70, from Vintage Kitchen is designed to make feasting last for a few days, with a selection of meats, fish, cheese, bread, sauces, desserts and accompaniments. Among the many goodies is bouillabaisse fish soup for two, Carlingford crab salad, Wild Wicklow duck liver crème and focaccia, and half-baked chocolate cake for two.
Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, click and collect, delivery in Dublin, Monday to Saturday, rolysbistro.ie
Fans of Roly’s can order plenty of their comfort food classics online, including Thai spiced fish cakes, chicken liver pate, confit of Cherry Valley duck with braised red cabbage, rotisserie chicken and chips, fish pie, roast vegetable and goat’s cheese tart, and an impressive selection of wines from top-end importer Pembroke Wines.