Chinese: Hop Kee

Eating Out

Here it is again, another rare 4-apple review!  This time the title is bestowed upon an unassuming greasy spoon that is not only a hole-in-the-wall, but an underground one at that – one of my favorite Chinatown joints, Hop Kee.  Yes, there are “We ate here” photos on the wall featuring Anthony Bourdain and Bill Cosby, but I was a customer way before these famous dudes!  What kept me coming back?  It’s that finger-lickin’ dish above.  But first you’ve got to know how to order…

The first clue is that there are two sets of menus.  Yes, it’s a bit old school, but they’ve got the real menu and the “Authentic Chinese Dishes” menu.  Which menu you get will depend on how the waitstaff sizes you up.  It seems like they can’t quite figure me out, as I get both menus, plus tea AND icewater (a drink reserved for those deemed “amateurs”), PLUS crispy noodles (also reserved for amateurs) AND the off-the-menu free soup reserved for pros.  They probably figure they’ll throw everything at me and watch carefully to see if I’m a tourist or not.

Anyway.  Back to the ordering.  I always order two dishes here.   The first is the Crabs Cantonese style:

Cooked with bits of pork, garlic, ginger and scallions in a briny sauce, the crabs sell out quickly – if you arrive too late, you’re out of luck.    Impress your waiter and order in Cantonese – say “chow hai” with conviction!  If anything, you’ll share a good laugh and be one step closer to the free soup of champions.

Hop Kee’s must order dish (besides the crab) is the sweet and sour pork (first picture).  Before you get your panties in a bunch, this isn’t the syrupy sweet fruit cocktail sweet-and-sour of lunch specials across America.  This is crispy, juicy tender pork in a red-brown sauce that is just amaaaaazing!  Tricky tricky Hop Kee serves both the “American-style” sweet and sour and the authentic version.  You’ll want the authentic.  Order “Geeng doh pai gwut” and you’ll be golden.

I’m assuming you’ll want to balance this meal out with some carbs, so go ahead and order the fried rice.  There are six varieties after all, but I favor the Young Chow fried rice:

The rice is light and flavorful – with morsels of shrimp, peas and egg.  Hey, it’s carbs AND veggies – does this count towards my Veggie Resolution?

By now you’ve impressed the waiter with your authentic Cantonese ordering, but before he walks away to put your order into the kitchen, be brave and ask for the free soup!

They may say yes, they may say no – but it’s worth a shot, right?  The soup, while not mind-blowing, is reminiscent of the soup made of “good-for-you things” that mothers and grandmothers across the world have been brewing for centuries.  I do find that waiters are more likely to give me the soup if I do bring my genuine, real-life Cantonese mother.  If you have one, bring her along. 😉

Yes, you’ll be eating underground and under the wary eye of judgy waiters.  But if you order the right dishes with confidence and eat with conviction, beginners and pros alike can enjoy an authentic delicious Chinese meal at Hop Kee.

You’ve gotta know what to order – but if you do, you’re in for a treat.

Hop Kee
21 Mott Street (@ Mosco)

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  • Reply
    January 12, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    Oh, that looks so good! I'd definitely be given the tourist dishes, though. I'm not sure I've ever had authentic sweet and sour pork, but the real deal sounds amazing!

  • Reply
    January 12, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    yummmm, that would def help me brave the winter freeze!

  • Reply
    January 12, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    I bet they'd give me the tourist menu. That chow hai looks SO good.

  • Reply
    January 12, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    Oh man this made me so hungry. I love that you are "in"- just another reason that the next time I come to NY I'm hiring you FOR SURE!

  • Reply
    January 12, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    damn that looks good!

  • Reply
    Chocolate Lover
    January 12, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    That crab looks delicious!

  • Reply
    January 12, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    Hilarious, two menus! I love how they can't decide which one to give you and just give you both. They'd probably ask me if I need a fork.

  • Reply
    January 12, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    I love Young Chow fried rice! Lovely review.

  • Reply
    January 12, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    aw, you made me all nostalgic for the pai gwut and free soup – which I have happy memories of refusing to eat while Mom was like, "it will make you tall and smart!" and Dad was all, "well, if you don't want it, i'll help you not waste food" . . . good times.

  • Reply
    January 12, 2011 at 6:02 pm

    I'd love to check this place out, though I'm sure I'll be considered a tourist and won't know how to order 🙂

  • Reply
    January 12, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    the crab looks so good!

  • Reply
    Mrs. Hot Cocoa
    January 12, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    I used to go to the Hop Kee in LA's Chinatown all the time. Wonder if it's the same? They make a killer walnut shrimp, which sits in a vat of mayo. Delish.

  • Reply
    January 12, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    Sounds AMAZING! Now you gave me an idea for dinner 🙂

    Hope you're doing well and thank you so much for all of the support over the past few weeks. You're the best xoxo

  • Reply
    lovely cozy
    January 12, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    Ack! I'm pretty sure I've eaten here and I'm pretty sure I didn't get the free soup. LOL. I'm not authentic enough!!

  • Reply
    January 12, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    So, my plan is to just borrow your mom so I can have the soup. Otherwise, I'm content with the free crunchy noodles. 😀

  • Reply
    January 12, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    Yum… I need to remember not to read your posts when I'm hungry… because they just make me more hungry and then I'm screwed

  • Reply
    Big Mouth Bride
    January 12, 2011 at 11:40 pm

    Sold! This is definitely on my list for my next trip to the city!

  • Reply
    January 13, 2011 at 1:26 am

    Oh. Please please please continue posting your favorite C-town eats. Everytime I read your posts it brings me back to my childhood. I just might need to book a flight home soon just to go eat at these places again!!

  • Reply
    honey my heart photo a day
    January 13, 2011 at 6:39 am

    the crab is just too good!! i'm now in search of some good chinese food!

  • Reply
    January 14, 2011 at 11:04 pm

    Oh my goodness, that pork looks fantastic! And I love how they are tricky with the two different menus….crazy!

  • Reply
    January 18, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    Haven't been to Hop Kee in 100 years but I'm going back on you're say so.

  • Reply
    January 27, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    I'll be in NYC next week and will give it a try- the pork looks delicious!

  • Reply
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