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Apr 28, 2013 03:35 PM

HK's Cantonese B-B-Q Pork aka 'Char Siu' - There are more and better choices than Wan Chai's Joy Hing!!

When good HK 'Char Siu' are being discussed on this board, almost everyone immediately points to Wan Chai's Joy Hing as their 'go to' choice. Well!! Not so fast!! Though I do agree Joy Hing's version is mighty fine, but during my past trip, I have eaten a few versions that I think can give it a serious run for the money!!
Some include those from Star of Canton, Sun Tung Lok, Fu Sing....etc. Nicely burnt at the edge to give it the mesmerizing smokiness, all of the mentioned ones were nicely seasoned, tender and juicy and delicious sticky honey sauce to match. Even Toronto's John's B-B-Q does an awesome job with their 'King of Char Siu' that can rub shoulder with some of HK's best!!

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  1. Well, Dynasty at the Renaissance Hotel ( claimed to have *the best* in HK, though I'd dispute that: it's good, but not so good as to put others I'd tried in HK in the shade.

    For one, I like my char-siu fatty, charred-crisp at the ages (I know - carcinogens are bad for us) and caramelly-sweet on the outside. Dynasty's version, though it has a meltingly-soft and moist texture, do not have those characteristics.

    2 Replies
    1. re: klyeoh

      Me too!! Love the charred bits!! You only live once!! Right??!! Ha!!

      1. re: Charles Yu

        Funny how our parents and the older generation teach the younger kids to eat healthy, but as one who has old style Cantonese tastebuds, the less healthy the food, the better it tastes! Lard, burnt ends, the whole 9 yards.

        Yeah even Ah So in the video below says "give me the most charred part of the bbq spare ribs! Even if I die, I don't care!" :-)

        Henceforth the Cantonese expression of "yiu meng" (it's so good it wants your life (in exchange) hahahaha.

    2. Charles, the reason why Joy Hing is still so celebrated at least by Hong Kong locals (and recommended), is because it is quality at a very affordable price, in a neighborhood area without the markup of a fancy restaurant. Despite the international coverage this place has received (namely Anthony Bourdain: Layover HK, as well as travel guide books in HK and Taiwan for example), it still doesn't feel like a tourist trap.

      I ordered a plate of plain half lean half fatty cha siu in January from Joy Hing, and it was HK$56 or so. Granted that is probably a bit more expensive than some of the other local BBQ deli joints, but it's still unbeatable. Of course a segment of the locals will complain because they are penny pinching for obvious reasons.

      The places you listed, I have no doubt they are excellent and perhaps even better quality, but they represent a higher end, and much pricier venture that some will regard as a luxury to partake more rarely, (guessing in the region of $120 to $150 a plate for the much nicer joints). There is one high end place that uses Spanish Iberico pork to make cha siu, some of you probably know what I'm talking about (forgot the name), I'd be interested in trying it out for sure. That place probably even has Japanese rice, so you can do a fusion cha siu rice!

      For something that's comparable to Joy Hing, but more of a neighborhood dive (yet full of local flavor), Sun Kwai Heung 新桂香燒臘 in Chai Wan (supposed to be about a 5 to 8 min walk from MTR station but you have to walk on overpass), their half lean half fatty cha siu is glorious. Even Ah So is uber late to the game, this place has been a treasure trove of Chai Wan residents for a decade or two, and been covered by bloggers in the last 2 years. Definitely on my to try list when I go back next time.

      Some people prefer this place to Joy Hing.

      Last but not least, one often overlooked place for roasties is none other than Ser Wong Fun. Old style roasting and even the lean cuts are tender, since they use mui tau/specific shoulder cut. Even the goose there is not bad.

      I really miss John's BBQ in Richmond Hill! Love love love that restaurant so much.

      23 Replies
      1. re: K K

        The thing about Hong Kong is: Irrespective of whether the product is good or not, the impressive looking window displays alone are often enough to lure you in and give them your business!!!!! Cannot help taking photos and salivate each time I walked past one of those!!

        1. re: Charles Yu

          I know exactly what you mean. It's the visual equivalent of Ferrari's and models in the deli windows to put in a warped analogy. Even the worst neighborhood place looks visually more impressive than 90% of what I have access to in California, regardless if fresh or frozen pork is used...

