Roasted Pork Belly, Crispy Roast Duck, BBQ Pork - A Hong Kong BBQ Journey. [BONUS: Amazing Crackling Roasted Suckling Pig!] - Ruby BBQ, Ho Kee, Hop Woo, Sam Woo, New Duong Son BBQ, Lien Hoa BBQ, Noodle Boy, Monterey Palace [Thoughts + Pics]

Thanks, always fun to know and learn what industry people drink. Makes sense you dip into each other’s portfolios that way.

We can buy Ginga Kogen Japanese beer in Northern California (Nijiya supermarket), also the best beer option at Sushi Yoshizumi (San Mateo).


Ginga Kogen retails for 80 Yuan in Bejing. Twelve bucks. A tad rich for my everyday drink. Nice to have a friend with a few pallets worth. :slight_smile:

Crazy enough you can get Ginga Kogen at Jinya Ramen. The markup is not that bad - $9


Do you have an address for Noodle Palace? Could not find it on Google.

8518 Valley Blvd

Update 1:

Hearing about a few more possible quality Hong Kong BBQ restaurants, we decided to do another HK BBQ Journey to see how they might compare…

Sam’s BBQ Restaurant

Some friends of our friends from Hong Kong had mentioned that Sam’s BBQ Restaurant (not to be confused with Sam Woo BBQ) on Garvey Avenue was actually a Cantonese Roast Duck specialist. This was exciting news if true, and we couldn’t wait to convince enough of our friends to join us heading east to the SGV for another journey. :slight_smile:

Walking into the place, there is 1 other table eating. The place looks old-school SGV from another era. (Perhaps @chandavkl knows how old they are?)

Roast Duck (1/2):

We arrived before Lunch, so we were hoping that meant fresher Roast Duck (not hanging as long). It had a nice color. Taking a bite… softish, flabby Duck skin. :frowning: No crispness (but to be fair every single L.A. HK BBQ restaurant we’ve been to has been that way except one). The Duck meat itself had a decent savoriness that permeated down to the bone.

It was passable, but nothing noteworthy.

Soy Sauce Chicken (1/2):

Sam’s BBQ only has 1 choice of Chicken for their Soy Sauce Chicken (unlike Ming Kee), and this looked nice, tasted fresh, but the Soy Sauce seasoning was surface level only. The majority of the Chicken meat tasted barely seasoned (the Soy Sauce didn’t seep down into the Chicken).

We wanted to give them another try…

2nd Visit:

Two Delicacies Combination Platter - Charsiu BBQ Pork + Roast Duck:

The Charsiu BBQ Pork had the typical shocking neon red color that most Cantonese BBQ Pork has. It tasted slightly worse than Sam Woo BBQ (on Del Mar, at the giant Focus Plaza / 99 Ranch Market Plaza). Dryish, slightly chewy, but with that sweet-salty flavor you’ve come to expect from Charsiu.

The Roast Duck on this 2nd visit was about the same as before: Tasting fresh, but the Duck skin was soft, no crispness and the savory Duck meat was fine, but not amazing.

This is a place that turned out to be slightly worse than Sam Woo BBQ in Focus Plaza. Given that, it’s hard to see ourselves stopping back over here unless we happened to be living in the neighborhood.

(Cash Only)

Sam’s BBQ Restaurant
9624 Garvey Ave.
South El Monte, CA 91733
Tel: (626) 442-7389

Rice Box

Located inside the Spring Arcade Building in Downtown L.A. is a “chef-ified” Hong Kong BBQ specialist that Eater did a big article on last year. Opened by a husband-and-wife duo of Leo and Lydia Lee, Chef Leo was born in Mexicali, Mexico and went to the Culinary Institute of America. It seems they wanted to apply high quality ingredients to traditional HK Cantonese BBQ and try and elevate it. Which sounds too familiar to those of us FTC’ers who have heard a similar pitch before. But sometimes it works.

Walking into Rice Box, it feels like a tiny shoe box of an establishment, with just 1 long cramped counter, and a few small tables outside.

The wall has a bunch of red plaques with Chinese writing for the dishes.

