Hong Kong Chinese Restaurant has been open in Durham for over 25 years. For the past 15 years, the owner, affectionately known just as “Lee,” has been operating this bustling hotspot located just north of Duke’s campus. You know you’ve arrived at the right place when you find the pale pink building with bright red trim, as it sticks out from the rest of the demurely painted residential housing. Hong Kong Chinese offers a variety of homemade dim sum dishes, traditional Chinese items and many Americanized favorites.
Once inside, the restaurant is quite expansive, including nine booths and two adjoining rooms with several tables. On the weekends, they push around carts full of various dim sum offerings, which is traditional. However, on the weekdays, you fill out the paper menu by checking off which dim sum you want and wait for the items to be freshly prepared and brought out to your table in little steamer baskets and/or plates. If you’re not familiar with dim sum, it’s just small plates of different dumplings or dishes that can be shared. It’s great because you can order many items to try out different things without having too much food. Hong Kong Chinese Restaurant also offers many authentic Szechuan, Canton, Peking and Hunan dishes in their broad menu.
Whenever I think of dim sum, the first two items that pop into my head are sui mai (4 pieces for $2.99) and har gow (3 pieces for $2.99). These are the two staples that set the standard for the rest of the dim sum to follow. The sui mai are open-faced dumplings of sorts that consist of a pork, shrimp and mushroom filling that is topped off with a signature dot of red crab roe before being steamed to juicy deliciousness. The har gow were quite hearty and considerably bigger than other dim sum places I’ve dined at. This shrimp filled dumpling is encased in a rice starch wrapper that turns translucent once it’s steamed to show off the pretty light pink color of the shrimp. These two dim sum classics did not disappoint.
Turnip pudding (3 pieces for $2.99) is a dim sum item that, admittedly, does not have a very alluring name. This dish actually resembles more of a turnip version of a hashbrown than it does pudding. Shredded turnip is mixed in with bits of lap cheong (a slightly sweet Chinese sausage) and scallions before being formed into “cakes” and then sliced and fried to order. These little slices are pan seared until crispy and charred on the outside while soft and hot on the inside. These are tasty alongside a dipping dish of soy sauce mixed with red chilies.
The fried pork dumpling (3 pieces for $2.99) was a miss. Typically these dumplings have filling encased in a thick, slightly sweet and chewy “wrapper” made from rice starch. The wrapper was thicker than most I’ve had and the pork filling was barely there. I would definitely skip these next time.
Undoubtedly the best squid I’ve eaten in a while, the hot spicy squid ($4.99) could convert non-seafood lovers. Their squid is lightly dusted and fried until golden, crisp and tender then sprinkled lightly with salt. It’s then tossed with a small amount of sautéed onions and hot chilies, which perfectly rounds out the dish. This was by far my favorite item.
Most places offer ho fun in black bean sauce with beef or chicken, a dish that is dry (without sauce) and consists of wok-fried wide, flat rice noodles, beef/chicken, fermented black beans, chilies and green onions. However, Hong Kong Chinese has switched up their ho fun game by offering their Beef Chow Ho Fun in Black Bean Sauce ($11.95). This kind of blew my mind, as I was expecting a no-frills, no interpretation needed ho fun. Admittedly, I was disappointed with the dish when it first came out, as it did not look how I had come to expect it to look. Fork-tender slices of beef, bamboo, onions, bell peppers and fermented black beans in a light gravy covered the ho fun noodles. I was skeptical when I took the first bite, but was immediately satisfied as I tasted the all-familiar savory, smoky-charred flavor the wok lends to this popular dish. I came full circle on my emotions associated with this dish and I left more than happy with their rendition of ho fun.
Even though going on a weekday means you wait a little longer for the dishes to be prepared and served, it’s well worth the wait. I like knowing I can pick out exactly what I want and the items are made fresh to order just for me. If you’re ever in Durham and craving anything from a little snack to a full meal, head on over to Hong Kong Chinese Restaurant for homemade dim sum and authentic Chinese dishes.
Tessa Nguyen is a chef and registered dietitian working in the Triangle area. She is an alumna of Johnson & Wales University and Meredith College. When Tessa isn’t traveling and discovering new food spots, she teaches culinary nutrition cooking classes at Duke and works as a consultant in the health and wellness industry. You can follow her on Instagram or Twitter @