One half of the savvy duo behind the London hot dogs and champagne sensation Bubbledogs, Sandia Chang, talks to us about what they’ll be bringing to Taste of Hong Kong this March
The pairing of hot dogs and champagne may not be a classic combination, but for Sandia Chang and James Knappett, the idea is the perfect marriage of accessibility and luxury. The husband-and-wife team spent years working in the food and beverage industry—Sandia as a sommelier, James as a chef—in top restaurants, including Copenhagen’s Noma and New York’s Per Se, before launching Bubbledogs in London in 2012. The venue broke the traditional mould of what a champagne bar should be, with its informal ambiance, bare brick walls and approachable menu of inventive hot dogs designed to be eaten with a glass or two of grower champagne. As Bubbledogs prepares for its role as headline international restaurant at Taste of Hong Kong in the Year of the Dog, Sandia talks about food, fizz and puppy love.
Where did you and James meet, and what did you eat on your first date?
We met while working at Per Se in New York City. Our first date was actually at a bar, late night after work. But our official first date was at Casa Mono. I remember we had the most amazingly braised cockscombs. I paid the bill.
What's your top tip for pairing champagne with food?
Champagne is best paired with salty and oily food, which is why the pairing with caviar comes so naturally. However, other foods like French fries, charcuterie and grilled cheese are also amazing pairings with champagne. The natural higher acidity and freshness of champagne balances the richness of these foods perfectly.
Tell us something about champagne that isn't spoken about enough.
Simply put, great champagne is essentially great wine but with bubbles. Because of this, it should be appreciated just like wine and drunk from a white-wine glass, not a champagne flute.
What’s your favourite hot dog and champagne combination?
I’m quite classic. I like our New Yorker dog, which is just caramelised onions with sauerkraut, paired with my new favourite champagne from the producer Dhondt-Grellet.
What makes the perfect hot dog?
To start, the sausage must be a traditional frankfurter style. This means you need the right balance of bounciness in the texture and smokiness. It’s also very important that the casing is natural. The ratio of bun to sausage needs to be just right too; you can’t have too much of one and not enough of the other. I love a soft steamed white roll because you can’t get too fancy with a hot dog.
Do you have any real dogs in your life?
Imagine you had never created Bubbledogs but built another "high-low" F&B concept. What would it be?
A beer and seafood bar.
If you were to create a Hong Kong-inspired hot dog, what would it be?
I have thought about this so many times and cannot decide whether to go Western or Asian. We will create a Hong Kong-inspired hot dog for Taste of Hong Kong. You will just have to wait and see what it is.
Catch Sandia and James at Taste of Hong Kong on the Central Harbourfront from March 22–25. Tickets are on sale now at www.ticketflap.com/tastehongkong2018. For more information, visit www.tasteofhongkong.com