The Bao Box - One of each of their Handmade Bao (Steamed Buns) Flavors:

OG Char Siu Bao (Slow Cooked Duroc BBQ Pork and Onion):

This tasted like a competently made typical sweet-salty Char Siu Pork filling. Could you taste the difference of using Duroc Pork? No. :frowning:

Shrooming Bao (Wild Mushroom Mix, Vermicelli Noodles, Onion, Rice Box Vegan BBQ Sauce):

With a beautiful black ink brush stroke on top, the Shrooming Bao was actually the best Steamed Bun (Bao) at Rice Box: There were real umami flavors coming through with the Wild Mushroom Mix, but the Vegan BBQ Sauce sort of made it taste similar to the Char Siu Bao, but it still had enough of a zesty, umami, savory angle to make it stand out.

The actual Steamed Bun itself was a bit too crumbly for our preference. Everyone in our group agreed that it was fine, but it didn’t really sing with the Bao texture.

Cheesy Char Siu Bao (OG Char Siu Bao with Monterey Jack Cheese):

There’s a reason you don’t see legit Chinese places pour on oozing Cheese onto most of their dishes. This was no bueno. :face_vomiting: Queso has its place. With Hong Kong BBQ? Nope. :expressionless:

Build Your Own Box - 3 Items - Char Siu, Porchetta, Chicken:

This was Rice Box’s take on a traditional 3 Item Combo at HK BBQ places, this was an easy way to try all 3 of their BBQ specialties in 1 order.

Black Soy Chicken (Mary’s Organic Chicken Poached in Black Soy Sauce with Ginger Scallion Sauce):

Sadly, this turned out just like most average Soy Sauce Chicken around L.A.: The Soy Sauce didn’t permeate into the meat, so it’s just surface level. So, at this point, could you really taste the difference with Mary’s Organic Chicken and “Black Soy Sauce” (as opposed to… Not Black Soy Sauce? :confused: )? Nope.

Chef-ified ingredients don’t mean squat if you can’t execute properly.

Porchetta Crackling (Seven Spice Duroc Pork Belly, Triple Roasted):

Perhaps the most intriguing offering, we had read ahead of time how Chef Leo tried to replicate traditional Hong Kong Roasted Pork, but was unable to. He then went the route of making Porchetta, and the end result is nothing like legit Hong Kong Cantonese Roast Pork Belly. :sob:

First, the “crackling” they claim to have is more like hard to chew, get-stuck-in-your-teeth, sort-of crackling Pig Skin. :frowning: The flavor and taste are completely off. This is basically just his version of a typical European Porchetta preparation, and a far cry from legit, real HK Roast Pork Belly. Again, does it matter that he’s using Duroc Pork and that it’s Triple Roasted? Nope.

OG Char Siu (Slow Cooked BBQ Duroc Pork Roasted and Honey Glazed):

In perhaps the most egregious offering, their OG Char Siu (they do not deserve the “OG” moniker), is dried out, chewy, salty, sort of sweet BBQ Pork that is worse than Sam Woo BBQ’s Char Siu (everyone on this journey went to Sam Woo BBQ and all of the places on our previous HK BBQ Journey (above) - no one in our group thought this was better). :sob:

It was so bad and mediocre, we really didn’t want to return. But somehow, for the sake of FTC, we headed back…

2nd Visit:

Shrooming Bao (Wild Mushroom Mix, Vermicelli Noodles, Onion, Rice Box Vegan BBQ Sauce):

The Steamed Bun texture got worse this 2nd time around. You can see how crumbly it’s getting in the pictures. The center filling still has that appealing umami Mushroom mixture so that was still a plus.

OG Char Siu Bao (Slow Cooked Duroc BBQ Pork and Onion):

About the same as before: Sweet-savory, safe tasting. There was nothing that made it stand out, and we still couldn’t taste the difference with the Duroc Pork they list on the menu.

