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Aug 6, 2007 09:01 AM

Hong Kong Palace - CUKE in the stir-fry???

Their wonderful plate of Chicken in Hot Garlic Sauce (Chinese menu version, of course) has three vegetables: the wonderful large tree-ear fungus, the fresh red peppers, and … what?

Flat, cut from something with green skin, almost neutral flavor, and of course perfectly cooked … I asked and was told 'cucumber.' Tasted again and, yeah, cucumber!

I've never had cooked cucumber (other than pickles, and I had to think about that, but yeah they're cooked in many pickles) - is this authentic? Are these Asian cucumbers? Are these gonna be the new sub for diced broccoli stems (which I also love)???

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  1. Yes, cooked cucumbers are very authentic Chinese food. In fact they are more often cooked than not, in my experience. I think it is the sanitation thing. They are safer to eat cooked with the skin on and why waste the skin?

    1. I ate there Sunday evening with a couple of friends, one of whom had something that sounded pretty much like what you described though I think it was called chicken with tree ear mushrooms (it was the mushrooms that attracted him). It had plenty of garlic, red pepper, mushrooms, and what I though was some sort of squash. Maybe it was a cucumber. Or maybe "cucumber" wasn't a very good translation. I've run into that there before.

      I still think their twice cooked pork with garlic leaves is the best Chinese dish ever invented. I can't seem to get over ordering it myself or convincing someone else in the group to order it so I can have my fix.

      1. Hi -- this probably isn't the right place to ask this, and I feel silly asking, too -- but how exactly do you get the Chinese menu version, especially if you know no Chinese? Is this the same as "avoiding the American part of the menu"? And how do you tell the difference?

        Please feel free to ignore my ignorance if you want! (I should be able to figure this out myself -- just this thread made me so hungry, makes me realize I need to finally get to HKP asap.)

        10 Replies
        1. re: mselectra

          Don't feel silly. The menu is in a loose leaf binder and has English as well as Chinese. The Chinese dishes on the board/wall are usually the same as in the menu but are what they have available that day. The note book also has the Sichuan dishes which are the specialty of the house. The owner is from Sichuan, so you can be sure the food is authentic, in a good way.

          1. re: geling

            Thanks! So, from the Sichuan dishes, do you have recs for must order (noting that they don't have them all every day)?

            BTW, I know there are tons of threads on here on Chinese food in this area, so I can do some research myself. We don't get out of DC to the burbs all that often, where it seems you need to go for this kind of good stuff (and I'm still fairly new to DC), but reading CH always makes me want to....

            1. re: mselectra

              this is one place that warrants a trip from DC, and it ain't that far out Route 50...
              besides the aforementioned awesome twice-cooked pork with garlic leaves, I love the Ma Po Tofu (silky tofu with a generous amount of ground pork that has a wonderful sausage-like flavor) and anything in a "peppery broth". omigod

          2. re: mselectra

            At HKPalace, they present the Chinese menu binder by default, and only give you the "take-out flyer" Americanized menu on request. Ain't that wonderful?

            When I think I'm ordering something that may also be on the American menu, I try to cover all the bases: point to the line on the Chinese menu, and say "Chinese, right?" They are rightfully proud of their authentic style cooking, and no one has yet minded my effort to be sure I get the best version.

            BTW, as I dined Sat night, I heard the server say that the owner and chef are actually from Chengdu (which helps explain the several Chengdu-style items on the menu).

            1. re: wayne keyser

              It's not really the case that they present the Chinese binder by default. At least not to every customer. Perhaps they recognize you. I have had to ask for it virtually every time I have gone. They are more than happy to have me order from it. But I still have to ask for it.

              1. re: bacchante

                Maybe they do - I'm hard to forget, being awfully heavy and 'driving' a walker.

              2. re: wayne keyser

                Just so everyone knows, Chengdu is a city located in the province of Sichuan.

              3. re: mselectra

                Maybe they recognize me already and just bring it to the table, but they're very eager to have the non-Chinese customers try their "real Chinese food." The American menu is just a folded sheet take-out menu. If they don't give you the "notebook" menu, just ask. They used to have just a couple of copies, but now they seem to have plenty to go around. It's not very well translated and there isn't much description but they try to explain dishes to you if you ask.

                The usual thing that people ask about Hong Kong Palace is how to find it. It's in the strip of stores perpendicular to Rt. 7 (Leesburg Pike), so don't look for it in the (longer) strip that's parallel to Rt. 7

                Must order Twice Cooked Port with Garlic Leaves. Their version of Kung Pao Chicken is unusually tasty too, not like the "my first Szechuan" standard fare. And Steve loves the Tiger Skin Peppers. <g>

                1. re: MikeR

                  Thanks for all your advice and recs! I really appreciate it and hope to get there asap (honestly, we go for weeks w/o even getting in the car, but this sure sounds worth it -- My mouth is watering....

                  Hong Kong Palace
                  6387 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22044

                  1. re: mselectra

                    I ate at HKP a couple of months ago with my parents and we had a dish that was very good but different, in the sense that I have only seen similar dishes in China. It's the potatoes and peppers. The potatoes are thinly sliced julienne and stir-fried with the peppers. Very nice and different take on the spud.