[SFBA] Good baked pork chop rice?

#1

A few months ago I had my favorite ‘soy sauce western’ dish- baked pork chop rice, at the recently-shuttered Cupertino location of A+ Hong Kong Style Cafe. The pork chop was thick and succulent, and there were two big pieces of it over rice. The sauce was fairly one dimensional and wasn’t particularly memorable, but the meat and the low lunch special price ($9.99 with a tiny soup and lemon tea), geared towards De Anza students across the street, won me over. Too bad just after I ate there for the first time and enjoyed the dish enough, they closed. Perhaps the low price had something to do with it.

I remember a decade plus ago when I briefly lived in Oakland, I had many cheap and delicious baked pork chop rice at D&A in Chinatown (only $4.xx back then).

Any exemplary version of baked pork chop rice around the Bay Area?

Thick pork chop:

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#2

I recently had this dish at Shooting Star Café in Oakland’s Chinatown and thought it was pretty good. From yelp reviews it seems like it hits all of the beats for people that grew up on the dish, but admittedly my experience is very limited. The one surprising thing for me was the sweetness of the tomato sauce, which I wasn’t expecting. I look forward to returning someday to try some of the café’s other offerings.

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#3

Hrmmmm… I’ll take a stab at this since this is probably one of my favorite dishes to eat though I can’t quite say what place is the best (often times I found preparation for it to be slightly inconsistent). Also for the restaurants listed after my rambling, I’m probably just tossing in all the cha chang tang establishments that I tend to go eat at around the bay area and beyond. Feel free to add more.

Since I’m a little bored lets take a look at the overall idea of the dish before we get to any particular places. As mentioned by @sck, the dish’s historical origins seems to be from the fusion of western and Chinese culinary cuisine in Hong Kong. From my perspective, the baked pork chop over rice is typically a dish where a golden-brown layer of cheese is on top of a tomato based sauce over the pork chop(s) with egg fried rice on the bottom. The main components of the dish also tends to be cooked separately before being placed into the oven to be baked. Typically, baked dishes takes a little longer time compared to your other rice plates (approximately 20-30 minutes).

The three main benchmarks for the dish I’d say is the pork chop, the sauce, and the rice.

Pork chop criteria: Thickness, juiciness, bone/no bone, method of cooking, and quantity of chops.

  • Thickness: Somewhat difficult to measure accurately (without a ruler) but an easy eye test. There’s just seems to be less satisfaction with a thin pork chop.

  • Juiciness: Can be dependent on the thickness of the pork chop (depending on cooking method), but controlling the water content of the cooked pork is crucial to avoid dry, chewy pork.

  • Bone: Why is this important? There tends to be additional gristle and fat that can be gnawed (some people may like that) with the connective tissue to the bone and the meat. But more importantly, the bone has a temperature modulating effect that can go either way for juiciness:

    • The meat next to the bone is cooked to well-done, resulting in the rest of the pork chop to be way overcooked.
    • The meat near the bone is more tender and juicy as the rest of the pork chop is cooked.
  • Method: Was the pork chop pan fried? Prebaked? made into cutlet? breaded? The method of cooking the pork chop can affect the texture. Is the pork chop cut into pieces after cooking but prior to baking? Additional moisture can be lost that way.

  • Quantity: Quantity is a quality on its own, and well… value can be a consideration.

Sauce Criteria:

  • Type: Typically the sauce is tomato based with tweaks in taste such as addition of onions or even a red wine sauce. However, other sauces are usually a white cream sauce (a few places use cream of mushroom) or a black pepper sauce. The following marks about the sauce is based on the tomato sauce:

    • Sweetness: One key component in the sauce is how sweet the tomato sauce can be. I typically find some places have it be quite sweet, more towards a ketchup-like sweetness that detracts from the savoriness of the dish.
    • Acidity: I think a slight bit of acid is worth considering in a tomato-based sauce. Helps bring out the flavor of the dish.
    • Mouthfeel: This is just in regards to the overall texture of the sauce. Is the sauce thin? Thick? Are there ingredients such as carrots or peas that adds texture to the sauce?
    • Ingredients: Any other items in the sauce? Peas? Carrots? Onions? Etc. Helps increase texture and flavor in sauce.

Fried Rice criteria: Probably the least important of the baked pork chop dish since the fried rice can be substituted with spaghetti for instance but still worth considering.

  • Ingredients with rice: Does it even have eggs in the fried rice? Though more so with the sauce, does it have other items in it like carrots or peas?
  • Texture: Is the rice properly fried? No large clumps of rice?
  • Temperature: Is the rice actually cooked and then baked (usually colder/luke warm if they don’t bake it long enough)?