Build Your Own Box - 3 Items - Char Siu, Porchetta, Chicken:

OG Char Siu (Slow Cooked BBQ Duroc Pork Roasted and Honey Glazed):

One look at the picture above and you can tell how this turned out. :frowning: Even worse than the 1st visit, dried out, chewy Roasted Pork that is probably the worst “HK” BBQ Char Siu we’ve had since I can remember (that’s how awful it was)! :angry: :sob: We were lucky @beefnoguy @JeetKuneBao @Sgee @Ns1 weren’t in the house, or else they might’ve flipped the table in disgust, LOL. :sweat_smile:

Black Soy Chicken (Mary’s Organic Chicken Poached in Black Soy Sauce with Ginger Scallion Sauce):

The Soy Sauce Chicken was actually moist. Sadly, it had no Soy Sauce flavor in the meat itself.

Porchetta Crackling (Seven Spice Duroc Pork Belly, Triple Roasted):

Besides the laughably tiny amount of Porchetta they give you in this combination (that’s a zoomed in picture above), it is the same as before: There’s some semblance of a type of barely-there crunchiness, but a far cry from real Hong Kong Roast Pork Belly, let alone Suckling Pig, etc. :frowning:

Their Vegetables are old and chewy and completely flavorless. I’m grateful they want to get healthier with a mixture of Red Quinoa in the Steamed Rice, but it’s loose and more like a Rice Pilaf than usual Chinese Steamed Rice.

This is a quick-serve, order at the counter type of place. But at $15.50 (+ tax & tip) for a tiny 3 Item Combo box, it’s also terrible QPR for what you get.

Rice Box is a prime example of where quality ingredients don’t matter if you can’t execute. They tout repeatedly throughout the menu their fancy ingredients - Duroc Pork, Organic Ingredients, Mary’s Organic Chicken, Triple Roasted, Homemade, No MSG, etc. - but all of that is for naught when you’re putting out some of the worst Hong Kong BBQ Char Siu in L.A., when your Organic Soy Sauce Chicken doesn’t taste like anything but the Ginger & Scallion topping, when your version of HK Roast Pork Belly is laughably short of even the mediocre L.A. HK BBQ places (everyone in the group voted Rice Box at the bottom), and it’s the most expensive prices for HK BBQ out of all the places we visited in L.A. :frowning:

There’s a reason we haven’t heard @ipsedixit talk about this place. Why @JLee who’s shown to pursue championing traditional OG culinary techniques has also found this place lacking. We won’t be back.

Rice Box
541 S. Spring St. #131
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Tel: (213) 988-7395

Monterey Palace Restaurant (Revisit)

We wanted to get a sanity check on our HK BBQ Journey, so we headed off to Monterey Palace to compare.

Chrysanthemum + Pu’er Tea:

Monterey Palace is probably one of the few Dim Sum places left in L.A. that actually serves legit HK Roast Pork Belly because the BBQ Takeout counter attached to the restaurant specializes in Roast Pork (and their Suckling Pig is one of the Best Bites we had last year!).

Crispy Pork Belly:

Taking a bite… SO GOOD! :heart:

A real, legit crunchy, Roast Pork skin, juicy, moist Pork meat beneath. Easily the best Roast Pork Belly for Dim Sum locally! :blush: (and it puts to shame what we had at Rice Box).

Har Gow - Steamed Shrimp Dumpling:

Passable version. We ordered some Dim Sum since some of our friends wanted to take a break from the non-stop HK BBQ we were consuming. :smile:

Shiu Mai with Roe:

No one is going to mistake Monterey Palace’s Dim Sum for upper echelon, but again, it was OK, and it scratched that itch for some of our friends who wanted to try some Dim Sum.

Roasted Duck:

This is a quality Hong Kong Roast Duck by local standards. The Duck skin has almost a hint of some crispness, but it’s still soft, but it’s one of the better executed Cantonese Roast Duck in the area, juicy, flavorful, just lacking the skin.

Crispy Skin Roast Chicken:

There was a real crispy Fried Chicken skin on this Chicken. :slight_smile: The Chicken Breast portion was a bit overcooked, but in general a solid rendition.

