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Sep 30, 2013 02:03 PM

In Bensonhurst: Lian Won Cafés Signature Eel with Rice Casserole and Five Flavor Duck

Last May, birdsandtogs originally posted about Lian Won Café’s Eel Rice Casserole and Five Flavor Duck. It took me more than three months to visit the place and another to post about it after two great meals last month. If you go, arrive early as the restaurant is not that large (50 odd seats) and fills up fast. It seems most, if not all the patrons are Cantonese speaking, of all ages.

The savory specialty here is Eel with Rice Casserole, as birdsandtogs noted. This is a famous dish from Taishan - a “county level city” in Guangdong province. Chinese immigrants from here were among the first arrivals in San Francisco, not long after the first California gold dust arrived in Hongkong in January of 1949.

Rice is first cooked halfway before being mixed with pre-cooked eel in a clay or stone pot. The pot is then fired up to finish cooking the rice. Where the rice touches the pot, oil from the eel drips down and creates a crispy outer layer called "fon jil". (Taishanese call this layer "nuong" which is also their word for burnt.)

You will see this served on every table. It comes in three sizes: Regular (for 1-2 people) $20.00; Medium (for 3-4 people) $30.00 and Large (for 4-6 people) $40.00.
This includes a large bowl of Eel Bone Soup with cilantro and tofu which arrives first.

The tasty Five Flavor Duck (招牌五味牌 - zhāo pai wǔ wèi yā) is excellent, as birdsandtogs found. Other dishes eaten included Sautéed Nagaimo, Steam Meat Paste with Salt Fish, Braised Oxtails, Sautéed Lotus Roots and Water Spinach and Fermented Bean Curd. The Steam Meat Paste with Salt Fish and Water Spinach with Fermented Bean Curd are Cantonese staples. Lian Wong’s Steam Meat Paste contains a mixture of lean and fatty ground pork and lacked the crunch found in many home-made versions.

birdsandtogs CH posting:

Lian Wong Café
2012 86th Street (between 20th Avenue and Bay 25 Street).
Brooklyn, NY 11214
Tel: 718-333-1666

Open every day from 11 am. to 10 pm.
D train to 20th Avenue.


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  1. Sounds like a great time wish I was there

    1. Lian Won serves a small eel rice casserole, too...

      ...though it doesn't come with eel bone soup. At the time (August 2012) the restaurant served ten varieties of bo zai fan, featuring the likes of chicken with black mushroom, cured duck leg, and veal short ribs.

      The fragrance and flavor of my eel casserole was more subtle than that of the bo zai fan at A-Wah. At that small Hong Kong-style restaurant in Manhattan, a dispenser of dark, thick, faintly sweet soy sauce sits on every table, but at Lian Won, the only soy sauce available for mixing in with the rice, once I asked, was a thin salty version from a squirt bottle. What sort of soy sauce did you find on hand?

      Dave Cook

      8 Replies
      1. re: DaveCook

        There is no sauce on hand at Lian Won. Nor was it needed at all. And you are right, they do have a $10 version that does not come with any soup.

        1. re: DaveCook

          FYI, looks like Lian Won has opened a second branch on 18th and 65th street. 6515 18 ave

          Will report when I have time to try it out. It looks like a more upscale branch.

          1. re: birdsandtogs

            King's Rice Restaurant does advertise that eel rice casserole (with eel bone soup) in the window, though perhaps only because the owners know of its popularity at Lian Won. I have the two takeout menus in front of me, and I don't see any indication that these two restaurants are cut from the same cloth. As you note, birdsandtogs, the dining room at King's Rice is nicer; I'm looking forward to trying it out.

            Dave Cook

            1. re: DaveCook

              I could've sworn the Chinese name is the same as Lian Won. The signage looks the same. When I drive by I will take a look or ask the owners when I try it for the first time.

              1. re: birdsandtogs

                The Chinese name does look the same (I still have those menus sitting here), but the calligraphy is very different. Then again, Lian Won may have had its menu reprinted since my last visit! Keep us posted.

            2. re: birdsandtogs


              l live right around the corner; how the heck have l missed this?!

              Thanks for the heads up!

              ETA: just read your and DaveCook's responses: might not be the same owners? ls this the new place that used to be the awful Chinese bbq joint?

              1. re: howdini

                Yes that was where the BBQ joint was.

                I have passed by there a couple times in the past few weeks. Seems like business is good. Looking forward to giving it a shot soon.

                1. re: birdsandtogs

                  Ah, good to know. l hadn't seen it open yet, only under construction. l think we're going to see an increase in Chinese restaurants in the nabe, as the immigrant population is growing here.

                  Have you lately been to the former World Tong for dim sum? lt's *really* good again!

          2. nice review! looks great

            how was the rice and crust itself? was it just a little crispy or like very crispy? the rice should also be pretty flavorful. the problem is almost all the NY bo zai fan places kept pre-cooking the rice, so it didn't get a good crust or have flavorful rice (a-wah did it right then went downhill pretty hard). Will def trek out there if they are doing it right

            that steam meat paste with salt fish is an old school favorite of mine, i have a family friend of mine make it for me when i come home. which reminds me i need to go get that next time i go back home

            btw i think you meant 招牌五味鴨 not 招牌五味鴨 for the characters?

            4 Replies
            1. re: Lau

              btw i think you meant 招牌五味鴨 not 招牌五味鴨 for the characters?
              Lau, what do you mean?

              ETA: The rice crust was just right as far as I was concerned. It was not overly crisp and easily scooped up from the bottom. Also I believe the Taishan version does use rice that is at least half-way cooked.