I’m sure there are more criterias and better items to nitpick on, so feel free to add to it. I’m just rambling at this point.

Anywho, onto the restaurants that I can somewhat recently remember:

In the sunset district of San Francisco itself, I’m somewhat partial to Cafe Bakery & Restaurant in the sunset. Their portions are huge and they come with soup and dessert but it is cash only. I find the sauce on the sweeter end but it is tomato based.

Tak Kee Lee (also in the Sunset) does a good job on their sauce I think for the baked pork chops, just a little on the thinner side. I think they do one of the best lemon teas in the area though.

I went during the soft opening of Venus Cafe in the Richmond district and found their pork chop rice to be pretty good though they have plenty of different combos. I also tried their black pepper sauce baked pork chops recently and thought the sauce had a good peppery bite to it.

In Chinatown, I prefer VIP Cafe though the sauce they use is a little less tomato-like and more of a blend of that and… I’m thinking onions and carrots… as its a slightly more orange hue. The old owner of VIP Cafe currently runs Cafe Orchid in Milbrae.

In regards to Milbrae:

I like Cafe Orchid’s baked pork chop over rice. As I mentioned on the little blurb about VIP Cafe, they use a little more orangey-tomato sauce and I frankly like it quite a bit. They actually have a mid-afternoon special where they have a mini-baked pork chop rice where its slightly lower cost but there’s only one pork chop.

In Oakland:
as @yeshbro mentioned, there is Shooting Star Cafe and I do find the sauce a little on the sweeter side. I find that they do a good job on the majority of the HK style dishes and its probably one of the safest places to be around midnight in Oakland’s Chinatown (a bunch of cops tend to eat there around that time… probably because its the only place open at that hour!).

At El Cerrito, I remember the rather large portions at HK Home Kitchen (what use to be Mac’s Wok in Richmond). They offer both the red and white sauce.

Somewhat further in Sacramento (its… what, 90 minutes away from SF without traffic…), I tried Blue Moon Cafe’s baked pork chop over rice. I rather liked their sauce, but the pork chop itself is cut in slices. They have some random bell peppers and onion slices as well.

In any case, I really can’t recall having a really bad baked pork chop over rice in a long time. Most are pretty satisfactory, I think personal preference of the sauce is a large factor. For instance, I recall the baked pork chop at Our Heart Cafe years ago and they had a red wine tomato sauce that I rather liked, but dad didn’t quite care for it. I rather like VIP/Cafe Orchid’s baked pork chop over rice but it might also be because I grew up eating it… ha.

Anywho, happy new year and hopefully we have others chiming in. I’m always game to explore more baked pork chop places.

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#4

Thanks for your detailed treatise on baked pork chop rice in the Bay! I was inspired by your post and tried the dish at VIP Coffee & Cake Shop in SF Chinatown. I have to admit I haven’t had many renditions of this dish. The last time I tried it I think was from the Hongry Kong food truck years ago, and I wasn’t super impressed with their version.

I really liked pork chop rice I had from VIP. Their version has two bone in chops, battered and fried. Nice crispy crust and pretty good chops. It was served hot, smothered in a sweet savory onion and tomato sauce and a bit of cheese. The sauce was quite tasty, and the top of the sauce with the cheese was a bit browned and caramelized. The chops themselves were good - not super tender but they had a nice crispy crunchy battered crust. Below the chops was a bed of egg fried rice, which was also good, especially with a bit of the sweet tomato sauce mixed in with it. A huge portion, and all of this for only about $9.

Also got a mug of HK style milk tea. I should have mixed with a spoon as there was a layer of condensed milk when I got to the bottom.

Pictures:

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#5

Glad you liked VIP! I wouldn’t say too much about the service there hahah… but I also like their lemon tea.

Its kinda weird around the bay area, they tend to add the condensed milk without asking but I’ve noticed in Richmond/Vancouver, B.C. and Toronto, ON and Hong Kong they don’t add it unless you request it (and well charge you more).

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#6

Thanks for the info. I have never had this dish but noticed it at a newish place on Ocean Avenue in SF - Orchids Cafe - when I was checking out their menu and trying to figure out their angle. Yelp lists them as a Hong Kong style cafe, but they have a section for Japanese Curry, some udon noodles and also spaghetti. They have a bunch of baked rice dishes, oh and also Thai style stir fry and Western style omelettes. The lack of focus made me unsure of what to try so I haven’t been yet - maybe I’ll start with their baked pork chop rice.

