Hung Won has its Ducks in a Row
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Does the name Hung Won Seafood Restaurant ring a bell? It should if Cantonese-style cuisine intrigues your senses in any way. Although the Kaimuki restaurant, located between 8th and 9th avenues, has been a mainstay on Oahu’s dining scene for years, this March, Hung Won gained new ownership when Kevin Li and his uncles Guan Qiang Ruan and Ju Wei Ruan decided to collaborate on a new business venture.
Canton natives, the Ruan brothers immigrated to Hawaii in 1993, and worked as chefs at Panda Cuisine on Keeaumoku Street for more than two decades. Having previously studied culinary arts in China, Guan Qiang and Ju Wei brought authenticity and superlative tastes to the table.
In 2000, Li followed in his uncles’ footsteps, when he left his hometown in Canton, China, to pursue higher education at UH Manoa.
Currently, Li serves as co-owner and general manager of the establishment, and confirms that business has been on a steady incline: “We’ve noticed a regular customer base. There’s even one lady, in particular, who comes in every day.”
Hung Won Seafood Restaurant emphasizes quality cuisine, and the Ruan brothers, who also act as chefs, do not cut corners in the kitchen. As patrons enter the restaurant, it’s difficult to miss the “roast counter” displaying exquisite Chinese-style roast meats — made fresh.
Hong Kong-Style Roast Duck ($12 half, $24 whole) is by no surprise a bestselling delicacy. According to Li, it takes a few days of preparation before the duck is ready for consumption. Once the fowl is cleaned, it’s stuffed with a robust flavors, including five spice, peppercorn, malt sugar and a homemade sauce. Left to hang dry overnight, the duck is blanched in boiling water to tighten the skin and render the fat. A blend of shoyu and sugar coats the skin, and on the third day, it’s roasted in the oven.
“We sell approximately 20 orders of duck a day. You’ll taste the difference,” assures Li. “To attain the perfect duck, it requires a lot of skill and manpower.”
Roast Pork Belly ($12.95 per pound), like roast duck, is a Hung Won specialty that’s prepared in a similar manner.
“The secret to achieving a crispy skin is to punch holes into it, and, of course, the seasoning needs time to soak into the meat, before it’s roasted the next day,” explains Li, noting that the chefs obey traditional, Cantonese culinary practices. “Our menu is dedicated to those who prefer that original Cantonese flavor, as well as those whose palates are geared more toward local tastes.”
Priced at $9.95 per pound, Honey Roast BBQ — aka char siu — is loved by most for its classic, sweet and juicy appeal. Malt sugar, regular sugar, hoisin sauce, five spice, a house specialty sauce and more thoroughly soak into every crevice of the meat. Once roasted, a finishing glaze is applied to the pork. The final product is succulent, each meaty morsel sweetly mouthwatering.
Hung Won Seafood Restaurant also reveals “off-the-menu” favorites on its specials board, and Kau Yuk with Taro ($13.95) ranks high on the list. The dish boasts slivers of pork belly that’s equal parts lean meat and fat, which is boiled and splashed with shoyu and other seasonings. Then things get serious in the kitchen, as the pork belly is deep-fried and put into a pot to stew along with chunks of taro.
“Our niche obviously is roasting, but we also are pleased to feature unique dishes that aren’t usually found in Chinese restaurants,” says Li, referring to Lamb with Fresh Leek.
Priced at $12.95 per order, boneless pieces of lamb doused with Chinese wine and specialty sauces are wok-fried with leek and red bell pepper.
“It’s delicious,” he states. “What’s better is that the leek helps to eliminate the gaminess of the lamb.”
The restaurant is open daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; walk-ins and reservations are welcome. Hung Won accommodates 90 patrons comfortably and offers banquet service, BYOB (no corkage fee), takeout and catering options. Ample parking also is available.
Hung Won Seafood Restaurant
3434 Waialae Ave., Honolulu
Daily, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.