          1. re: Charles Yu

            I think the amount of meats on display is also an indication of the volume of business that particular restaurant has. Hence, the more ducks or pork strips you have hanging on your display window, the more boasting rights you're going to have :)

            1. re: Charles Yu

              oh man its beautiful.

              cha siu is my favorite or one of favorite foods of all time. when i was a kid i used to just eat plates of it with rice and leave everything else for others and I'd make my family get extra orders of steamed cha siu bao at dim sum haha. i just wish it wasn't so damn bad for you otherwise id eat it everyday

            2. re: K K

              re: Ser Wong Fun - oh yah? I'll have to give it a whirl next time, im not sure ive ever tried their cha siu there

              1. re: Lau

                Ser Wong Fun's roasties are often overlooked. People usually go in there for snake soup, double boiled soups, Chinese sausages (or their traditional special dishes), but I've seen a number of people just get a roastie or two with rice. Aside from roast goose, cha siu, the chicken 切雞 is also quite popular and good. Not glamorous, but definitely hits the spot.

                1. re: K K

                  yah someone actually told me their goose was good. ser wong fun is always an easy option for me b/c i usually stay a friends place who lives really close to there

              2. re: K K

                K K - btw your video with Ah So is killing me...i just watched that at work and now im dying, i think i might go get cha siu fan tonight just bc of this haha

                1. re: Lau

                  Next time you go to HK and if you are in the Mongkok area, try the one at 富記粥品 Fuk Kee Congee, but more specifically get Fei Cha 肥叉. It's anywhere between 70 to 85+% fat, but when you eat it, does not feel so evil or gluttony. The bbq/cooking process is so well done that the meat is not charred completely, and the fatty parts retain flavor, but doesn't feel overpowering. The style reminds me of what they call 冰肉, which is fatty pork preserved in sugar to make it last, and when it is grilled, doesn't taste so filling or gross (this is something that Tak Lung and a few other classical style restaurants do very well).

                  One tip about the fatty cha siu, you can only get it sometime between 11 to before 2 quantities are limited and they sell out quickly.

                  Many come for the congee, but the side dishes meant to be washed down with beer, are also quite good...ditto for the pork strip and bean sprout fried noodles.

                  1. re: K K

                    yah ive heard of 富記粥品 that 肥叉 looks amazing, i actually really like fatty meats for certain dishes like cha siu, i dont like lean cha siu as much so this just looks ridiculous to me

                    its funny b/c i find that if i take alot of my friends (or my gf) and ask for fatty cha siu (they dont speak chinese so they dont know wth im ordering) they end up loving it, but if they know its really fatty then they are always like ehhh i dont want that haha

                2. re: K K

                  OK it is Tin Lung Heen 天龍軒 in TST that has the Iberico black pork cha siu! The price was $180 for 6 pieces almost 2 years ago...

                  You can see a pic of it in Peech's writeup.


                  1. re: K K

                    @ KK and Lau
                    Been reading your exchanges. Have you guys been to She Wong Yee as well? IMO, though their B-B-Q might be a touch less superior than Fun's but the snake soup and the Duck Liver Sausages were way better tasting and better value too!
                    BTW, how are 'Salted Duck Eggs' in your part of the world?? Cannot understand why we ( North America ) cannot get really 'oily' egg yolks outside of the Orient?! So good with rice or congee!

                    1. re: Charles Yu

                      re: Ser Wong Fun - I've been to Ser Wong Yee, but its been a very long time, definitely before my food blogging and days of actually keeping track of what I'm eating. It's high on my list for next time, i absolutely love liver sausage with rice!

                      re: salted duck egg - they're not that common in NY or in SoCal now that i think about it, so you basically never have them haha

                      1. re: Charles Yu

                        I walked by (and took a picture from the outside) of She Wong Yee right before meeting up with family for dinner at Fleur De Sel (for crepes) in Causeway Bay in early January, so unfortunately did not make time for trying it. I wish I had more time and stomach space, but probably will save that for another visit.

                        I can't say that I've actually seen or held a salted duck egg in Northern Cailfornia. The only encounters of salted yolks in my area are in lor mai gai in dim sum, mooncakes, and flowing sand bun to name a few...but I think they use chicken eggs for the most part since the color of the yolk is nowhere near as robust. What you have access to in Richmond Hill/Toronto even as substitutes, is far better than anything in Northern California.

                        1. re: K K

                          Wow!! Foodies do think alike!! I too had crepe at Fleur de Sel during my March trip. Went to the new SOHO location! Waiter actually came from Canada! Treated us like long lost friends and gave us extra Apple Cider! The savory Escargots and Spinach Crepe I had tasted amazing!!

                          1. re: Charles Yu

                            Definitely! Although at the Causeway Bay location, our waiter spoke very little English to us, was a Vietnamese guy who was very fluent in French and actually came to HK from Paris.

                            Going back to the main topic, nothing beats Hong Konger sentiments towards cha siu when the older generation used to yell at their disobedient kids with "生嚿叉燒好過生你" which for those reading who don't understand Chinese, means "it would have been better giving birth to a piece of cha siu than to you!".

