Doong Kong Lau Hakka Restaurant
I just discovered this place at lunch today. It's on Aurora Ave N just south of the Oak Tree Plaza. Good basics, large portions, and good service. They special in Hakka style so many items you don't usually find in Seattle Chinese restaurants.
agreed. Chiang's gourmet focuses on northen china style dimsum. the salty soybean milk is good and any of the biscuit/pastry on the brunch menu that requires 20~30 minute wait is good (they make it from scratch!)
sidetrack: hakka people may be treated as 2nd class citizens in canton or fujian but there's a great lineage of hakka people. the famous general yuefei is hakka and the fathers of taiwan (lee teng-hui) and singapore (lee kuan yew) are hakka. btw, one signature hakka dish is stuffed tofu, though variations of stuffed eggplant, stuffed bitter melon are also popular. usually the stuffing is pork or fish. haven't seen this dish in seattle.
We have eaten at Doong Kong Lau since it first opened. I have a sister who won't eat anywhere else when she comes to visit, and she is one picky stickler. My other vegetarian sister is always delighted with her meals, too. We have never had a bad dish there. My Chinese neighbors verify its authenticity. A few of our favorite dishes: Thousand-year Egg and Tofu Salad appetizer with scallions and ginger and a delicious sauce - even our kids gobble it up; Salt-Baked [actually sauteed or fried] Prawns, eaten shell and all; Beef and Scallop Sizzling Platter, especially when the onions stick to the platter and brown; Ma Po Tofu; Eggplant, always worth fighting the kids for. My sister always ends up eating some of the eggplant even though any form of eggplant gives her stomach trouble - she just can't resist. Some of the dishes are listed as Hakka, some are Chinese restaurant standards, but there's something for everyone. We always get some of the coconut pastries with bean paste filling to go, and pack it for lunch the next day, and then end up eating it for breakfast instead.
the hakka (crudely translates as 'gypsy') are the indigenous native people of the area around what has become hong kong - traditionally treated as second-class citizens, their cuisine roughly equates to 'soul food' in its use of ingredients viewed by others as being less desirable. it also features foods cooked in wine (actually, wine dregs). like soul food, it can be utterly luscious but, sadly, the folks up on aurora are far from the mark. other than home cooking, the closest place for hakka food is san francisco (or the back streets of hong kong) as there appears to be none (i've searched!) even in richmond, bc. all that being said, the aurora location does offer large portions, decent prices and food at least as decent as any americanized chinese restaurant.
The phrase for Hakka in Mandarin has three characters: kuh-jia-ren, which mean "guest home people" or "visitor" as opposed to local people. I remember the differences are always "kuh jia ren" or "ben-dee-ren" (people from around here).
I disagree with lengua who said that the Hakka were indigenous to the area of Hong Kong: they were immigrants from Northern/Central China and moved to Fujian, Guangdong Provinces many centuries ago, and nowadays you will find most of the predominantly Hakka villages in Gunagdong Province, in the hills. My father's family was from the Hakka lineage now in Taiwan, where I grew up. About 15% of people in Taiwan speak Hakka dialect as well as Mandarin.
Some good websites and pictures:
Plenty more if you just google "hakka."
the dishes to try in Aurora are
43. five spices beef brisket stew and mushroom casserole (don't forget the veggies on the bottom!
92. sliced pork with preserved mustard greens (a.k.a. Kau-Yuek)
those dishes above are as tasty as the ones I've had in China, and in Taiwan, when my grandmother cooked. Yes, they made those dishes back home. Not exactly like the Aurora, but that doesn't mean one is more "right" than the other.
"sadly....far from the mark" is not true. Unless you've gone up to the misty hills of Guangdong Province and dined with the Hakka villagers from all the little towns, how would you know? Or, your "mark" is that of San Francisco or Hong Kong, which is always going to be yet another variation.
I am disappointed but not surprised there's no Hakka in Richmond: Vancouver is dominated by Hong-Kong immigrants. Hong Kong may be close to Guangdong Province, but it was more cosmopolitan, an extension of Guangjou the biggest city in that province, and therefore the cooking that emerges from there tends to take on a more metropolitan slant: huge impressive banquet, dim sum, seafood platters, or duck/pig barbecue. Hakka is different from all of those: lots of stewing, lots of fatty meats simmered until the meat just falls apart as you look at it, lots of preserved this or that.... not your typical banquet food or dimsum.
In my experience, Hong Kong restaurants are great if you go for banquet/dim sum food, but they never do dishes that originated from other regions well. The beef noodle soup, or pork with preserved vegetable soup, if had in a Hong Kong restaurant, is always very disappointing to me: thin broth, still firm meat, and that yellow thin almost flavorless noodle with an aftertaste. The northern China/Beijing/Xiandong beef noodle soup: thick, white, chewy noodles that soak up the anise and the meat flavors, dark almost black broth, fatty-looking and eat-with-no-teeth tender beef that are lowish in fat (because they've been cook for hours) and all packed with flavor, and the pickled radish that you sprinkle on....completely superior to Hong Kong versions.
It probably won't taste like what you might have tasted in San Francisco, or Hong Kong, but The San Fran version is undoubtedly from Hong Kong immigrants a generation or two ago, which means that those in San Fran probably cook Hakka in the San Fran/Hong-Kong style.
Aurora is an odd place to have a Hakka restaurant, but fortunately their business and reputation seem to be pretty good.
had the dim sum there for breakfast. was eating solo so could not sample that many dishes. but I tried:
soy milk: warm, not too sweet, very nice.
crullers: fluffy and light. perfect with the soy milk.
little buns with green leeks/scallions and shrimp, and sesame on top: terrific. slightly crunchy outside, flavorful inside. resist the convention and don't dip in soy sauce: plenty of taste, and eating by itself allows you to really sort out the flavors.
clams steamed with garlic and black beans: expertly done. fresh clams.
the best dish of the day: taro cake. fresh!! not the typical bought-from-Tacoma, heated-up-inhouse variety. Tastes like they were made in the back of the restaurant by the proprietors. Again slight crunchy outside, but once you break through the crust the inside just falls apart to reveal the fresh bits and chunks of the taro, and the little bits of Chinese sausage rreally come through with their aroma. Dip lightly in soy sauce for this one.
Whole meal: $12 including tip. And you see that was a huge brunch!