              1. re: scoopG

                sorry i meant: btw i think you meant 招牌五味鴨 not 招牌五味牌 for the characters?

                the post says 招牌五味牌

                1. re: Lau

                  Of course! Thanks for pointing that out....

            2. Glad you enjoyed your meal. This place is kinda small, and definitely no frills.

              This place definitely does the eel rice right. I love how the rice doesn't stick to each other and all the different flavors are in each mouthful yet you can taste each individual component. You can taste the eel, the slight smokiness of the rice, the scallion. Bits and pieces of slightly crisp rice. No need for any soy or anything else. By far the best clay pot rice in the city IMO.

              I remember my last time there I had dinner there I finished an order of five flavor duck, a rice for 2 and a veggie. Yes, it was that good..

              I would definitely recommend going there if you're in the nabe. Here's a tip - call and order your eel rice before coming in. If you go in and order you will have to wait 20-30 minutes. They will call you to remind you when it's almost done.

              15 Replies
              1. re: birdsandtogs

                sounds good and maybe something finally worth trekking to brooklyn for

                1. re: Lau

                  If you feel that way about Brooklyn, perhaps you should stay where you are. That's insulting.

                  1. re: Sluggo1407

                    oh calm down jeez...

                    brooklyn chinese food is far as hell and previously no one had found a real destination spot for chinese food in brooklyn that i can't get in manhattan or flushing (both of which are much much easier to get to). do you want to trek an hour to get something mediocre that u can get the same thing thats a 10 min walk from your apt?

                    however, this place sounds like its a potential destination spot for chinese food in brooklyn

                    1. re: Lau

                      No you chill, dude you just insulted the people of Minnesota with your comment about Brooklyn.

                  2. re: Lau

                    except for people in Brooklyn, who have a hellish schlep to Flushing although admittedly this is a heck of a long way out in Bklyn for some of us.

                    1. re: jen kalb

                      C'mon guys I think he's just saying that the food looks good enough to be worthy of a longer trek.

                      I think it's worth it. Heck I live 10 min from downtown flushing. I have all this accessible Chinese food in my backyard, but I schlep all the way down to Bensonhurst. That's a 35 min drive for me without traffic. With traffic you're talking 1-2 hrs.

                      1. re: birdsandtogs

                        jen kalb / birdsandtogs - exactly my not getting into this with a bunch of irrational people...discussion is over

                  3. re: birdsandtogs

                    I should add that, though I expected the heavier soy sauce based on my limited experience with bo zai fan and my visits to A-Wah, I really didn't miss it at Lian Won. You're right, birdsandtogs, there's no need: The eel rice is delicious as is.

                    Dave Cook

                    1. re: DaveCook

                      i agree from the standpoint that really good bo zai fan doesn't "need" it per se, but at like the really good places they usually make their own soy sauce and its like crack soy sauce bc it tastes so good! its def a huge plus

                      DaveCook - I know ure in Asia sometimes, try this place next time ure in'll see what i mean about the soy sauce

                      1. re: Lau

                        I know what you mean when you're talking about the soy sauce with regular bo zai fan where they put the meat on top of the rice, but the eel claypot rice at Lian Won is a little different.

                        The rice comes out premixed. It's basically rice, shredded eel meat, scallions, eel blood, and some salt agent (soy and prolly salt). With usual clay pot rice orders the rice is unseasoned except for the drippings of whatever meat you ordered. This eel rice comes out almost like eel fried rice. A totally different animal from usual clay pot rice dishes.

                        If you look at DaveCook's photos you can see the pic of the eel rice. He didn't put soy in there; that's the way it looks out of the kitchen.

                        1. re: birdsandtogs

                          ahh very interesting, i assumed that was post mixing

                          see the link i posted above, that is the normal eel bo zai fan. im quite interested in this now

                          1. re: Lau

                            Apparently the chef is a real desperado from Guangdong

                    2. re: birdsandtogs

                      Exactly! Although if you are in a large group the 20-30 minutes is not long at all!

                    3. Scoop, looking at your pics, and I was wondering what is in the oxtail? Lotus root and peanuts? Very interesting.

                      11 Replies
                      1. re: birdsandtogs

                        Peanuts, garlic and star anise for sure!

                        1. re: scoopG

                          Any good? Looks like there's a lot of fermented tofu in there.

                          1. re: birdsandtogs

                            The fermented tofu is in the Water Spinach dish - that was very good. I liked the Oxtail dish well enough....

                            1. re: scoopG

                              Yeah, the kitchen had plenty of wok hei. All the fresh veggie dishes should be good.

                              The oxtail is interesting. I know they use fermented tofu for lamb to kill the gaminess and to soften the meat, but I never heard it being used for oxtail.

                              1. re: birdsandtogs

                                interesting, so they had someone who actually knew how to use a quite interested in this place, looks like i need to recruit some friends (wok hei is few and far between in NY!)

                                1. re: Lau

                                  Yeah they know the difference between wok hei and burning the food.

                                  I would def go eel rice, five flavor duck and a veggie. Stir fries are good too. Never tried their braised dishes but they look interesting. Forgot if they have black pepper pork stomach with ginkgo nuts.

                                  1. re: Lau

                                    You may have to go twice! I failed to mention the first time: no table cloth. Upon arrival the second time, staff produced a pink table cloth for the table!

                                    1. re: Lau

                                      Like I said the chef is a no nonsense mustachioed Guangdong gun slinger..