                            1. re: K K

                              haha speaking on cha siu culture, did you ever hear the scary story / old wives tale about the "cha siu bao man"? i heard it a long time ago in HK, he was supposedly would kill people then use them as meat for cha siu bao and sell them

                              1. re: Lau

                                I think you just grossed out people wanting to seek cha siu in Hong Kong...

                                But to answer your question.

                                That is a very unfortunate real event in history that happened in Macau, not merely a wives tale... and should be erased from any association (or mention) of a discussion about cha siu since it is disgusting and sick...

                                You can enter "the untold story" (movie) in English Wikipedia page for more information, which is the film dramatized from the event that actually happened in the past (that also catapulted Anthony Wong Tsau Sang to stardom as it gained him best actor for HK film awards that year). Click on 中文 link on the left pane, and it will take you to a more detailed portion of the Chinese page. Then click on 八仙飯店滅門案 for the details (and run the page or text through a translator).

                                Not a "foodie" movie by any means!
                                Heard this movie had a similar effect to the horse head scene in "The Godfather".

                                1. re: K K

                                  wow that was true? we always just thought it was some old wives tale...and yes im pretty sure i grossed some people (sorry i if i did!)

                      2. re: K K

                        that pic looks wonderful...although i really want to know how different it is or isn't from other great cha siu in HK

                        btw holy crap look at this pig at kimberly restaurant

                        1. re: Lau

                          Oh!! I thought you have eaten that suckling pig! Favorite amongst HK and Asian chowhounders

                          1. re: Charles Yu

                            no! i know about kimberly restaurant, but the pics i saw did not do to it justice...that video just ruined dinner for me! haha

                            it also just jumped up towards the top of my list

                            1. re: Lau

                              Like cutting through a fresh baguette loaf, but it is the sound of piglet. Wonderful! In Macau, "8" is the place to get this.

                    2. Went to Joy Hing last night. I live in Wan Chai and have never been :-|

                      I must say it's noticeably better than Canteen and other such run-of-the-mill places. Pretty jam packed inside and busy line-up for take-away outside. Despite this, I ordered from table and I swear my food was in front of me within 60secs. Bam! (ugh, I sound like Emeril) This is the sort of place where you quickly eat and leave.

                      Char siu was little more plump, less fatty, slightly charred and jug of sauce on the table. Really nice! Was hungry so had a whole pigeon as well which wasn't even warm but damn tasty all the same.

                      They'd run out of choi sum so had to live with blanched lettuce - that's fine but not particularly satisfying.

                      So now I've tried the benchmark of good char siu I'll check out the other places suggested when I can. Cheers!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: p0lst3r

                        Joy Hing is very efficient. In addition to that, their small side dishes are also HK style curry beef brisket, or abalone sauce chicken feet.

                        強記飯店 Keung Kee Meat Shop in Wanchai is also quite good (though nowhere near as famous as Joy Hing), particularly the soups to go with the roasties rice plates.

                      2. Charles - what is your favorite place for cha siu? mine is still fu sing, while i think joy hing is good i still think fu sing is definitely better, but curious to hear what yours is b/c i'm sure you've been to more places in HK than i have

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Lau

                          Actually, I am not much of a fan of Char Siu these days. 'Carcinogen galore'!! Usually, people whom I went ouit with ordered them!!
                          However, the best one I ever had was actually at Yung Kee 4th floor, years ago!!!!

                          1. re: Charles Yu

                            ahhh really? interesting, i really need to make it to the 4th floor one of these days, i always hear great stuff

                            a few years ago i actually had fu sing cha siu at lunch and yung kee cha siu at dinner. While yung kee's was good, it wasn't nearly at the level of fu sing's, but i've heard from so many people that the level of food on the 4th floor is way superior, so i'd love to try it there

                            btw bring on the carcinogens and fat!! haha jk, i try to take that stuff in mild doses so i don't end up fat

                        2. I love char siu, and my favorite places to get them (irrespective of price) are:

                          Island/Kowloon Tang - they use mui tau so the cut is "marbled"
                          Chariot Club - I recently realized that this place has kick-ass char siu, incredibly tender, and I'd put it in my top 3
                          Fu Sing
                          Joy Hing

                          Haven't had it at Ser Won Fun. I recently went for the 1st time after hearing all that about their sausages. For HKD 45 I got a small bowl of white rice with two tiny sausages. Nothing else. I had to pony up another HKD 15 for an extra sausage. No sauce, no nothing else. Worst HKD 60 I ever spent on dinner, so I don't think I'll be going back...