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Hawai’i: Fook Yuen

September 06, 2006

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My aunt and uncle arrived from San Francisco earlier this week so our family has been eating out a lot. And by “family” I mean my immediate family of 4, grandma & grandpa, uncle and two kinds as well at my visiting aunt and uncle. It’s always great fun because we all get along so well and I’m really a family person at heart. The wide variety of food doesn’t hurt also!
On Friday night we ventured to Fook Yuen in the McCully Shopping Center. This restaurant is ridiculously full every time I visit and it’s easy to understand why. The high quality dishes paired with excellent prices give even the classic Chinatown restaurant such as Legends, sharp competition.

We started with the Deep Fried Stuffed Tofu. Each two-inch long block of soft tofu is stuffed with shrimp and deep fried tempura style. This used to be my favorite dish as a child and even today, is one I always look forward to. It is paired with a chili pepper-shoyu dipping sauce which I spoon generously over the golden brown brick. You bite and it’s soft, crunchy and sweet. And then somewhere along the second or so bite, you’ll be gifted with sweet tender baby shrimp. It’s hard not to like!

The Stir Fried Spinach with Garlic is a classic dish and pretty self-explanatory. As long as you have plenty of garlic with fresh spinach, I applaud. We selected the spinach in anticipation of the heavier dishes to come.

Since there were so many of us, dad went ahead and ordered the Peking Duck. The skin is sliced and cut on a presentation cart done right near the table. Might not beat watching a flambe, but I assure you this is much tastier!

I’m aware that in Hong Kong and parts of China the duck skin is served with a crepe-like wrapper. However nearly all restaurants in Hawaii choose to use a soft sweet bun. At Fook Yuen the bun is split open and dabbed with hoisin sauce and filled with a small bit of picked vegetables. The crispy skin (often with a good layer of fat!) is layered in, and viola, the Chinese tea sandwich! Hehe. The success of this dish depends on how well the duck is roasted. Occasionally you’ll come across a “soggy skin duck” and that ruins everything. However there was nothing to complain about here. Salty, crispy duck and a soft sweet bun – all textures and flavors taken into account.

And if you’re wondering what the heck happens with the rest of the duck, rest assured – you’ll get it back, after all, you didn’t pay $36 for just the skin!

The remaining duck is chopped up and served with a tangy sweet plum sauce. It’s perfect over rice or as my uncles and grandpa like to do, pair it with beer for a late night snack.

The Beef Chow Funn was quite delicious as Funn is my favorite form of starch (after bread…and maybe rice, that is!). The beef is stir fried with loooots of garlic, various veggies and bean sprout then poured over the steaming hot funn. It’s soft, warm and comforting. If there was such thing as Asian comfort food, this would be it for me!

Our family has a particular love for crispy noodles. Like the beef chow funn, a variety of meats and mushrooms are stir-fried, hence the very straightforward dish name, 3 Meats & Mushroom Chow Mein. But instead of soft noodles underneath, you’ll find a bed of thin crispy mein. It’s key that this dish been must be eaten the MINUTE IT LANDS ON THE TABLE or else the mein with get soft under the sauce accompanying the stir fry. Eat it just so and you will be rewarded by one of man’s greatest inventions – deep fried noodles.

Lobster here is an extremely good deal and is primary reason why many people come here. It’s fresh with plenty of preparation options, and get this – only $9.95! Ridiculous, isn’t it? It’s no gyp and nothing nasty. I’m guessing they get some pretty good deals from their suppliers. We ordered two types, the Live Maine Lobster with Ginger & Green Onion and another with Black Bean Sauce. I cannot decide, I like them both.

The “dry fried” ginger one has a nice spicy bite while the “wet fried” black bean version is soooo good with rice. So I had some of each. Ay, lobster is so messy to eat, but the best part is licking your fingers afterwards. I just have to make sure my grandma doesn’t catch me!

Following the lobsters was the Stir Fried Clams with Black Bean Sauce. The clams easily popped out of their shells, plentiful and juicy with the just the right proportion of the black bean sauce. This was the same sauce used with the lobster. I don’t quite know how to describe the flavor, other than salty and slightly bitter in the most welcoming sense.

This Live Hawaiian Prawns & long Rice with Satay Sauce was incredible! (and they should have been, at twice the price of the lobsters…hehe!) About ten big tender local prawns swam in a thick and rich broth of satay with clear rice noodles all around. You can barely see anything, much less the prawns, in this picture but you’ll have to take my word for it. The broth was almost creamy, but not too heavy with generous cuts and ginger and green onions. Oh man, I ate a ton of rice. All the sauces we had paired so well!

The Duck Webs with Oyster Sauce came with shitake mushrooms and stewed napa cabbage. Again, this dish demanded to be poured over steaming rice. Ahhh. You can almost smell it now. The cuts of sweet cabbage with the mushroom, taut and juicy. The veggies were so good I didn’t even have any of the webs! (Hey, I wonder if this is what happened to the feet of our Peking duck? Lol, now you really know. NOTHING goes to waste!)

Dessert was complimentary, which often happens when you order “banquet style.” We had the options of lychee sorbet, almond tofu, chilled honeydew tapioca and red bean soup. Almost everyone when with the Lychee Sorbet with the exception of my mom & grandma with the Red Bean Soup and one cousin who had the almond tofu and the other who had the tapioca. It was so hot today that the sound of anything icy and frozen demanded immediate consumption! It was Haagen Dazs sorbet, if you’re curious. Sorbet or other “American” desserts are hardly seen at these type of restaurants, so if it’s on the menu and you’re tired of classic Asian desserts, it’s a rather nice departure.

I’m stuffed man. Stuffed. You would be too :)

Fook Yuen
1960 Kapiolani Blvd Suite 200
Honolulu, HI 96816
(808) 973-0168



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