Driving down El Camino Real, you will pass an emerald green awning plastered with four red Chinese characters and the words “Hong Kong Restaurant” printed in small white letters. The restaurant fills up on weekends, bustling with locals. Hong Kong Restaurant, which opened in 2000, specializes in home-style Cantonese and Chinese cuisine.

On Friday nights, the restaurant fills up, bustling with locals

Hong Kong Restaurant is more than just a place to find a quick, cheap, and delicious meal—it also serves as a special gathering place for families and friends. Elderly couples sit by the window, picking at their bowls of rice and stir-fry, while families feast together on steamed fish, fried rice, and sweet and sour pork. 

Servers dressed in black vests and white shirts hustle around from table to table, arms full of steaming bowls of wonton noodle soup, sweet and creamy walnut prawns, and large platters of crispy salt and pepper ribs. 

Hong Kong Restaurant’s menu ranges from various types of stir-fries, noodles, fried rice, soups, poultry, and seafood. My family comes here for birthday dinners and celebratory meals with our grandparents. It’s a fun excuse to gather and laugh with each other over delicious food.

Waiters serve complimentary soup before every meal.

The restaurant struggled significantly during the pandemic and closed for two months. The owner, Jimmy Chow, said it was stressful not knowing how to pay rent and keep the restaurant going. “I was happiest when old customers came in to buy to-go orders. They kept me alive,” he said. “Even though we are serving dine-in now, business will never be the same as it was before the pandemic.”

At the beginning of every meal, it is customary in Cantonese cuisine to receive a complimentary soup. The soup here consists of fresh vegetables and pork cooked in a savory, flavorful broth.

Mushu pork and wrappers (木须肉)$12.95

Mushu pork and wrapper

Mushu pork is a stir-fry of slivers of crunchy bamboo shoots, juicy cabbage, carrots, wood ear mushrooms, and pork served with mushu wrappers or thin, crepe-like pancakes. To eat it, I like to spread a thin layer of the duck sauce onto the wrapper and spoon a heap of the filling in the middle. Then, fold one end into the center, and roll to create a wrap. When you bite into the wrap, the filling bursts with a savory broth, mixing with the sweet, smoky duck sauce. 

I’ve always loved eating these as a child. To this day, mushu pork wraps are a satisfying addition to every meal. For a vegetarian version, you can order the mushu vegetables, which is the same stir-fry and wrappers without the pork. 

Peking duck and gua bao (buns)(北京烤鸭)$18.50 (half), $36.00 (whole)

Peking duck with gua bao with duck sauce and spring onions

Roast duck is one of Hong Kong Restaurant’s most prized dishes—when cooked perfectly, it’s fatty and the skin tastes both sweet and savory. For only $18.50, you can buy half a serving consisting of six buns and half a duck. 

This dish is made by spreading a sweet glaze over the duck and roasting it in a wood-fired oven until the skin becomes thin and crispy, while the meat inside remains juicy and tender. After it is roasted, cooks expertly cut the duck into slices.

You can eat the duck by itself or with duck sauce, green onions, and gua bao, a peel-apart, mildly sweet bun. To assemble, peel the bun open, spread a small amount of sauce onto the bottom, and add a slice of duck and some green onions. 

Platters of peking duck and gua bao

Some fans also suggest eating the crispy skin with the bun and enjoying the rest of the meat separately. The combination of textures from the chewy bun and refreshing notes of green onion, sweet sauce, and crispy skin melds perfectly together. 

Salt and pepper pork rib (椒盐排骨)$11.95

Salt and pepper pork ribs

My dad’s favorite is the salt and pepper pork ribs, which are thinly cut, deep-fried pork ribs tossed in salt and pepper and topped with bits of garlic, jalapeño peppers, and spring onion. This dish is a must-order for my family. It’s fried perfectly, crispy and light, and the ribs are tender. Although it is slightly oily, the peppery, umami flavoring and texture make this dish delicious. 

Yang chow fried rice (扬州炒饭)$10.50

Yang chow fried rice

vegetarian options available

Yang chow fried rice is a dish often seen in Chinese restaurants, initially created bycombining a variety of leftover vegetables and proteins with rice. At Hong Kong Restaurant, this dish combines rice with lettuce, char-siu pork, eggs, spring onions, and shrimp. It is not too oily and has an almost addictive umami flavor, with different textures and flavors from the savory-sweet, chewy char-siu and the succulent, perfectly-cooked shrimp.

Seafood and tofu clay pot (海鲜豆腐煲)$13.95

vegetarian options available

These clay pots come served hot and bubbling, filled to the brim with battered fish, fried silken tofu, and whole shiitake mushrooms. This clay pot is often paired with rice. The fish are first fried and then cooked in the thickened, savory marinade, along with the flavorful mushrooms and pieces of whole garlic and ginger. My favorite part is the silken tofu, which has a perfect, soft texture inside.

Eggplant with spicy garlic sauce (鱼香茄子)$12.95

Eggplants with spicy garlic sauce

vegan

This is also a typical dish in Chinese restaurants—eggplants are stir-fried with slivers of wood ear mushrooms, bamboo shoots, spring onion, and chilies. It’s flavorful, savory, and garlicky. The eggplant is perfectly cooked—soft, with a slight chew—and the sauce is slightly oily but not spicy. This dish pairs perfectly with a bowl of white rice. It becomes drenched in the delicious sauce, making a gratifying, addicting combination. 

My grandparents, my brother, and I at Hong Kong Restaurant

After the meal, servers carry out a small plate of cold, freshly-cut oranges as a refreshing finish. These were just some of my family’s favorite dishes that remind us of our memories at Hong Kong Restaurant. Hopefully, eating these foods will bring you the same joy and comfort I experience with my family.

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