Food and drink

World’s Best Dishes: Sweet and Sour Pork

If you’ve tried the bland Western imitation, be prepared for the real thing at Pang's Kitchen, says Hong Kong-based chef Max Levy

One of my favourite places to eat in Hong Kong is Pang’s Kitchen in Happy Valley – because it serves the best sweet and sour pork in town.

This family-run Cantonese spot is on Yik Yam Street, up the road from the racetrack. Finding a table on a Wednesday race night may be tricky. In fact, on any given night you are likely to see Hongkongers lining up outside under its cheerfully lit sign.

It reminds me of home in New Orleans: the fun atmosphere with an unpretentious focus on food and good service is hard to find in most global cities.

The fusion menu, printed plainly on pink paper, represents Hong Kong’s myriad influences over the years. My two favourite dishes are the sweet and sour pork with strawberries; and the preserved duck with taro and coconut milk.

Sweet Sour Pork HK
Gary Ng/Common Studio

Here, the sweet and sour pork, a staple of Chinese-American cuisine typically made with canned pineapple, finds a perfect match in the less sweet and less acidic sautéed strawberries (Pang’s also sells the pineapple version). The preserved salted duck, boiled in a clay pot with taro, is utter perfection; it’s as hot as the planet Mercury when it comes to the table.

The bright orange American version of sweet and sour pork is often disparaged as the opposite of authentic Chinese cooking. But the dish has a distinguished history going back to 18th century Canton (modern Guangzhou), or even earlier. And today, it’s a staple of cheap and cheerful local Hong Kong diners.

The staff at Pang’s Kitchen are so welcoming. And they’re not ones to boast: I had been going almost weekly for a year before finding out it had one Michelin star.

Max Levy is the chef and owner of Okra in Sai Ying Pun.

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