Hong Kong Palace in Seven Corners - Report

HK Palace can still produce a great Sichuan meal, but I do think it helps to order off-menu and begin each meal with a consultation.

We wound up with their best dish, the famous “chicken with stuffed peppers” which appears in Chinese on the wall as the second from the right, bottom row. As of now, it is written on a dark red card.

l wanted to order their “hundred flavor chicken” which I haven’t had in years: cold sliced chicken on the bone in a vinegary and spicy cold broth. But I am not sure they offer that anymore, so the proprietress offered the similar jao ma ji, and it was excellent. Cold boneless chicken with skin in a cold broth with lots of peppers, cilantro and peanuts. AFAIK, not on any menu.

This was the best of what we ordered and could form the basis of a memorable meal. Some of the printed menu items were not as good, including fu qi fei pian (ma la cold beef and tendon), five spice bean curd, and squid with vegetables and pickled peppers. Shredded pork with chinese celery was simple and comforting.

I probably should have gone with some old favorites of cold chengdu noodles and cumin lamb.


I am jealous. I did not have the knowledge to order off the menu when I went to Hong Kong Palace. I had a few dishes I liked there and the prices were good. Bangkok Golden/Padaek is another great place nearby. One of my first meals at HKP I ordered Cumin Lamb and the waiter asked me how hot I liked it. I shrugged and said something like, “I like it spicy”.
The chef lit me up!! LOL! I had sweat rolling off the back of my neck in rivulets, not drops. I had a special napkin for my forehead because I did not want the chili from the dish to come close to my eyes.
Which brings me back to one of my pet peeves. I wish there was a moderately accurate way to measure and predict the actual heat of a dish before it is plated. I love Cumin Lamb but that dish took me twice as long to eat because I had to let the radioactivity drop a bit after every 4 or 5 mouthfuls. Most dishes that bring the heat have a half life of a minute or two. HKP Cumin Lamb had a half life closer to 5 minutes.
“Why yes, I will enjoy a small sip of hot tea between bites!”
My problem with spice level is usually that the waitress tells the chef I am a chubby old white bread dude and they dumb the spice level down. HKP took another approach…


This is very good news. I have had little luck in getting them to talk to me in the last few years at HKP and have repeatedly gotten very Americanized dishes, no matter how hard I have tried to be clear that that is not what I want.

Possibly, it’s because I can seldom resist ordering kung pao chicken, a dish that was once glorious at HKP, but which might well send them a signal that I want the standard American version of the dish.

The last three times we’ve ordered kung pao chicken from HKP it was insipid, much worse than what we can make at home using Fuchsia Dunlop’s cookbooks.

Are you able to speak Chinese to them?

I don’t speak Chinese to them (nor is that a possibility), though I do know the Chinese name of some dishes, and if I ordered the kung pao chicken I would make sure they made it dry-fried and jao ma.

I do inquire about the specials on the wall, and I do use (without much success) Pleco, the Chinese translation app. I point my camera at the characters and it tries to tell me what they mean. As if.


If you are not in Montana yet, I’d be happy to meet you there and help as best as I can.

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It seems like a bad business plan for a Sichuan restaurant to make it harder to order Sichuan-style kung pao chicken than for me to just make it at home myself.

I had a Chinese student who’s interested in food in my ESL class this semester. I might try to recruit her to go with me to HKP to help me out with strategies for what I should say.

She’s also moving to NYC later this summer to get a master’s degree in law from Columbia. If she’s there when Toni and I are back in Bed-Stuy in August-September I might also recruit her to go out to Flushing with me (or to Manhattan’s Chinatown).

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They do have at least two other restaurants (Ma La Tang and Uncle Liu’s Hotpot), so they have some success but maybe have spread themselves thin.


Thank you for the offer, Steve! I am in Montana so I will not be able to meet you at HKP any time soon, though.
It would be cool to go to an old favorite restaurant of mine with someone who knows how to order to the strengths of the house!
I got to sit down with you and a handful of your friends at 9292 Korean BBQ (I think that was the place?) last year and it was interesting to hear you all talk about the food there and elsewhere. I usually eat solo so it was cool to hear experienced diners give their take on the cafes they had been to and enjoyed, or not.
Side story…
My niece was born in Korea and adopted as an infant and was not that knowledgeable about Korean food so I started bringing Korean side dishes to her place whenever she and her husband invited me to dinner. We have turned kimchi into one of the main sides for not just Thanksgiving but most meals there.


I believe the former owners of TemptAsian (an Alexandria place that I never ate at) bought Uncle Liu’s in 2018-2019 (according to the Washingtonian).

