The Inside Scoop on Where You Can Find Some of the Best Chinese Food in Chinatown
How to eat authentic Chinese food in downtown Honolulu.
Photo: Steve Czerniak
Many American-Born Chinese will confess to a shared dread of a significant part of our cultural upbringing: those long Chinese society banquets put on throughout the year by descendants of various immigrant families and villages—The Lung Kong Society, The See Dai Doo Society, the list goes on …
The antidote: finding like-minded ABCs to loosely form our own secret Chinese Dinner Society, sharing meals at places new, old and hidden while comparing notes about our Tiger Parents and other cultural eccentricities. (Thank you, social media.) Unlike the society dinners of yore, our get-togethers aren’t big or boring, and there’s no agenda except eating.
Here are a few of our favorites.
ILLUSTRATIONS: SERGIO GARZON
Many Chinese restaurants are known for loud, rude service, but at Fook Lam, the waitresses are friendly and everything you order is a “good choice!” Folks here offer a hybrid of cart service and à la carte menu, so you can supplement your dim sum with heartier plates of noodles and meats. In addition to steamed or fried dumplings, order the X.O. turnip cake and curry tendon; and save room for light, fluffy jin dui, which is so good the Goo Society orders from here during Night in Chinatown if it runs out at its booth. You’ll walk out of here full for $12 to $20 per person, depending on what you eat.
100 N. Beretania St., Chinese Cultural Plaza, 523-9168.
For the number of Taiwanese people in Honolulu, there are surprisingly few Taiwanese restaurants. One spot that offers nostalgic and fairly authentic flavors is KC Kitchen in the Chinese Cultural Plaza. The spicy beef noodle soup, filled with noodles, pickled and boiled vegetables, and a rich broth, is the ultimate in Taiwan comfort food. People who grew up on such snacks as sticky rice roll, youtiao (fried bread stick) and soy milk, or green onion pancake will find the essence of their childhoods here, all $5 to $10 a person.
100 N. Beretania St., Chinese Cultural Plaza, 538-1151.
(no relation to Fook Lam)
For a one-bowl meal, Lam’s is a popular spot. It’s crowded at lunchtime, usually with a bit of a wait, but the regulars—and there are many—know the drill and are uncharacteristically patient. If you want faster service, take a seat at the counter near the register. Nearly every patron will be ordering a hearty beef and tendon soup bowl with either skinny noodles or its house-made funn. Pork, duck or fish noodle bowls are also popular choices. At less than $8 a pop, this is a great way to fill up on a budget.
1152 Maunakea St., 536-6222.