Monterey Palace
1001 Garvey Ave.
Monterey Park, CA 91755
Tel: (626) 571-0888

Ruby BBQ (Revisit)

Macau Special Pork:

The first bite is crispy-crunchy Roasted Pork skin, then you get striations of lean and fatty Pork and I remember immediately why Ruby BBQ is our favorite regular HK Roast Pork Belly in L.A. :heart:


Bitter Melon Pork Ribs:

Some good Wok Hei (Breath of the Wok) as the natural bitterness in the Bitter Melon is tamed, but still complements the meaty, savory Pork Riblets and Black Bean Sauce. :slight_smile:

BBQ Duck:

With a beautiful color, Ruby BBQ’s Roast Duck (listed as “BBQ Duck” in English) has almost a hint of crispness in the Duck skin. It is probably the best of the local places for Hong Kong Roast Duck, juicy, with great balance of flavor, and just missing the great skin that would make it phenomenal. But very good otherwise. :slight_smile:

Ruby BBQ continues to deliver excellent HK BBQ-style Roast Pork Belly and their Roast Duck is probably our favorite version in L.A. as well. The crunchy Pork skin, fresh, lean and fatty Pork within just adds to the appeal. Monterey Palace isn’t too far behind for an everyday Roast Pork Belly as well.

When I think about the amount of “hot coverage” a new hamster place like Rice Box has gotten, and then think about the zero coverage that Ruby BBQ or the even more phenomenal Ming Kee BBQ has received, it just highlights how easy it is to buy hype and marketing; to get the masses to buy into nearly anything. That’s why I’m glad we have our veteran FTC’ers who can drop knowledge and highlight the real culinary finds. That luscious BBQ Pork Neck Charsiu, great Soy Sauce Chicken and actual crisped skin Roast Duck at Ming Kee BBQ… thank you @beefnoguy @JeetKuneBao. Legendary.

(Cash Only)

Ruby BBQ
9561 Garvey Ave., Suite 1
South El Monte, CA 91733
Tel: (626) 279-6854


Yikes, Rice box sounds truly awful.


I absolutely love and adore Ming Kee (SF) and Ruby BBQ (SGV). Two of my favorite places to eat!!! I just can’t understand why Ming Kee doesn’t get more attention than it should. They might just be the best HK BBQ in the US. The lack of attention and coverage is both good and bad I guess.

You’re right about some of these new places. (I do like Woon Kitchen in Filipinotown, as I said multiple times here their Shanghai Chow Mein is so freaking good)


Thanks for your dedication to science.


Don’t know exactly when Sam’s opened but I went there is 2002. Actually I liked the Rice Box cheese bao, as well as the cheeseburger bao at XLB Dumpling Bar in Walnut.

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Ming Kee is more of a locals neighborhood joint, and original (and now current) location is not a place where visitors go, let alone those who prefer something more popular. It’s better that way, they still have their loyal mostly neighborhood fan base and there’s always a line that keeps replenishing people during the day for takeout.

Cheung Hing is by far more famous and more visited, but their style is more Toishanese, rustic…and you get much larger portions…their marinade and rubs are far too heavier flavored (and at times inconsistent)…which works great for blue collar folks, but you end up with far less complexity and nuance. Lam Hoa Thuan which gets a lot of foot traffic on Irving, is Vietnamese Chinese roasties restaurant and their duck last I went a couple years ago was quite excellent, but not sure about the other items.

Ming Kee has its off days too, but is far more traditional and closer to Cantonese Hong Kong roasties neighborhood deli (and Ming is the only roasties butcher whose roots are Hong Kong, not Toishan China like everyone else and likely trained old school way). They still make the best soy sauce chicken in town.

Ming Kee’s BBQ pork is also on the sweeter side, which a lot of traditionalists don’t like quite as much, but it is rather appetizing, and he also slices then a lot thinner so you have much less mouthfeel but that’s his style. I guess you could ask for thicker cuts, but the slabs he picks tend to favor thinner cuts for some reason. Maybe I’ll ask for thicker cuts next time to see if there’s a difference (or carve it myself at home).


Thank you again @JeetKuneBao for nudging us to go try Ming Kee BBQ! :slight_smile: Let me know if you end up trying their BBQ Spare Ribs (I don’t know what that might taste like but it sounds interesting).

