Hearing the news of the closing of the beloved Cantonese seafood restaurant on Daily Hive, my heart sank a little bit. Hoitong has been my most favourite Cantonese restaurant for a few years now. Every time when I was eating here, I was wishing I had started coming here earlier. Chef Leung Yiu Tong, a true master in Cantonese cuisine, especially Shunde regional dishes, started working in the kitchen when he was 11. Now retiring at 82, chef Leung definitely deserves the long overdue break. But many of the loyal fans will feel lost, as it is hard for them to find another restaurant where they can associate a face to authentic Cantonese dishes.
Hoitong is officially closing to the public on Saturday, February 23. And once I heard the news, I had to call them and tried to book one last dinner here. And I will be going on Thursday, February 21.
The dishes chef Leung prepares are mostly the classics in Cantonese cuisine, such as GENG 羹 style soup, seafood preparation, stir fry and BBQ. Some call his dishes traditional with a modern twist. I would say the tweaking isn’t necessarily modern, but it is the chef’s personal innovation based on his experience in the Chinese kitchen for decades. Here are some of the dishes I had during the recent visits.
The West Lake Beef Soup has a lusciously thick texture but also light and refreshing in taste. The chef uses the impressive technique of thickening the broth with starch to provide the perfect consistency of the liquid.
The Beef and Yu Choy Stir Fry might be a household dish, but it is almost impossible for anyone to produce the same result at home as how it is prepared here. It’s all about how to marinade the beef and also the timing of quick pan frying the beef. Each slice is paper thin and super flavourful.
One of the most popular dishes here is the Sweet and Sour Pork. Many people think it is an Americanized Chinese dish, but I assure you that it is an authentic Cantonese dish that I grew up eating in Guangzhou. When most restaurant use pork loin, bread and deep fry it before stir frying with ketchup, the chef uses the the pork cheek for the slightly crunchy texture, which means no hardcore deep frying the pork, and also posts a traditional method to make the sweet and sour sauce with hawthorn. For me it is the best Sweet & Sour Pork EVER!
The Duck with Fried Taro is prepared with the same technique for the Deep Fried Taro Dumpling, a popular dim sum dish, which also need precision on the consistency of the taro so it won’t crumble after being fried. The E-Mein Noodles is a classic that everyone has to get it for their birthday – believe me, the Cantonese folks prefer having noodles for the longevity rather than getting a birthday cake. The noodle dish tends to get very greasy elsewhere but the version here is always perfect.
There are dishes that need 24-hour reservation. The most popular ones are the Lotus Rice and the Fried Squab. The rice was cooked and marinated first then topped with all the ingredients – fresh shrimp for sweetness, winter mushroom and cured ham for savoury flavours, and dried scallop for the umami touch, then wrapped in a big lotus leaf and steamed. The aroma of lotus infused into the rice and it’s absolutely incredible. The squab is treated with care. Rather than sitting in a deep-fryer the entire time, the bird is finished with continuous pouring of hot oil on the skin, another brilliant Cantonese cooking technique.
Even a seemingly simple vegetable dish is prepared with care by chef Leung. The Mustard Greens were hand picked and only the cores of the greens are used, so that they can be braised in consume, and served with the same consistency. I have never been touched like this white eating a plate of vegetables.
I think this is going to an emotional dinner on Thursday as I am going to savour every single bite of chef Leung’s legacy.
Hoitong Seafood Restaurant
8211 Westminster Hwy, Richmond, BC V6X 1A7