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#7

Oh wow, I just looked at their menu. Its as you mentioned kinda all over the place. I’ve never been to Orchid Cafe but might try it next time I’m around Ocean–what I’ll try would probably be another story…

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#8

I vote Night07 as the baked pork chop connoisseur around here. Epic post!

I vote for thick pork chop for this dish. There’s time and place for thin pork chop but in this dish thin ones feel out of place (and may dry out). With bones too. Meat next to the bone is tastier. And I will put a vote in that its not made into cutlet or breaded in anyway. Too much going on with the sauce.

Lots of baked pork chop rice leads in your post that I will have to explore over time! Thanks!

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(Donald Lobo) #9

Thanx for the tip Night07. I got the baked pork chop dish as takeout yesterday, from VIP Cafe and shared it with my daughter over 2 meals! It really is quite tasty, loved the sauce and the rice. The pork chops were good, but in general i’m more a fan of the other stuff than the meat itself (for most dishes).

Seems like this place will join my regular bike-and-get-food rotation fromria the North beach area. The other places are liguria bakery for their frozen foccacia (makes a good lunch for the kids) and Hing Lung for their roast meats

lobo

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#10

Woo!

I think you just described the optimal baked pork chop dish!

Yeah lots to try, though its probably one of the main staples at any HK Cafes haha.

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#11

excerpt:

If you’re looking for a more modern take on siu yeh, Shooting Star Cafe (1022 Webster St.) is a good bet. The menu is full of Hong Kong specialties like baked pork chop rice: a casserole dish with fried rice on the bottom, topped with thin-cut pork chops and smothered with savory-sweet tomato sauce and a layer of melted cheese. On the sweeter side, try the egg puffs, which are custardy in the middle and crisp around the edges.

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#12

Katherine Hamilton has done her research, judging from her knowledge of the term ‘siu yeh’. :+1:

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#13

Berkeleyside announced the soo-to-come opening of a branch of Baby Cafe, a local HK chain that I’d never heard of, and they do have this dish. They have existing branches in Oakland’s Chinatown, Union City and Alameda.

https://www.babycaferestaurants.com/

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#14

haven’t been yet but here’s some more on Baby Cafe:

Eater’s 23 Outstanding Chinese Restaurants in the East Bay

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#16

Huh, I’ve been to Baby Cafe in Oakland’s Chinatown. It’s diagonal to Shooting Star and occupied the previous Yummy Guide Cafe (which had multiple branches as a HK restaurant as well). I never tried their baked pork chop but I did get their special once and thought they did a good job but thought prices were raised compared to Yummy Guide.

In any case, I tried a few more baked pork chop places with well, two being new.

The first baked pork chop over rice is at Cafe New Honolulu at 888 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94108 (Right across from the post office). I recall this place being a restaurant, but I seldom ate here. In any case, this place got a remodel and have baked items!

Honestly, this place just reminds me of VIP Cafe. The sauce is extremely similar if not identical, which makes me wonder if the chef use to work at VIP or vice versa. The pork chops were nice but I wouldn’t mind if they were thicker. There were some peas and carrots with the sauce over the fried rice without cheese.

On to the next place! This is at Orchids Cafe (not to be confused with Cafe Orchid in Milbrae…) at 1031 Ocean Ave, San Francisco, CA 94112

The baked pork chops at Orchids Cafe is a little different. I’d say one of the chop was more like pork steak/blade steak if anyone has any idea of that and a second piece that was more of your traditional pork chop. Not a huge fan of the blade steak since there is random gristle in the middle of the chop and makes it a little more difficult to cut when the chop is covered with sauce. Sauce wise, it is tomato based and quite good, not too sweet.

Lastly, a little ways off from SFBA, but if you’re in Sacramento you can give Blue Moon Cafe a shot.

Their pork chop baked rice is on the smaller end, where the chops are more like a cutlet. Presliced and cut up but I find their sauce to be be pretty good.

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#17

Top Cafe Cupertino’s version is ok. The two pork chops were about half an inch thick, sauteed then sauced over. The container was a little small which means the quantity of egg rice was somewhat limited. Curious to know how it compare to Venus’ since Venus says they specialize in this dish. Well, I think Top Cafe also says they specialize in this dish also. I had a bad meal at Venus a number of years ago so I haven’t been back since.

You can add a drink and a small soup for $1.85 extra.

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#18

Skip the version at Sisi’s Hong Kong Cafe at San Lorenzo. There are better dishes on their menu than the baked pork chop rice.

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#19

what are the better dishes at Sisi’s HK Cafe, San Lorenzo?

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#20

I particularly liked the Chiu Chow salted fish pork cake and the empress chicken!

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