Linking Up With Lap Cheong
In a recent hunger-inducing conversation with fellow foodie and Dining Out contributor Lynsey Beth Futa, she perfectly described lap cheong to me as “the Chinese version of bacon.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself, considering the sweet-and-savory sausage, like bacon, is found in countless recipes — combined with fish, meat, veggies, rice, you name it — and most diners would agree that everything tastes better with lap cheong.
So what’s behind the richly flavored, and oftentimes smoky, goodness of those skinny links of meat-lovers’ dream food? The classically red, dried sausages can usually be seen hanging alongside roasted meats in Chinese markets, and although there are many varieties of lap cheong, the ones we’re most familiar with typically feature nice, big chunks of pork and fat — no wonder they taste so good!
Lap cheong also is known for its distinctive sweetness, which commonly comes from a mixture of sugar, Chinese rose wine and some five-spice seasoning at times. But extra complexity is given to these luscious links through such contrasting flavors as shoyu, salt and even chili-pepper spice.
All right, now my stomach is officially roaring — and I hope yours is, too. Without further delay, let’s get to eating some of these sausage-filled bites.
NO MATTER HOW YOU SLICE IT GET STUFFED
The cooks at Nice Day Chinese Seafood Restaurant know just how to showcase the versatility of lap cheong by incorporating it into a wide range of menu items. According to manager Helen Liang, they steam it, fry it and even mix it into lap cheong manapua served up during the eatery’s daily dim sum service (8 a.m.-2 p.m.).
On a recent visit to the eatery, I got the inside scoop from Liang on a handful of lap cheong specialties that aren’t on the menu, per se, but are enjoyed regularly by Nice Day’s loyal patrons because, as Liang puts it,”Everyone loves lap cheong.”
The manager’s personal favorite is Chinese Pea, Black Mushroom and Lap Cheong ($12.95), in which the unctuous sausage adds richness to an otherwise light array of veggies. The dish is delicious, of course, but my No. 1 pick is Lap Cheong with Vegetable Fried Rice ($11.95), prepared with tiny pieces of the meat-treat that permeate every bite.
And let’s not forget about Lap Cheong with Chinese Broccoli ($12.95). This sharable selection is made all the more wonderful by the bold garlic sauce it’s sauteed in.
So no matter how you slice this sausage, you can’t go wrong with these entrees.
Since it opened in 2009, Nice Day has lived up to its name by bringing joy to patrons daily with an expansive menu of Cantonese cuisine as well as some of the friendliest service in town. Liang and the inviting staff personify the eatery’s happy spirit as they greet customers warmly and go from table to table to ensure guests are taken care of. All this only enhances the overall dining experience.
Nice Day Chinese Seafood Restaurant
1425 Liliha St., Kalihi
Though Kahai Street Kitchen looks like your average plate-lunch spot, situated conveniently on the corner of Coolidge and King streets, the eatery has been known to pleasantly surprise guests who open their takeout containers only to find a gourmet — and incredibly flavorful — rendition of their favorite local dishes inside.
The business puts an upscale twist on plate-lunch classics — without inflating the prices, might I add — because it started as a catering business in 2006. When Kahai eventually expanded to the lunch market, executive chef David Yamamoto decided to bring the same pizazz from his banquet menus into the casual takeout side of the business.
Hong Kong Stuffed Chicken Medallions ($9.95) is one dish that the chef adapted from his events menu to offer to Honolulu’s hungriest individuals. It’s inspired by a popular Chinese specialty, sticky rice with lap cheong, but Yamamoto puts his own spin on the dish by pairing it with boneless chicken roulade. The tender protein is stuffed with his sticky-rice mixture, all accented with shiitake mushrooms and, you guessed it, our star ingredient. And for a truly unforgettable bite, simply dip each piece into the garlic ginger jus sauce on the side.
While Hong Kong Stuffed Chicken Medallions normally is one of Kahai Street Kitchen’s rotating specials, Yamamoto says that as a special for Dining Out readers, he’ll have it available all week long (open Tuesday-Saturday). He also reminds patrons to be on the lookout for new daily specials, which will include fresh fish creations.
Kahai Street Kitchen
946 Coolidge St., Moiliili