Thanks to Chandavkl, I lunched at Bon Mar Che Bistro in Monterey Park, the self labeled "Hong Kong New Territories Style Village Food". Finally! A place that serves "Pun Choi" !!!.
So, you may think, I've been to HK and never heard of "Pun Choi", what is that??? Well, you probably had your first brush with this dish in "No Reservations". That's what Tony had after a grueling day of martial arts in some rural HK location. A large wooden tub steaming & beaming with vegetables, meats & seafood. "Pun Choi" is the poster child of local food, raised to prominence in HK in the past 10 years, when the public desperately searched for HK unique identify that is neither colonial or Cantonese. "Pun Choi" is the soul of old Hong Kong, untouched by westernization and the motherland - China.
We pushed the door in, and was immediately transferred back home: this place looked and smelled like some place in rural Hong Kong (New Territories). Friendly waitresses, clean open kitchen where head chef, "B", worked furiously at the wok, karaoke version of cheesy 70s canto-pop playing in the background. I thought, this place is great!
We were promptly seated, and the menu was extremely interesting. 5 main sections included:
1. Dim Sum (Made to order), with home made steam rice roll (!!!)
2. Rice/Noodle, like any regular HK style cafes
3. "Sak Kong" Military Camp Cuisine : refers to dishes influenced by Gurkhas (Nepalese) who stationed in New Territories in colonial era
4. Pun Choi (called "HK Traditional Village Main Dish" on their menu")
5. Main Dish Designed by you: they'll try to cook any dish you want off menu. No guarantee they can make it, but they'll try.
The menu said "The price of the dish you requested will be set at the moment you provide the dish name to us". Don't you love this place just for that?
Ok, back to "Pun Choi", that's how you order:
1.You pay a per head charge for the vegetables base - cabbage, bak choy, tofu, fishballs, meatballs, pig's skin. (Vegetarians be aware, a very loose definition of vegetables are applied ).
2. Picked toppings (there're 30!), about 1 per person.
The choice was overwhelming, and with our helpful waitress recommended Pan Fried Pork and 1/2 Tasted Duck.
I chatted with the waitress while I can smelled my food being cooked in the kitchen. She said Chef "B" was from those village (unlike us urban HK folks), and had cooked for 40+ years.Unlike other establishments in SGV, they carefully selected fresh, high graded vegetables and meats. The bak choy on display really looked farm fresh.
After 15min wait, a 12 inch shallow wooden tub appeared on our table. The duck was cooked in house sauce, which was tasty, but it was the texture that captured me. My taste buds were numbed by the overwhelmingly fatty, old, previously frozen ducks served in Cantonese BBQ placed that I forgot how duck SHOULD taste like : thin layer of fat underneath the skin to provide rich yet subtle flavor, fresh, never been frozen meat that tore off easily at your first bite. I kept eating to reacquaint myself with the taste of duck of in my memory: ducks breed for taste and not size, a dish that, even if the seasoning did not captured you, the texture will.
The pan fried pork was good too, and the broth where the vegetables was cooked was delicious. I wanted to try the "Crystal Chicken", "Sak Kong" Fried Rice, and the fresh steam rice noodle ordered by the next table looked heavenly.
No, this is no fine dining Cantonese seafood palace, and it's pricier than average Cantonese joints. This is an authentic, nostalgic modern day Hong Kong cuisine experience, unlike other HK restaurants that are echoes of HK circa 1990s, and it is strangely refreshing. I can't wait to go back.
My SO said wait staff's English was decent, so don't despair if you don't speak Cantonese.
331 W. Garvey Ave #D
Monterey Park, CA 91754
Open 7 days a week
11:00 AM - 3:00 PM
5:00 PM - 10:00 PM