Brighter days are ahead as the nation welcomes the gradual easing of lockdown. Personal services, retail stores and of course, our beloved restaurants are reopening with indoor and outdoor dining options. The world of food and hospitality has had quite the interesting year during the pandemic and many avid diners went from replacing their favourite Michelin star restaurants to becoming the master chef in their own home, exploring food in their own kitchen. And anyone that’s familiar with MasterChef will be thrilled to know that we caught up with Master Chef’s very own Dean Banks, who was a finalist in the 2018 series of the show.
While it seems that with lockdown ending most people are ready to throw up their chef hats, we wanted to keep everyone inspired to carry on cooking, and so we asked Dean some interesting questions about how Asian cuisine has influenced his food as a chef and the meals in his restaurants. But before getting into the ‘serious’ question, we we curious to know how Dean was first introduced to Asian cuisine outside of being a chef and also out of interest what was the last Asian food he had eaten, “The first Asian food I ever had was crispy chicken from our local Chinese restaurant where I grew up. I still love a crispy chicken when I'm back home visiting. The last Asian dish I ate was my spicy Asian salad with crab that I sell at Haar at home (his at home restaurant meal kits). We deliver nationwide but each week there are always a few extra salads that I take home to enjoy”.
Early in his career, Dean actually trained at Celebrity chef Rick Stein’s seafood restaurant. Rick Stein has also raved about his love for Asian cuisine, with one of his restaurant menus inspired by his travels to India and the far East. Rick Stein has also listed Thai Food Online as a recommended supplier for fresh and authentic ingredients when recreating his Asian inspired recipes. We asked Dean what was the most memorable dish he made at Rick Stein’s restaurant and he replied: “The most memorable dish I cooked at Rick Steins was the Black bean mussels. So simple but beautiful. I love using fermented black beans now in my cooking”. Black beans are a savoury ingredient often used in Huanese cooking (Huanan is an area in Southern China) and pairs well with herbs like ginger and garlic in foods such as poultry, pork and seafood.
Spanning over 15 years, Dean’s career as a chef has also taken him to over 40 countries across the world, including Thailand, which he tells us is the country which has influenced him the most. “I have travelled there [Thailand] 6 times, and have spent around 9 months in total just travelling up and down the country. From Michelin star restaurants in Bangkok to stir fry crab in Chinatown, I just love it. Every time I visit I learn something new just by watching street vendors cook. It is 100% a chef's heaven for food.”
That’s a lot of travelling in one country alone, and so we could only imagine that a chef this well travelled is certain to be exposed to the finest and rarest ingredients. The next question on the top of our minds was which 3 ingredients could a chef exposed to so many flavours, cooking techniques and cuisines not live without? His answers were pleasantly surprising, “Coriander, Ginger and Chilli”. Simple but powerful ingredients that the everyday cook can easily get access to, Dean said “...nearly every course I have on my tasting menu contains these ingredients”.
Like many of our other loyal customers, Dean discovered Thai Food Online through a simple Google search and judging from feedback, he won’t be looking back. “My experience has been great so far. I feel the pricing is so great compared to my wholesalers I use because a lot of the items are more than 3x the cost from them.” If you want to keep yourself stocked up on Dean’s essential ingredients, you can find all of them readily available here on Thai Food Online on our fresh herbs and spices categories.
With the ingredients Dean purchased from us, Dean shares that he’ll be using them in his fish and chips restaurant, incorporating them into some of his curry recipes. Along with using some of the seasoning and spices for his fine dining menus, Dean adds “I also use lime leaf, Sichuan pepper, ginger, lemongrass in my Gin which you can find at www.lunungin.com I have created a fusion style gin focusing on Asian ingredients''. If you love Asian cuisine, we’re certain you will love the flavours and fragrance of this gin too.
If you’re curious about Dean’s food and restaurants, then we have some wonderful news for you! His meal kit delivery service (available in Scotland and Mainland UK) will be here to stay forever, which means you can sample his fine dining menu right from the comfort of your home. He says “We have had such amazing support and feedback from our customers we feel it's only fair to keep this service going”, while his fish and chip restaurant, Haarbour, has now reopened in Scotland for customers to dine inside, a much anticipated and welcomed return.
Dean’s main restaurant, Haar, will also be opening a couple of new sites this year so keep your eyes peeled. Haar restaurant is proud to focus on local produce with touches from around the world such as our seasonings and spices. We focus on quality and revoking memories from travels from a far. Be sure to check them out with the details below!