I’m always up for an HKP meetup, but cumin lamb must be involved!

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Next week, I’m going to HKP with an ESL student of mine and her husband who are from Beijing. The main purpose of the dinner is to give her some tips about American law schools (she’s starting in the grad law program at Columbia in the fall), but I’m going to try to get some tips from them on how to order the real stuff at HKP. Or maybe I’ll get them to write me a note saying, “He really does want it authentic.”

They are curious about American-style Chinese food, so I was thinking about ordering kung pao chicken both American-style and Sichuan-style. That is by far my favorite Sichuan dish (we make it often at home from Fuchsia Dunlap’s cookbooks, which have multiple recipes for it).

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I would definitely have them look over the options listed on the wall and see if anything sparks their interest.

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It turned out to be a great conversation, but our Chinese friends didn’t help us a lot with the food. They did say it looked like everything on the board is also on the menu.

Since we had picked the restaurant, I don’t think they felt free to be totally honest in their assessments, so their bottom line was that everything was surprisingly authentic and good. But reading between the lines, they had their favorites and not-so-favorites. We let them order and they chose the following:

  • The tiger skin peppers - Both were not fans of this dish. They insisted it was delicious, but it was way too spicy for their palates (they’re from Shandong Province, where the food is much less spicy than Sichuan). The peppers were maybe a touch spicier than usual, but not super-hot by American standards.

  • String beans - Big hit, both loved it and basically said it was like they ate at home growing up. The string beans are probably our favorite dish at HKP, so we were pleased that they liked this.

  • Braised beef tenderloin with bamboo shoots - They said this is one of the most popular homestyle dishes in Shandong (minus the bamboo shoots). They were enthusiastic about this and said it was very authentic. Toni and I liked it a lot too and are scouring our cookbook library and the internet for recipes. Very savory beef stew, basically, with a touch of spice and funk from doubanjiang sauce.

  • We had a fish dish, I think the braised fish with bean curd, but maybe the “special hot pot sauce with fresh fish.” While praising this, they said it was definitely “Americanized.” It wasn’t that, but it wasn’t anything memorable either.

  • We had the fried chicken with dried chili peppers. I thought this was good (Toni wasn’t a fan), but it was very skimpy on the peppers, nothing like the glorious versions of this dish that might have a huge pile of 50 to 100 peppers heaped on top. This was another dish they described as “Americanized” (while still praising it).

All in all, a decent meal but not near what HKP was when it first opened or what some of the Chinese restaurants in Rockville (e.g. Chuan Tian Xia) are like.

The couple insisted on inviting us over for dinner later this month so we could have some truly “authentic” home-cooked Chinese food, which we’re looking forward to.


Thanks for the detailed report Doug. I’m really only distressed about the skimpy peppers on the fried chicken dish. I probably wouldn’t order the fish thing, and the tiger skin peppers will always be part of my order!


If the chicken with crunchy peppers dish is Americanized it’s because it’s made with breaded chicken. I had a similar dish in China made instead with lamb and onions, and yes it was better that way. Still, the spices for this dish at HKP are usually spot on.

Thanks for the rec of the braised beef with bamboo shoots! That will be a new one for me. The regular menu is hit-or-miss.


I was actually surprised when the chicken dish arrived since I thought we had previously had this dish at HKP before with diced non-breaded chicken. There is a dish on the menu called “diced chicken with hot peppers,” and maybe that’s what we’ve had before.

Our friends had often had in China a version (probably non-breaded) of the chicken heaped with hot peppers and that’s what they were expecting here.

The meal was useful because I’ve suspected for some time that HKP, which is a five-minute drive from my house, had been holding back the “good stuff” because I’m not Chinese. But after having a mixed-quality meal there that was entirely ordered in Chinese, I’m now convinced that really is hit-or-miss for everyone.

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I tried the braised beef tenderloin with bamboo shoots tonight.

Authentic or not, it’s the kind of dish I try to avoid. Ingredients swimming in a gloppy sauce. In addition, the beef had some attached valves and other parts that are unappealing to me. But just too much thick sauce which was over half the dish.

Also, it’s easy to get confused by the menu. In English, there are several dishes that sound exactly the same. From past experience, I believe the specials on the wall are not all on the menu.

I liked the dish a lot, but it’s definitely not fine dining. It’s beef stew, with more umami. And I actually like the valves and other parts, generally.

Yeah Doug, diced chicken with hot peppers sounds like the delish dish I’ve gotten. Definitely non-breaded!

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