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Aug 29, 2008 12:38 PM

Go Right Now to HK Palace in Falls Church

Just had lunch at Hong Kong Palace at Seven Corners. According to the waitress the chef just returned from the Sichuan Province with special spices and ingredients normally unavailable. We had already ordered three old standby dishes, and when we inquired about the menu on the wall, she explained that they had some new specials.

No English translation available, but we ordered the dish with the symbols for "mouth, mouth, crispy, good smelling." The mouth symbol looks like a plain box. You can't miss it.

The dish was cubed chicken and vegetable with an unusual ingredient: small hot peppers that were hollowed out and filled with a crunchy sesame and peanut mixture. Addictive stuff, like Chex-mix for hotheads.

She said there was more too, but we'll have to go back.

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  1. Steve, I went and managed to miss it.

    I pointed to the one topped with two "plain boxes" and was told it was a dish of golden mushrooms with (couldn't quite understand). I asked about chicken and peppers stuffed with something, and was told "we have Kung Pao Chicken. And this was at a nearly-empty hour talking to a server who recognized me!

    I apologized for my confusion, left and had a Banh Mi at Eden Center.

    Grrr! They never agree to tell you much (or anything) about the specials!

    1 Reply
    1. re: wayne keyser

      I went back for lunch today to HK Palace. They told me that all the dishes on pink paper on the wall are the new dishes. The dish I had on Friday (which I ordered again today) is the third from the left in the middle row. It was great again today. Two dishes they recommended to me (both chicken) are the first two in the middle row. The first is chicken with green peppercorns. Some of the special ingredients are spices, so I'm not sure how they would translate or even if I could detect exactly what they are. I decided to order the fourth dish from the left, which was a whole fish ($20.95), fried in a thick batter with a caramel-colored sauce that had plenty of Sichuan peppercorns in it as well as hot peppers. This was good, but nothing special.

    2. That really is a sublime dish, isn't it? We were so perplexed initially when we ordered it ("Do we eat these peppers or not?"), and upon crunching into them, we were absolutely delighted with the mixture of flavors, not to mention the amazing contrast in textures between the chicken and the crunchy peppers. Ohhh...I have to go back...

      1. Success! Here's my take on it:

        Yes, it was the special I had pointed to in the post above. Different day, different server, communication achieved.

        This is a dish of chicken in slightly smaller-than-usual chunks, dusted with a very light coating and deep-fried. There are a handful of corn-kernel-size crunchy bits of flavored delight, apparently sesame seeds bound with a light batter and fried to a dense "Cheerios"-like crunch. The same substance is stuffed into some 1" sections of little-finger-size dried red peppers which are also deep-fried to the same crunch. The whole lot is quickly stir-fried with a generous handful of dried red peppers and a few drops of soy and ... oh, you guess the spices. Salty and dry (no sauce) overall.

        There's no "eat around the dried peppers" ... they're there to be eaten, including the non-stuffed ones, you can't avoid it, but that turns out to be one of the exciting qualities that make this dish stand out.

        The dish is as intense and exciting as the best Szechuan dishes introduced in recent years - actually a bit much as a solo dish, I'd have been happy not to be lunching alone (just for some milder and moister contrast), but a delightful surprise overall and a lunch I'll remember!

        Thanks Steve!

        5 Replies
        1. re: wayne keyser

          Glad you liked it. I just polished off the leftovers, so this is about the third meal I've had eating the same dish in the last five days.

          1. re: Steve

            BTW, I had lunch at 11am - it's now almost 9pm and I'm still feeling the glow. Some serious Szechuan!

            1. re: wayne keyser

              why oh why do so many proprietors expect many customers to want Denny's or some generic Stir-Fry Express? ok, maybe sometimes I do, but if I did, I'd be there instead.

              It's been dealt with on so many other threads to the point of despair and boredom and I haven't studied Mandarin in a very long time and never got that far anyway.

              but good info. even if they are out of "special" ingredients by the time I make it there.

              sounds like they may have found the szechuan peppercorn (ground and white, from the accounts I've heard) not sold in the US. not even really a pepper, but with a slight topical anaesthetic quality.

              very jealous.

              1. re: hill food

                Szechuan peppercorn is available in the US these days, as long as it has been irradiated. Penzeys has a far more vibrant version than the larger bag I got at Kam San a few years ago.

                The stuffing appears to be sesame seed based. It is very good.

                In addition, one of the older specials, on red paper, has writing in English, along the lines of Tangy Potato with Chicken. It is also very good. The hot coating on the potatoes has some amount of sugar in it too, which caramelizes a bit and makes them extra crispy.

          2. re: wayne keyser

            i had the famous dish last night. there is also a bit of ginger in that chicken dish (small squares about 1/4" -- or maybe that is pickled vegetable? it tasted like ginger, which i love). overall, it is so subtle, you wouldn't know it was there unless you crunched down on a piece.

            the sesame pepper thingies were neat. the ones that were without the outer pepper shell seemed like the little sesame ball candies you can get in asian markets.

            we also got cold noodles. sauce good, subtle sesame flavor, made with sesame and chili oils, and some soy. but the noodles had a weird texture (wiry, though cooked -- maybe boiled then later fried, then let alone to cool, then dressed?). wouldn't recommend.

            got another dish off the specials boards, and it was fish in broth with vegetables and peppercorns. $12.95 and it was huge enough to have made that dinner for two with nothing else. the fish was tasty, and as it sat in the broth (laced with chili oil), got spice-hotter. the veggies were preserved mustard green (the stem/white part, apparently -- SALTY!), celery and bean sprouts. i swear that preserved mustard crunchy bit numbed my tongue where it touched! sprinkled on top were cilantro, peppercorns, and dried chopped red chilies. the broth was aromatic and very flavorful. no spice overwhelmed any other. i'd say it is a sophisticated dish. served with rice, i'd recommend this dish.

