Char siu bao (steamed pork buns) at Hong Kong Restaurant in Durham.

Durham’s Hong Kong Restaurant: the area’s dim sum stalwart

A little backstory: I used to regularly visit Hong Kong Restaurant in Durham for dim sum on the weekends with my family, including my grandparents, in the 90’s. The Pepto-Bismol pink and crimson building holds especially fond memories for me: my grandmother would often pour hot tea out of the steel teapot for everyone into their cups and tend to my brothers and I, coaxing us to eat more and more as she would continue to order off the roving carts with reckless abandon.

Siu mai (steamed pork dumplings) at Hong Kong Restaurant in Durham.

Fast forward nearly two decades and not much has changed. The pale pink,homely building still stands, along with its way-too-small parking lot. The inside has seen better days, nary a remodel of any sort to be seen, with its grimy walls and a potpourri of air conditioning units stuffed in between to keep the confines cool and comfortable. Round tables are scattered about, placed in every nook and cranny where there’s space, along with a mish-mash of chairs that look like they’ve been cobbled together over the years.

Har gow (shrimp dumplings) at Hong Kong Restaurant in Durham.

Luckily for dim sum purists, the roving push carts remains on the weekends, propelled by brusque, petite Asian aunties barking the names of its contents to surrounding tables as they dutifully tick each table’s ordering sheet (small dishes = $3.25; medium =$3.50; large = $3.99). The crimped siu mai remain juicy and porky, as does the plump shrimp har gow in its translucent skin. The shrimp cheong fun, exhibits limp rice noodles, a sign that it has over-steamed for too long of a time period.

Cheong fun (shrimp noodle roll) at Hong Kong Restaurant in Durham.

The tightly-pinched char siu bao, steamed pork buns,  are wrapped around a generous amount of flavorful, savory-sweet pork filling; the salted calamari are flecked with bits of garlic and sautéed aromatics that alternate between bites of crispiness and chewiness. The fried turnip cakes at Hong Kong are okay—nothing outstanding—slightly mushy in the middle and crunchy on the edges.

Char siu bao (steamed pork buns) at Hong Kong Restaurant in Durham.

My husband and I finish with a slightly sweet round of crispy sesame balls, though we are tempted to order more as rounds of braised beef stew and chicken feet roll around, and carts of fried shrimp balls, succulent fried crab claws, and envelopes of lotus-wrapped sweet sticky rice continue to circulate around our table. We resist the urge to order the flaky egg custard tarts and make our way to the register with six dishes under our loosened belts.

We leave feeling sated, though not overly impressed, yet still happy to have a decent dim sum option in the area that seems like it may stick around unchanged (for better or worse) for another decade.

HONG KONG RESTAURANT | 3003 Guess Road Durham, NC 27705 | 919.479.8339

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