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A Hankering For Hung Won

By Ali Resich Photos By LAWRENCE TABUDLO
September 27, 2015

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Since taking over well-established Hung Won Seafood Restaurant a year and a half ago, Kevin Li and his uncles Guan Qiang Ruan and Ju Wei Ruan have become an unstoppable force in Canton-style dining. Customers from Kailua to Pearl City will travel to the Kaimuki eatery just to try its signature roasted meats, while other diners have requested to bring these succulent selections with them all the way to the Mainland. Now, equipped with an increasingly consistent and high-quality array of Chinese fare, the management team hopes to draw in an even larger customer base with the gradual expansion of its menu.

Originally from Canton, Guan Qiang and Ju Wei bring authenticity and a career’s worth of knowledge to their cuisine, as they previously worked at a popular Chinese fine-dining restaurant on Keeaumoku Street. Together with Li, who also serves as general manager, the family operation is responding to its customers’ requests for more of Hung Won’s distinct fare.

As part of this effort, live seafood options that previously were only available when pre-ordered are now served regularly. That means seafood-lovers may dive into options like saucy Maine Lobster with Ginger and Onions (market price) or super-savory Dungeness Crab with Salt and Pepper (market price) the moment a craving hits, sans delays.

Although these seafood dishes are classics, they stand out at Hung Won because of a flavor-preserving frying process that takes place before the ingredients are stir-fried. “You have to fry the seafood to lock in the juice,” explains Li.

Additionally, the establishment will continue to roll out new menu items leading up to the unveiling of an expanded menu Jan. 1, 2016. With the introduction of at least 20 new creations in recent months, Hung Won is off to a great start.

“We’ll have more items and people will feel more refreshed when they come in. We do have customers who come in three or four times every week, so we want to continue making them new dishes,” says Li.

In the meantime, there’s no shortage of patrons eager to dine on Hung Won’s sought-after roasted meats. Preparing Hong Kong-style Roast Duck ($12 half, $24 whole), Roast Pork Belly ($12.95 per pound), Char Siu ($9.95 per pound) or Char Siu Ribs ($9.95 per pound) involves a painstaking, multi-step process that takes anywhere from a day and a half to three days to complete, depending on the meat. But the wait is worth it, as the technique used for Roast Pork Belly, for instance, results in a difficult-to-achieve balance of juicy, tender meat and wonderfully crunchy skin.

“My uncles have been doing this for over 20 years, so from experience, they continue to improve the homemade recipe,” shares Li.

He adds that the specialty roasts continue to grow in popularity, and that the restaurant incorporates them into a number of dishes. The flavor-packed duck, for example, is used to make favorites such as Peking Duck with Buns and Mochi Duck, a hard-to-find traditional dish in which the crisp fowl is stuffed with a black mushroom, duck egg and lap cheong mochi rice.

WOK THIS WAY

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Essential when cooking Cantonese cuisine, handling a wok calls for an open fire, high heat and swift precision to flip ingredients into the air and cook them evenly and deliciously. The Ruan brothers are masters of this technique, whipping up stir-fried magic daily.

DID YOU KNOW?

DISHING OUT DEETS ABOUT HUNG WON

200+ goodies will be featured on Hung Won’s updated menu, coming January

Maine lobster, Dungeness crab, clams and oysters are now served in-house daily

20+ recently added specialties

Watch your roasted meats get chopped to perfection at the eatery’s “roast counter”

3 days are needed to bring house specialty Hong Kong-style Roast Duck to fruition

Hung Won Seafood Restaurant

3434 Waialae Ave., Kaimuki (between Eighth and Ninth avenues)
732-6322
Daily, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.