“If you don’t enjoy your own food how can you expect others to”. – Anson, owner & operator of HK BBQ Master
Ever since Netflix’s “Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner” came out, with the first episode featuring “HK BBQ Master”, they have seen longer lines than usual and an increase in popularity. All thanks to the celebrity of Seth Rogen and acclaimed Chef David Chang, of “Momofuku” fame.
And since then I yet to revisit. So when touring around a foodie from New York, I figured, what better reason to return to the popular hole in the wall, than this?
Located in the parking lot of Superstore in Richmond, one unfamiliar with the area might not find them all that easily. Although, the line that snakes out the door is a dead giveaway. Plenty of bodies trying to cram themselves in to this confined space. This, despite the fact that they have recently renovated and are now the size of three businesses. But I can still recall the past where they were but a narrow corridor serving up their traditional Hong Kong style barbecued meats to go. This 2019 expansion now gives more customers the ability to dine in, and the opportunity for us to sit at our table and enjoy the bustling ambience today.
“HK” closes at 8pm every night, and they are continuously finding themselves selling out by 7-7:30pm. In fact, they restock their reserves daily in order to ensure freshness and quality of their product; basically only ordering what they need for the day. So you know it doesn’t get any fresher than that. They are also so popular that they have 3 chefs prepping for next day’s service, all day; and 2 chefs cooking for today’s service, the entire day.
Today we were treated to the full extent of their menu. A feast that included a sit down with the second generation “HK BBQ Master” himself. He served up sides and stories of the craftsmanship that went into his food. Time and care that sets them apart, and have resulted in the dying of this art.
His favourite dish is their slow cooked soy chicken. The secret is in the soy sauce dressing. The same vat of the stuff has been used and reused for over 20 years now. They keep adding more herbs, spices, and rock sugar to elongate the mix. The result, a delicious light and dark soy chicken that is poached for 25 minutes. Each piece dark or white meat is deliciously tender. It isn’t too salty browned with soy, but flavoured thoroughly enough to enjoy as is. Rice is available, but I wouldn’t recommend it. You want to save room for all the meat to follow.
Next is their most popular menu item: the Bbq pork; the one coloured in red, not to be confused with the one that has crispy skin. Our host described the former as the easiest way to approach their cuisine. A nice safe start to the introduction of HK style barbecue meats. This was slow cooked in a bath of wheat honey. They allow the meat to soak in it twice, resulting in pork with crispy edges and a soft and tender caramelization to it. Our host estimates that they go through about 400lbs of this meat a day, depending on the day. This too was simply amazing, one of the best renditions I have had, the extra honey soak was worth it, sweet and saucy, fatty and delicious.
The roasted pork belly is the one with the crispy skin. And with the recipe at “HK BBQ Master” it is made even crispier. Described to us like “bacon”; here, they marinated the belly meat top to bottom. Adding salt for the crackling, and cooking it at low heat. It was tasty, with little fat, though a little on the dry side for me.
My favourite of their meat products, is the roasted barbecue duck. I found the meat used here leaner than I have had at other restaurants. They also use a different type of sauce, ensuring there is plenty of a juice in the final product. The skin is roasted with a vinegar and sugar coating, where it air dries overnight, and then is cooked up to 45 minutes under one temperature. The finished product was tasty enough, but I wished we had meatier pieces over bone, and thicker cuts of breast meat to enjoy. It is served with their own home made plum sauce, a nice way to brighten up each piece, although it is just as good without it.
They also have a green onion dip and a squeeze bottle of homemade soy sauce as condiments. The green onion and ginger sauce is best with the chicken above. It too is made fresh every day. It adds a nice salty, herbal quality to the chicken. And the soy sauce is diluted from mix used in their soy marinate, but watered down and further sweetened.
If you are looking for something fresh, grab a side order of their vegetables for the table. This is typically a stewed leafy green sauced up and sautéed. I am not a fan of the texture of such vegetables so skipped out trying this.
But I highly recommend their soup. I don’t know if it is on rotation, but today we had their vegetable soup made with dry and fresh leafy greens. It is referred to as “Silver and gold soup”, given the colouring of the two types of vegetables used. I was surprised by how much I liked it. It replaced water for me during the meal. It was plenty flavourful, yet light enough to offer a break in between all the heavier meats.
The food was as good today as it was the last time I visited, and the time before that, and so on and so forth. But as for the future of “HK BBQ Master”, the young entrepreneur plans to expand his operations with a second location. A journey that begins with putting this learned skill and experience of HK style bbq down on paper. A written version to be used as a tool to train a new generation of cooks. Not just preparation with a feeling, but to be able to control the quality of a larger quantity of bbq meat.
There was also the mention of menu expansion including the potential for noodles, jerky, and marinated items; much like you would get from any traditional Hong Kong barbecue meat vendor. Until then, myself and many more Vancouverites and tourists will be more than happy with the current selection.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
This is definitely something you will crave again. Everything was delicious and it was comforting. You felt full, but without feeling gross from having eaten too much with too much grease. Worth the hype and all the buzz, and one to check off the foodie bucket list! Don’t deny your cravings.
HK BBQ MASTER
4651 No 3 Rd, Richmond, BC V6X 2C4