Potatoes can make nearly any meal better... here's how
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On National Potato Day, make sure to pay homage to our beloved spud.
Today, Friday 1 October, in case you somehow weren’t aware, is National Potato Day, a celebration of the special place the potato has in the hearts (and tummies) of the Irish people.
An incredibly versatile and convenient ingredient that can enhance almost any dish, why not mark the potato’s significant contribution to Irish diet and culture by making a potato-based dish of your own this weekend?
There are no shortage of great ideas on how to do just that right here on the Bord Bia website, but we also looked to TV chef Kwangi Chan for some more potato-based inspiration, particularly when it comes to Asian cuisine.
Kwanghi most recently won the RTE Battle of the Food Trucks programme and is a regular face on The Six O’Clock Show on Virgin Media One, as well as contributing cooking tips on RTE Radio 1 and Newstalk on a frequent basis.
Having grown up in Buncrana in Donegal, he is the now the owner of Bowls by Kwanghi, an Asian street food restaurant based in Dublin city centre.
We caught up with Kwanghi to discuss his favourite potato dishes, how to cook them just right and how to use them to enhance all sorts of Asian dishes, from a curry to a spice bag.
What’s your favourite Asian dish to make using potatoes?
Kwanghi: At the moment, the classic Beijing potato salad, especially after this summer of so many BBQs!
It’s so easy to make and very different to your normal European potato salad - the spuds are shredded and quickly par fried in a hot wok with added chilli and garlic until only partially cooked, so they stay a little al dente.
Adding toasted sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, Sichuan peppercorn oil and served cold.
What makes potatoes such a good ingredient for Asian cuisine?
Kwanghi: In Asian cuisine there are two aspects here, the first being that potatoes are so versatile that they can be included in most dishes like stir fries and in wok cooking.
The second being that the potato is important to China not only as a staple food besides rice, it's also used in stews and the starch used for thickening sauces and to make different versions of dumplings and noodles.
What are your top tips for making potatoes more interesting and tasty to eat?
Kwanghi: I think to not overcook it, use a fork or skewer to test it and once it goes all the way through easily it’s done! Always make sure that when cooked, to not leave the potatoes in the pot with the cooking water as it will soak up the moisture and become watery.
Once you have it cooked through, it can be added to anything for a really tasty meal whether you like spicy, creamy or baked dishes.
Personally speaking, what’s your own absolute favourite way to make potatoes?
Kwanghi: If it's possible to have them freshly picked from the soil, with new-season potatoes you can taste the difference.
I like the Irish rooster variety, it has a pink skin and is so easy to cook. I would just boil them with the skin on and when cooked and fluffy, add a knob of 100% pure Irish butter.
You can't beat that really! Delicious.
What are your go-to potato-based recipes?
Kwanghi: For me, potatoes are so versatile, so I just add them into meals like stews and curries. As I am cooking mostly for my family and working, I aim for dishes with mileage so that tends to be two to three family hotpots that will last a few days; potatoes are great tor batch-cooking.
It’s also hard to beat buttery mashed potato on the side of any meal.
Do you think potatoes get a bad rap for being considered unhealthy or too bland? Are they underrated?
Kwanghi: Yes, I think they can be seen as unhealthy because potatoes are used vastly in fast-food takeaways (mostly fried chips) or can be cooked blandly at home as a lot of people/families simply don’t have the time or know-how, which is very understandable.
They are definitely underrated too, potatoes are full of vitamin C and fibre, especially when eaten with the skin on, which keeps you full for longer and provides nutrients for the body. It’s also key to a quick meal as potatoes can be cooked in 10 minutes when cut up small.
Do you think moving to Ireland as a child influenced your love/use of potatoes?
Kwanghi: Absolutely. Growing up in Buncrana in Donegal, winter was wet and cold and traditional meals were essential in my upbringing.
Also, in our Chinese restaurant, the chefs always cooked potatoes in with our staff meals in stir fries and soups but in a totally different way with Chinese spices.
From this I had the best of both worlds in terms of seeing the many ways you can make delicious potato dishes.
If you were to suggest one quick potato-based recipe for an average cook to make it look like they were a pro in front of their friends, what dish would you suggest?
Kwanghi: Definitely my potato and chicken spice bag recipe with sautéed potatoes instead of chips. It is great for a social occasion as it is so easy to make, it cooks so quickly and is very, very tasty party food.
Have any of your Chinese-Irish potato combos surprised you with just how well they work together?
Kwanghi: Actually yes, I cook a lot of curries with potatoes in them and also love to put them in my stir fries as they soak up all that flavour and are a great alternative to rice.
Potato.ie is a great resource for potato recipes of every kind, you can find a simple Thai red curry recipe or stiry-fry dish that you easily build upon and add in more ingredients, herbs or spices to suit your taste.
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