            the service was good, and friendly. quick water replenishment (yay!). when we were first seated and said we wanted to order from the specials, and alluded to the specials board placards on little nails within a frame on the wall near the cash register) and started to describe the famous chowhound chicken dish that everyone is raving about, they brought over a tall young woman who i guess spoke better english. she is the one who recommended the fish dish (steering us from the crispy fish which we had had two days before at thai square). she said people had not liked it (i guess she was referring to an anglo like me -- though mr. alka is from sri lanka --- non-chinese, i guess).

            many chinese native speakers eating there last night (thursday), and picking up take-out. good sign. good place. highly recommend. thanks, hounds!

            ps, i thought the specials are on RED (not pink) plastic placards, but some were on lime green plastic placards. maybe they are upgrading the specials board presentation.

          3. Here's another dish that you MUST try on the new specials menu on the wall: the first pink special on the bottom row is a "preserved pork" dish. Basically, this is bacon. Not just any bacon, but the bacon of your dreams. Rich, tender, crispy on the outside, smokey, salty, spicy a bit, but just lovely. This is "where have you been all my life" bacon. Add a fried egg and you've got a great breakfast. If you are two dining together, get this dish plus the chicken with "sesame/hot peppers" as mentioned above, and add a green vegetable or cucumber salad. An impressive meal.

            7 Replies
            1. re: Steve

              If we have those who need non-spicy in our party, should we detour?

              1. re: chowsearch

                Very good non-spicy items to order are sauteed greens (any kind, just ask your server - watercress was very, very good the other day), the corn and egg dish, green onion pancakes, cucumber salad, and chicken in garlic sauce. Also they make a Zhong (?) pork fried rice which is very good - but it is very 'smokey' in flavor. As well as they have an entire Chinese-American menu, but I can't say how that is.

                1. re: Steve

                  thank you, will begin planning the research outing.

                  1. re: Steve

                    Cumin fish has spice, but it's not a "hot" spice, if that makes a difference.

                    1. re: Gonzocook

                      And it's one of the better dishes on the menu, imo (one of the many)

                  2. re: chowsearch

                    chowsearch - there's a non-spicy dish on the menu called Garlic Flavor Fried Flounder. It's really outstanding. Pieces of flounder batter fried, served on shredded lettuce, then with this fried/salty/sweet garlic "dust" on top. To make it even more interesting, while the fish is batter fried, it's not at all crispy, but instead very, very tender. I've yet to figure out how they do that.

                  3. re: Steve

                    Dined there tonight - asked if they still had the "preserved pork" special - got a smile and a "yes, somebody suggested it, right?"

                    Very nice dish, with its chewy (not crispy) meat, onions, and slightly-hot pepper slices.

                    Also nice to see the staff more willing to talk about the specials. They said if I liked the crispy chicken with peppers, I should try the potatoes with chicken, and a fish dish, both of which are next on my list.

                  4. The power of CH (or the power of Steve) -- we went yesterday and asked for the special with the chicken and little stuffed peppers and the waiter knew exactly what we were talking about (we were both pointing to it on the wall per instructions), then I asked if there were other new specials she'd recommend, and she said a few people had been in that day who ordered that with a preserved pork dish, which she also pointed to where I expected. So word has gotten out and, Steve, your instructions are being followed.

                    I also like that they seem to appreciate our interest, I'm sure we come across as clueless but willing, if that makes sense. Other times we've gone, we've gotten a "we do have an American menu, but I'm sure you don't want that, right?"

                    We didn't order the pork though (I was with someone who tends not to order pork, I hope next time we will) and when we asked for other suggestions, she came up with the cumin fish, which we hadn't had before and also enjoyed. Since we also ordered the tiger skin peppers, because I can't not order them -- and sesame balls -- we'll still be eating this meal tomorrow.

                    Like everybody, loved that sesame-filled peppers stuff, it's like candy with a punch. The chicken that came with it wasn't anything very exciting, but I guess just really a foil. I wonder how long it takes to make those, they seemed wrapped so precisely.

                    The only problem with Hong Kong Palace is that we love it so much, we haven't gotten around to trying other Chinese places you all recommend.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: mselectra

                      Since I can't read or speak Chinese, I'm in the same boat: clueless but happy to go along with whatever sounds good. I completely love the tiger skin peppers too.

                      BTW, it could be that the peppers stuffed with sesame are a purchased product, not really made by them. Just a guess... still, a great dish.

                      I've never had the sesame balls, though.

                      1. re: Steve

                        Yes, of course it makes sense that they'd be pre-made (I know Chinese food is about precise knife skills, but still had trouble imagining somebody back in the kitchen making so many) -- and wouldn't it be nice to be able to buy them, then. Are you assuming they're something the chef brought back from the recent China trip?

                        I don't know how the sesame balls stack up with other places, but they work for me with the szechuan stuff because they're sweet and doughy -- sort of like why you have sopapillas with honey when you're eating scorching hot New Mexican green chili.

                        1. re: mselectra

                          If it's a pre-made item, maybe Great Wall grocery (Gallows Rd near Lee Highway) would have them in the freezer section. They have a huge selection of frozen dumplings and things too fierce to mention. If they have a name and someone could find that out, it's worth a look.

                          1. re: mselectra

                            That's my guess, it is one of those specialty items unavailable in the US. I like your sopapilla analogy. Whatever works for you.