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Thank you @beefnoguy! I am indebted to you for your recommendation of Ming Kee a while back! :smile: Even in light of hitting some great Michelin-starred meals up north, our 5th visit to Ming Kee was one of the best meals of the entire trip. :heart:

I forgot, did you say you’ve tried their HK BBQ Spare Ribs? What does that taste like? And I have bookmarked as a reminder to try their Roast Squab next time. :slight_smile:


I’ve been going to Sams since I was in grade school, my mother was friendly with the owner and her business was down the street but my nostalgia doesn’t prevent me from saying its just OK.

Now I really want to go to SF just to try Ming Kee! I need to go back to Ruby BBQ again though, its been too long since my last visit.

As far as Ricebox goes, I’m disappointed its not good from what I’ve had. I hate the fact that he feels he needs to cater to what he perceives as “white people” expectations such as no MSG or doing those cheese bao things. I mean I don’t use MSG in my roast meats and I can produce better stuff.

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I can’t remember if I’ve had their BBQ spare ribs before, but if I did, it wasn’t super memorable. Bit of a crap shoot with that one I think… you may be better off exploring the less traveled part of the deli menu such as:

brined chicken feet, brined duck wings and feet, brined duck tongue, soy sauce squab, brined duck. I have never really dived into them, but have tried their very famous white chicken feet (year ago though), it is brined and rubbed with ginger powder (or at least that’s what I tasted), quite refreshing, a touch crunchy / chewy, and delicious (good beer appetizer too).

I don’t think they have roast squab. The above are sold by weight and are not part of the rice plates. You should be able to order them with staff and tell them dine in. Or line up with the locals, buy them by weight to go and enjoy them at your hotel or AirBnB.

The word “brined” is a bit odd of a translation, it’s more like simmered in a marinade of secret ingredients and herbs over time (lo shui).

@JLee you’ll definitely get more mileage exploring other options in addition to Ming Kee to make the SF trip more worth while. Be happy to provide some Cantonese / Hong Kong style / Southern Chinese specific recommendations for your food trip, if anything to research and be inspired further, and for documenting what we have left in California.

Better yet, have a few of you FTCers come up here, we do a group lunch/brunch there, I’ll meet up and we go to town and do a spread of the marinated/brined section dine in, get half or whole duck. Croissant, pastries, and coffee run afterwards, and then Hakka Cantonese in the evening with all the salt, fat, and cholestrol you can muster into your system, maybe should do a wine and sake dinner there, lol.


I def need to make another trip to NorCal its been 2 years since my first and only food trip to the city so I have barely scratched the surface. Only Cantonese food I had was at Kam Po Kitchen, how does that rate in the local scene?

I would love to do a food crawl with a local though in the future so I’ll def keep it in mind!


What do you like at Hakka in the Richmond District?

That’s no longer the place to go to apparently. The original chef sold the business to new owners and we thought he went retirement…and I’m not sure if it is still is at the quality it once enjoyed. He has however resurfaced elsewhere recently which I will take one for the team with my friends in the near future to do the legwork first, but probably needs time to ramp up. But going back, Hakka Restaurant is/was otherwise good value though.

I’m unclear what the specialties are with the current ownership of the old restaurant. But when the OG chef owner was in the house, the legit salt baked chicken, pan fried stuffed tofu with a killer sauce, a very specific rendition of sweet and sour pork (or was it spareribs) using pickled garlic bulbs to provide an additional nuance of sweet & sour, some innards/pork stomach type dishes, and my friends really loved the salted egg yolk crab and typhoon shelter style not crab but clams. The Hakka braised pork belly with pickled mustard greens is a crowd pleaser, although Hakka Cantonese renditions of the pickled greens tend to be more sweet…Hakka Taiwanese versions of the pickled greens are far more pungent and rustic, but perhaps that is the way to go to help cut some of the heavy flavors. I’d say just cut it with a good Riesling haha.


Kam Po Kitchen is good and cheap comfort food but frankly there is very little worth trying in SF Chinatown except Mr. Jiu’s and Lai Hong Lounge. Haven’t been to Eight Tables, though.

While I do appreciate the ethos of what Chef Brandon is trying to do for Chinatown, I found the cooking at Mister Jiu’s to be distracted.